Bernini the Mage and Master of Space

I thought of Bernini as a mage and master — a magician and a master of sculpture — long before I saw the title of the article. As I worked on my novel, The Renaissance Club I studied the great Gianlorenzo Bernini and his works. Bernini plays a leading role in my story, along with a young art historian who worships the 17th century artist. I looked at many still images and videos of his work, and I had been lucky enough to see many in person, in Rome. This wonderful article discusses the three major sculptors of all time, and Bernini was one.

The article’s author, Charley Parker, calls Bernini “the mage, the sorcerer, the Vermeer of sculpture”. He says, “If Vermeer was master of light and time, Bernini was master of space.” I love those epithets, especially the mage. He was such a showman, and loved to used theatrical effects that created illusions to make the sculptural subjects live and breathe.

Bernini dominated the Roman art world of the seventeenth century, and he was restlessly innovative, ultimately playing a key role in establishing the dramatic and eloquent vocabulary of the Baroque style. His sculptural and architectural projects combine forms and media in electrifying new ways. A magician indeed.

I saw Bernini’s statue of David at the Galleria Borghese, and I was as struck as if that stone had been flung at me. The sculpture is amazingly lifelike — with a vitality similar to Michelangelo’s Moses. Both Biblical figures have a mythic power, and are portrayed with elegant, detailed realism.

If you ever have a chance, see these sculptures in person. Their impact is stunning. Bernini, like Michelangelo, was lucky to have the great gift of transcending his material. Each sculpture is like a movie in entirety, a story frozen in marble that unfolds backwards and forwards as you examine it. If you can, go to Rome. There’s no other city like it, in large part because of Michelangelo and Bernini.

Visit https://racheldacus.net for more information and writing by Rachel Dacus.