Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680)
Lion (ca. 1649-50)
for the base of the Four Rivers Fountain - Piazza Navona in Rome
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the most famous and important sculptor in 17th-century Europe, best known for his stunning works in marble that still decorate many of the churches and piazzas of Rome today. Bernini examined problems of construction and design by modeling damp clay with his fingers and tools with incredible dexterity. He used these studies and related drawings to decide carefully on the perspective of his majestic compositions. "Bernini: Sculpting in Clay" presents an overview of his exceptional career and showcase his full range as a modeler by assembling almost all of his surviving terracottas, including 15 from the Harvard Art Museums, the largest collection of Bernini terracottas in the world, on loan for the first time.
Bernini’s liveliest terracottas divulge an impassioned imagination and also raise the curtain on the practical side of sculpture-making. Unlike his contemporaries, Bernini often fashioned his clay figures in groups, and the two such groups that survive will be recreated in the exhibition. Occasionally, he also presented more finished models to his patrons to win commissions or to his assistants to use as guides in carving. The exhibition also treats the role of drawing in Bernini’s design process and, where possible, the drawings and the models to which they relate are displayed together. These juxtapositions makes clear the evolution of Bernini’s own works, as he shifted between media, and will allow visitors to follow the many steps of his creative process. Significant clay studies by his closest assistants are also on display to illustrate the practice of sculpture production in his studio.
"Bernini: Sculpting in Clay" includes other outstanding loans from international museums such as the Musée du Louvre, Paris, the Vatican Museums, the Museo del Palazzo di Venezia, Rome, the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle. Many of these loans have never been seen in the United States. Highlights includes a dynamic terracotta model for the lion (ca. 1649-50) destined for the base of the Four Rivers Fountain in the center of the Piazza Navona in Rome; the series of models for the Angel with Superscription (1668-69); the Moor (1653), Bernini’s largest surviving model; and drawings and clay sketches for the Kneeling Angels (1672) on the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament in Saint Peter’s Basilica.