Gian Lorenzo Bernini

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Self-portrait by Bernini

Gian Lorenzo Bernini , also Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (* December 7, 1598 in Naples , † November 28, 1680 in Rome ), was one of the most important Italian sculptors and architects of the Baroque .

life and work

High altar ciborium in St. Peter's Basilica

He was trained in the sculpture workshop of his father Pietro Bernini (1562–1629). In 1606 he came to Rome with his son to work in the Cappella Paolina in Santa Maria Maggiore for Pope Paul V Borghese.

Between 1618 and 1625 Bernini created the famous mythological groups of sculptures for the cardinal nepot Scipione Borghese : Aeneas and Anchises, The Rape of Proserpine 1621/22, Apollo and Daphne and David . They stand out due to their extraordinary dynamism, direction of movement, dramatic light-shadow effects and excited gestures. Today these works can be seen in the Galleria Borghese in Rome.

His most important patron, Pope Urban VIII , entrusted the young Bernini with the construction of the canopy ( ciborium ) over the tomb of St. Peter in St. Peter's Basilica , which Bernini made with the help of Borromini from the bronze cladding of the entablature of the vestibule of the Pantheon (1624-1633).

What is remarkable about his architectural work is the mixture of sculpture and architecture, which is also reflected in the ecstasy of St. Theresa (1646–1652), in the Cathedra Petri (1656–1666) or in the church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale (1658 –1670) can be observed. Bernini completed the Palazzo Barberini in 1629 , created, among other things, the colonnades on St. Peter's Square (1656–1667 under Alexander VII ) and built the Four Rivers Fountain on Piazza Navona (1647–1651 under Innocent X ).

Bernini worked for eight popes in the course of his life and did not leave Rome - with one exception: The "Sun King" Louis XIV called him to work out plans for the new building of the Louvre (1665) in Paris . Although they were never carried out, they still had a lasting influence on European secular architecture . Bernini's generous style, which can be attributed to the classicist Baroque , was not without criticism. Borromini accused him of copying Michelangelo's stylistic achievements in an unoriginal way .

Bernini is buried in a simple tomb in the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.

Art historical classification

Bernini had a decisive influence on the development of baroque sculpture and architecture in Rome .

In contrast to his competitor Borromini - also an influential architect of the time - Bernini is characterized by clear facade design, stronger orientation towards the forms of the Renaissance and the combination of architecture and sculpture.

In his work as a sculptor, a short realistic phase (lifelike portrait busts, e.g. Cardinal Scipione Borghese ) was followed by an idealistic phase in which, in addition to the faithfulness of the portrait, the sublimity in the representation also plays a major role (example: Franz von Este (1650)). From this point onwards, an idealistic but very dynamic style is typical for him.

In addition to Bernini, Alessandro Algardi (1598–1654) is considered a sculptor and master builder as the main master of Roman baroque sculpture. Well-known students of Bernini included Ercole Ferrata , Antonio Raggi , Domenico Guidi , Giovanni Francesco Romanelli and Cosimo Fancelli .

Art patronage of Pope Urban VIII.

The art patronage between Pope Urban VIII and Gian Lorenzo Bernini is probably one of the most fruitful in the early modern period . In the 17th century there was a decline in many of Italy's small states , which also changed the structures of patronage. Many artists aspired to Rome , the popes and their nephews were the most important clients alongside influential and wealthy nobles. When Cardinal Maffeo Barberini was elected Pope in 1623, the Vatican was very rich. He spent large sums of money so that artists could develop freely. His function as head of the Catholic Church, patriarch of an ambitious family and absolute ruler of the Papal States increased the importance of his art sponsorship. The art patronage of Pope Urban VIII and his nephews still shapes the cityscape of Rome today. Bernini got to know him as a cardinal . The prelate recognized the talent of the young artist and gave him his first assignment. The cardinal did not yet have enough influence to bring Bernini the reputation of a great artist. When he was elected Pope, he secured Bernini's reputation and prestige in Rome and throughout Europe. He made sure to tie him to himself to benefit from his fame. A large order brought a lot of honor not only to the artist, but also to his patron. Bernini almost exclusively created works for the Barberini family . In order to be able to give an assignment to Bernini as an outsider, the Pope's approval was required, which was only given in exchange for useful consideration. Bernini himself also made sure that nobody contested his place as the first artist in the state. Other artists could only be known if they were supported by him. The relationship between Urban VIII and Bernini was based on mutual respect and trust. After the death of Urban VIII, Bernini worked for Innocent X and continued to support young artists.



Rape of Proserpine (1621–1622)
Apollo and Daphne (1622-1625)
Bust of Medusa
St. Longinus , St. Peter's Basilica
Four rivers fountain in Piazza Navona, Rome


  • Bust of Antonio Coppola, Musei di San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, Rome (1612)
  • The goat Amalthea with Jupiter and Faun, Galleria Borghese , Rome (ca.1615)
  • Bust of Paul V , Galleria Borghese, Rome (ca.1617)
  • Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius fleeing Troy, Galleria Borghese, Rome (1618–1619)
  • Damned Soul, Palazzo dell'Ambasciata di Spagna, Rome (1619)
  • Bust of Paul V , Getty Museum , Los Angeles (1621)
  • Rape of Proserpine, Galleria Borghese, Rome (1621–1622)
  • Apollo and Daphne , Galleria Borghese, Rome (1622–1625)
  • David , Galleria Borghese, Rome (1623-1624)
  • St. Bibiana, Church of Santa Bibiana , Rome (1624–1626)
  • St. Longinus, crossing pillar in St. Peter's Basilica , Rome (1628–1638)
  • Tomb for Pope Urban VIII , St. Peter's Basilica (1627–1647)
  • Two busts of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1632)
  • The Truth, Galleria Borghese, Rome (1646-1652)
  • The Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona in Rome. The figure of the Rio della Plata was executed by Francesco Baratta
  • Monument to Sr. Maria Raggi, Santa Maria sopra Minerva , Rome (ca.1647)
  • Cappella Cornaro with the rapture of St. Theresa , S. Maria della Vittoria, Rome (1647–1651)
  • Two busts of Innocent X. (1649 – ca. 1650)
  • Head of Medusa , Musei Capitolini , Rome
  • Equestrian statue of Emperor Constantine, Scala Regia , Rome (1654–1670)
  • Habakkuk and the Angel and Daniel in the Den of Lions, Chigi Chapel, S. Maria del Popolo, Rome (1655–1661)
  • Cathedra Petri (high altar), St. Peter's Basilica (1656–1666)
  • Elephant with Obelisk , executed by Ercole Ferrata , Piazza della Minerva , Rome (1665–1667)
  • Angel with a crown of thorns and an angel with an inscription on the cross, Sant'Andrea delle Fratte , Rome (1668–1669)
  • Bust of Gabriele Fonseca, Fonseca Chapel in S. Lorenzo in Lucina, Rome (1668–1672)
  • Tomb for Pope Alexander VII , St. Peter's Basilica, Rome (1671–1678)
  • Sacrament altar, St. Peter's Basilica, Rome (1672–1674)
  • Beata Lodovica Albertoni , San Francesco a Ripa , Rome (1673–1674)
  • Bust of Monsignor Pedro Montoya, Santa Maria di Monserrato Church, Rome
  • Salvator Mundi, Basilica of San Sebastiano fuori le mura (1678–1679)


  • St. Lawrence on the Grate, Uffizi Gallery , Florence (ca.1614)
  • Bust of Costanza Bonarelli, Bargello , Florence (1636 – circa 1638)


  • Bust of Francesco I d'Este, Galleria Estense, Modena (1650–1651)


  • Bust of Alexander VII , Palazzo Chigi Zondadari, Siena (1657)
  • St. Jerome and Maria Magdalena, Chigi Chapel, Siena Cathedral (1661–1663)


  • St. Sebastian, Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid (1617)
  • Christ crucified, El Escorial , Monastery of St. Lawrence (1655)



  • Bust of Cardinal Richelieu, Louvre , Paris (1641)


  • Bust of Louis XIV, Musée National du Château, Versailles (1665)
  • Equestrian statue of Louis XIV, Musée National du Château, Versailles, (1670–1677)

new York

  • Faun with Cupids, Metropolitan Museum , New York (1619)
  • Child with Kite, Getty Museum , Los Angeles (1619)
  • Bust of an Unknown Nobleman, Salander-O'Reilley Galleries, New York


Paintings and drawings

  • Kneeling Angel, Museum of Fine Arts, Leipzig (1673–1674)


A crater on the planet Mercury is named after Gian Lorenzo Bernini . On the occasion of his 420th birthday in 2018, the dwarf state of San Marino dedicates a 2 euro commemorative coin to him .

Furthermore, in 2014 a dredger ( IMO 9699268, home port Luxembourg) was named after him.

Two of his daughters, Celeste and Angela, lived as Ursulines in the monastery of Sante Rufina e Seconda until their death .


sorted by year of publication

  • Heinrich Brauer , Rudolf Wittkower : The drawings of Gianlorenzo Bernini (= Roman research of the Bibliotheca Hertziana 9-10). H. Keller, Berlin 1931. New edition Hirmer, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-7774-7700-1 .
  • Ernst Benkard : Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini . Iris publishing house, Frankfurt am Main 1926
  • Rudolf Wittkower: Bernini. The Sculptor of Roman Baroque . London 1955.
  • Kaspar Zollikofer: Bernini's tomb for Alexander VII. Fiction and representation (= Roman studies of the Bibliotheca Hertziana 7). Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 1994. ISBN 978-3-88462-102-8
  • Alessandro Angellini: Giannlorenzo Bernini ei Chigi tra Roma e Siena . Siena 1998.
  • Charles Avery: Bernini . Hirmer, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-7774-7630-7 .
  • Tod A. Marder: Bernini and the Art of Architecture . Abbeville Press, New York / London / Paris 1998, ISBN 0-7892-0115-1 .
  • Sabine Burbaum: The rivalry between Francesco Borromini and Gianlorenzo Bernini . Athena, Oberhausen 1999, ISBN 3-932740-35-1 .
  • Philipp Zitzlsperger: Gianlorenzo Bernini. The portraits of the pope and rulers. On the relationship between portrait and power . Hirmer, Munich 2002.
  • Sebastiano Roberto: Gianlorenzo Bernini e Clemente IX Rospigliosi. Arte e architettura a Roma e in Toscana nei seicento . Gangemi, Rome 2004.
  • Pablo Schneider, Philipp Zitzlsperger (Ed.): Bernini in Paris. Paul Fréart de Chantelou's diary about Gianlorenzo Bernini's trip to France . Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2006.
  • Susanne Kunz-Saponaro: Rome and its artists , Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2008, p. 114 ff., ISBN 978-3-534-17678-6
  • Jessica Prostko, Markus Breitschmid (Eds.): Sant 'Andrea al Quirinale - Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini (= Architecture History Case Studies Series Volume 2). Corporis Publisher for Architecture, Art, and Photography 2009, ISBN 978-0-9815553-3-1
  • Mathias F. Müller: Gianlorenzo Bernini: The Klesl epitaph for the cathedral church in Wiener Neustadt. Some remarks on the origin and the date . In: Unser Neustadt (sheets of the Wiener Neustädter Monument Protection Association) 4 (2010) pp. 1–6.
  • Franco Mormando: Bernini: his life and his Rome , Chicago, Ill. [U. a.]: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-226-53852-5
  • Franco Mormando (Ed.): The life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini / by Domenico Bernini. A transl. and critical ed., with introd. and comment. by Franco Mormando , University Park, Pa. : Pennsylvania State Univ. Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-271-03749-3
  • Arne Karsten : Bernini. The creator of baroque Rome. Life and work. 2nd, revised and updated edition. CH Beck, Munich 2017, ISBN 978-3-406-70403-1 .

Web links

Commons : Gian Lorenzo Bernini  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gian Lorenzo Bernini in the Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature of the IAU (WGPSN) / USGS
  2. [1]