Thursday, December 18, 2014

Roman Elephant

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) worked hard for most of the 17th century embellishing Roman public spaces with monuments, fountains and other three-dimensional flourishes. When the Pope wanted a fresh way to display an ancient obelisk, Bernini figured out how.

Yet the artist's self portrait in old age suggests something like self-doubt, or perhaps regret. Given his remarkable energy and ambition, Bernini must have found it difficult to watch his powers wane.

In the Bernini portfolios preserved as part of the Royal Collection, these design sketches for Roman fountains alternate with baroque angels and studio nudes  everything unified by the same audacious hand.