In Room C in the Jerónimos Building, the Prado Museum will present the first exhibition in Spain devoted to the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Naples 1598 -Rome 1680), a key figure in the history of art and a leading light, together with Borromini and Pietro da Cortona, regarding the image and construction of Baroque Rome. The exhibition will also constitute an historiographical first, given that this is the first time an exhibition has been organised that offers a monographic analysis of the complex artistic, cultural, diplomatic and political relations that Bernini maintained with the Spanish Monarchy throughout the 17th century. Amongst the 39 works that make up the exhibition, we might highlight the sculptures entitled Anima beata and Anima dannata, both extraordinary works created by the precocious and surprisingly mature hand of the young artist, which are preserved at the Spanish Embassy at the Holy See in Rome, in its capacity as a deposit for property entrusted to it under the heading of “Obra Pía”. Both sculptures will be exhibited for the first time at the Prado Museum
Tuesday 04 November 2014
The Prado Museum will open the doors of the exhibition entitled “Bernini’s Souls: Art in Rome for the Spanish Court” to the general public. In addition to offering us an opportunity for the first time to contemplate a series of exceptional works that the artist created for Spanish patrons, the exhibition will trace Bernini’s complex and fascinating relationship with Spain.
Some 23 works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, including sculptures, oil paintings, prints and drawings, together with sixteen works by other artists such as Codazzi and Velázquez, loaned by different Spanish and foreign institutions and private collectors, will eloquently illustrate Bernini’s links with Philip IV, Charles II and other Spanish patrons in Rome, ranging from ambassadors to cardinals and prelates.
In short, this exhibition seeks to explore the political conflicts and power games that were played out and reflected so frequently in artistic and architectural terms, and in which Bernini played such a key role, both conscious and decisive, based on the changing interests of his patrons.
As a sculptor, architect, painter, stage designer, playwright, designer for festivals and religious and pagan ceremonies, and creator of fountains and other ornamental and luxury items, Bernini received commissions from both Spanish patrons in Rome and from the Spanish Monarchy itself, together with its representatives in the city. Some of these commissions will be on show at this exhibition, including Anima beata (“Blessed Soul”) and Anima dannata (“Damned Soul”), two magnificent sculptures of extremely high quality made of marble in 1619, when the artist was still a young sculptor, created upon the behest of Pedro Foix de Montoya. We might also mention the small and extremely beautiful Equestrian Bronze Sculpture of Charles II (1680), which was commissioned by the Marquis of Carpio and will be exhibited for the first time in Spain. The works will also include other architectural and sculptural projects, such as the following: the Monument to Philip IV at Santa María Maggiore di Roma; drawings portraying canonisation ceremonies, such as that of St. Thomas of Villanueva at St. Peter’s Basilica; (1658) and various ephemeral architectural items, such as those that adorned the firework machines created to celebrate the Birth of the Infanta Margarita (1651) or those designed to commemorate the Peace of Aachen (1668). Alongside these creations, visitors will find the Bust of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the nephew of Paul V, who recognised Bernini’s extraordinary talent at a very early stage and provided unconditional support for his brilliant career as a sculptor.
One of the most important pieces in Bernini’s corpus of work and a key creation with regard to his conception of art as the “unity of the visual arts”, is the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa (1647-1651), which focused on a religious theme of a marked Spanish origin, having been commissioned for the Cornaro Chapel at the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. At the exhibition we will be able to contemplate the terracotta sketch Bernini produced for this sculptural group, loaned by the Hermitage Museum, as well as a series of magnificent preparatory drawings for the decoration of the Chapel, which are preserved at the Biblioteca Nacional, the National Library of Spain.
Amongst the important works contributed by the Prado Museum to the exhibition we might highlight the controversial but unmistakeable Self-Portrait of Bernini, together with a previously unseen drawing for an intriguing variation of his famous Equestrian Sculpture of the Emperor Constantine, which was finally placed in the Scala Regia of the Vatican Palace at the Basilica portico end. This equestrian sculpture is also depicted in a splendid drawing, the first known version of the work, produced when the Constantine sculptural group was to be (1654) placed inside St. Peter’s Basilica. This drawing is preserved at the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Art, together with an intermediate sketch in terracotta, on loan from the Hermitage Museum, which can be placed between the two drawings we have mentioned and the final version of the sculpture at the Scala Regia.
In relation to this symbolic and heroic theme of princes and monarchs on horseback, we will also come across various other examples at the exhibition, such as the controversial project for the Equestrian Sculpture of Louis XIV, together with the deliberately altered version of this work, which became the Bronze Equestrian Statue of Charles II, effectively replacing the face of one monarch with that of another. This work comes from a private American collection, having previously formed part of the Collection of the Marquis of Carpio in 1680.
The exhibition will also present an extraordinary and previously unseen album of architectural drawings on the theme of Baroque Rome, which comes from a private Spanish collection. This album brings together several virtually unknown projects undertaken by Bernini, such as the Poli Chapel at the Church of San Crisogono in Rome. Finally, the exhibition will offer a virtual recreation of the architectural project for the space where the monumental Bronze Statue of Philip IV was due to be placed, originally created by Bernini for the portico of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the church traditionally linked to the Spanish Monarchy, although the monument was not created in the end exactly as the artist had envisaged.