The Creator of Baroque

One cannot walk for more than a few minutes in Rome without seeing his work or work designed specifically to look like his. At one point he employed almost every talented sculptor in Rome. A competitor of his once said, "to work in Rome is to work for Bernini." He is the reason that Rome's face is still mostly 17th Century Baroque.

Bernini's most early works have a very Mannerist feel to them. Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius was probably produced by his father, who was a late Mannerist, and shows his influence. Bernini quickly broke from his father's tradition and began to help create what would become known as the Baroque movement. His sculptures, unlike Mannerist sculptures, were not meant to be veiwed in the round. They were more like paintings and were placed against walls so that the veiwer would only be exposed to the best face of the statue. They had more movement, texture, and emotion than anything created before him.

The most notable part of Bernini's statues is an emotion and attention to detail that had never been seen before. In his work he creates expressive faces and bodies in a way that was completely orginal. In Rape of Persephone Bernini obviously thought carefully about how Persephone would react. Arists before him typically did not capture Persephone's fear realistically. Usually her arms would be thrown in the air, her mouth would be open, and her eyes would be shown rolling back in her head, and that was it. Bernini, on the other hand, carves her with a true look of terror on her face. She is truly a woman in absolute fear; tears roll down her cheeks and her eyes are alive. Instead of Pluto's fingers resting against her skin they are digging into it, and while most sculptors would have ignored her toes and made them level with each other Bernini makes them turn upwards because he considered what a scared girl might do with her toes. In details like this Bernini changed the standards of sculpture.

The energy and robustness of his statues helped define the Baroque style. His statues were not just of people posing - they were animated. In fact, Bernini designed his statues to be like photographs taken at the moment of climax of the event. For example, he carves David in the split-second before he slings the rock that slays Goliath. His body is twisted, there is tension in his sling, his toes are digging into the ground on which he is standing, and his face is the face of a man determined to save himself and his tribe. Even his busts have life in them. Many of these portraits show his subjects in the midst of speaking or prayer. While busts traditionally were very stoic and still Bernini crafted his to look like parts taken from a full statue. For example, he would give a feeling of movement to his busts by turning the shoulders and making one higher than the other, which would be more like a natural stance than the stiffness of traditional portrait busts. This liveliness was unheard of in previous artistic traditions and influenced artists for generations.

Bernini was, during his lifetime, one of the most famous men in Europe. He was known not only as a great artist, but as a great man. He himself believed that his fame would deteriorate after his death, and it did. In fact, Bernini's name was little noted for over 150 years after his death. Only recently has his work once become appreciated once again by tourists and art critics alike.