7:30pm – Sunday, March 14 on ABC2
Gian Lorenzo Bernini arrived in Rome in 1605, just as Caravaggio’s street-drama art was electrifying the Church.
Bernini was considered a boy wonder, then adult prodigy – sculptor, architect, composer; as well as dashing cavalier, and the personal friend of Pope Urban VIII. He was charming, witty, well-connected and cultured: all the attributes needed to succeed.
By his early 20s Bernini was a superstar. The physical intensity of Bernini’s work transformed sculpture. In his hands stone seems to move and ripple. No one before Bernini managed to make marble so carnal.
But Bernini did not have the field of fame to himself. There was another maker of architectural marvels breathing down his neck: Francesco Borromini. The two men hated each other.
In the late 1640s, abruptly, Borromini’s star ascended while Bernini’s fell. Pope Urban VIII had died and the new Pope, Innocent X, was Borromini’s patron. To make matters worse, cracks had appeared in the bell-tower Bernini had built for St. Peter’s.
Bernini needed a miracle to restore his fortune, so he made one: The Ecstasy of St Theresa, for the Conaro family chapel in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. This would be the work that would change what sculpture would do.
Simon Schama’s Power Of Art: Bernini will be repeated on ABC1 – Sunday, March 21 at 3:30pm.