Gian Lorenzo Bernini; Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius; David

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 - 1680): Baroque (c. 1600 - 1750s)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a towering figure in the world of art, was a prominent Italian artist of the Baroque period. His creative genius transcended the boundaries of time and left an indelible mark on the art world. Let's delve into the life, art, and masterpieces of this extraordinary painter.

Birth and Early Life

Born on December 7, 1598, in Naples, Italy, Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the son of Pietro Bernini, a successful sculptor, and Angelica Galante. Growing up in a family steeped in artistic tradition, it was no surprise that young Gian Lorenzo displayed remarkable artistic talent from an early age.

Education and Training

Under the guidance of his father, Bernini received an education that emphasized the importance of classical art forms. His training honed his skills in sculpture, painting, and architecture, setting the stage for his multifaceted career. His father's connections exposed him to influential patrons, which played a crucial role in his artistic development.

Art Style and Contributions

Bernini's art style is synonymous with the Baroque movement, known for its dramatic flair, emotional intensity, and intricate detailing. His works are characterized by their dynamic compositions, skillful use of light and shadow, and a theatrical quality that captivates viewers. Bernini's ability to capture fleeting moments in frozen forms is evident in his paintings, which often evoke strong emotions and tell vivid stories.

20 Notable Artworks

1. Self-Portrait as a Young Man (1623)

This self-portrait showcases Bernini's youthful exuberance and confidence. The intricate detailing of his attire and the intense gaze capture the viewer's attention, offering a glimpse into the artist's personality.

2. The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa (1647-1652)

In this masterpiece, Bernini depicts Saint Theresa in a state of divine ecstasy. The marble seems to come to life as the saint's robes billow and her expression reflects a profound spiritual experience. The play of light adds to the drama, underscoring Bernini's mastery over the medium.

3. David (1623)

Bernini's rendition of David captures the moment just before he slays Goliath. The tension in David's posture, the determination in his eyes, and the realistic rendering of his muscles all contribute to a sense of impending action frozen in time.

4. The Blessed Ludovica Albertoni (1674-1675)

This sculpture-like painting portrays Ludovica Albertoni in the throes of religious ecstasy. The folds of her garments, her contorted pose, and the palpable sense of devotion make this work a testament to Bernini's ability to convey spiritual experiences through art.

5. Apollo and Daphne (1622-1625)

The mythological narrative of Apollo and Daphne comes to life in this artwork. As Apollo reaches out to grasp Daphne, she transforms into a laurel tree, capturing a moment of metamorphosis with astonishing detail and emotion.

6. Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1618-1619)

This painting captures a tender moment from Virgil's Aeneid, showing Aeneas carrying his father Anchises and leading his son Ascanius from the burning city of Troy. The emotional depth and intricate composition demonstrate Bernini's narrative prowess.

7. Saint Bibiana (1624-1626)

Bernini's depiction of Saint Bibiana captures her serene beauty and spiritual devotion. The interplay of light and shadow highlights her delicate features and the flowing drapery of her garments.

8. Saint Sebastian (1617)

In this early work, Bernini portrays the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian with a visceral realism. The saint's muscular form, the tautness of his skin, and the dramatic use of chiaroscuro evoke a sense of pain and sacrifice.

9. Rape of Proserpina (1621-1622)

This sculpture-like painting depicts the abduction of Proserpina by Pluto. The tension in Proserpina's body and her anguished expression contrast with the sensual smoothness of Pluto's hand, showcasing Bernini's ability to convey contrasting emotions.

10. Bust of Costanza Bonarelli (1636)

In this intimate portrait, Bernini captures the essence of Costanza Bonarelli with remarkable precision. The intricate details of her features and the realistic texture of her hair demonstrate his mastery in sculpting emotions in marble.

11. The Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence (1614)

This early work showcases Bernini's ability to depict dramatic scenes. The contorted posture of Saint Lawrence and the menacing figures around him create a palpable sense of tension and impending doom.

12. Saint Peter's Chair (1657-1666)

Commissioned for St. Peter's Basilica, this monumental sculpture captures the symbolic significance of Saint Peter's chair. The intricate detailing of the marble, combined with the spiritual gravitas of the subject, exemplifies Bernini's ability to infuse his works with meaning.

13. Bust of Pope Gregory XV (1621)

Bernini's talent for capturing the essence of his subjects is evident in this bust of Pope Gregory XV. The intricate folds of the papal vestments and the lifelike expression convey the authority and wisdom of the Pope.

14. The Damned Soul (1619-1620)

In this haunting depiction of a damned soul, Bernini skillfully conveys the agony and despair of the figure. The contorted pose and agonized expression are a testament to his ability to evoke intense emotions.

15. Saint John the Baptist (1620-1625)

Bernini's portrayal of Saint John the Baptist captures the saint's rugged asceticism and spiritual intensity. The detailed rendering of his features and the tactile quality of the skin showcase Bernini's mastery in sculpting lifelike forms.

16. Saint Longinus (1631-1638)

This larger-than-life sculpture captures the moment of Saint Longinus piercing Christ's side with a lance. The dynamic composition, the tension in Longinus's posture, and the depiction of flowing drapery contribute to the sense of movement frozen in time.

17. Bust of Antonio Cepparelli (1637)

In this portrait, Bernini showcases his ability to capture individuality. The intricate detailing of Antonio Cepparelli's features and the naturalism of his expression create a lifelike representation that goes beyond mere resemblance.

18. Angel with Superscription (1671)

This sculpted angel, holding a plaque with the inscription "I.N.R.I." (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews), exemplifies Bernini's attention to detail and his ability to infuse religious symbols with emotional depth.

19. Bust of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1623)

In this bust, Bernini captures the intellectual gravitas of Cardinal Bellarmino. The meticulous rendering of his features and the scholarly expression convey the cardinal's wisdom and erudition.

20. Portrait of Pope Urban VIII (1632-1633)

Bernini's portrait of Pope Urban VIII captures the spiritual authority of the Pope. The intricate details of the vestments, the commanding gaze, and the dignified posture all contribute to a portrayal that exudes reverence and power.


Gian Lorenzo Bernini's legacy as an artist of the Baroque period remains unparalleled. His ability to breathe life into marble and canvas, infusing his works with emotion and narrative, continues to captivate audiences worldwide. From his early training to his iconic masterpieces, Bernini's contributions to art history are a testament to the enduring power of creativity and imagination. His art not only defines an era but also transcends time, inspiring generations to come.


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