Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1610) was more than the greatest sculptor of the Baroque period. He was also an architect, painter, playwright, composer and theater designer. A brilliant wit and caricaturist, he wrote comedies and operas when not carving marbles as easily as clay. More than any other artist, with his public foundations, religious art, and designs for St. Peter’s, he left his mark on the face of Rome (Strickland and Boswell, 1992). “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa” and “Apollo and Daphne” are evidences of Bernini’s outstanding skills.
Bernini’s marble sculpture, “The Ecstasy of St. Theresa”, represented the saint swooning on a cloud with an expression of mingled ecstasy and exhaustion on her face. Since the Counter Reformation Church stressed the value of its members reliving Christ’s passion, Bernini tried to induce an intense religious experience in worshipers (Strickland and Boswell, 1992). On the other hand, few works in the history of sculpture are more admired for the sheer skill of their carving than Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne”.
Bernini began the “Apollo and “Daphne” in 1622 and had largely completed it by 1624, the last year of his employment with Cardinal Scipione Borghese. The “Apollo and Daphne” has come to stand as the perfect antithesis to the modernist principle of “truth to materials”, the ultimate illustration of the artist defying his medium’s very nature (Sofaer, 2007). For both works, Bernini used all the resources of operatic stagecraft, creating a total artistic environment (Strickland and Boswell, 1992). Being able to observe Bernini’s extraordinary skills in art is a truly noteworthy and significant experience.
Just watching his works through the video made me feel the ecstasy, the pursuit and the love contained within those works. Somehow, it makes me want to sculpt a masterpiece of my own, reflecting my own skill and my own knowledge. Michaelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s (1571-1610) genius resided in his ability to overlay one principle upon another, to cross aesthetic boundaries seamlessly while seldom calling attention to the means by which he did so. Moreover, even when he was painting the human figure, Caravaggio was a still-life painter at heart.
Caravaggio’s “Basket of Fruit” has been dated by modern scholars to the years 1593 to 1600, with most placing it closer to the end than the beginning of the first phase of his career. If indeed datable to the moment of his emergence as a public painter in the Contarelli Chapel, the little picture was not one of the realistic depictions of “flowers and fruit”. Coming at a critical juncture in his professional career, one can imagine the “Basket of Fruit” serving as a polemical expression of his ideas on the nature of creativity itself.
In this work, he blended the lowly method of Ligozzi’s mimetic and didactic illustrations with higher-minded emulations of ancient literary and visual sources, prompted perhaps by his awareness of the current fashion for Northern still-life painting among collectors like Del Monte himself (Varriano, 2006). In the first Roman years, Caravaggio was isolated. He was rushed to hospital for a malaria attack, as witnessed in the famous self-portrait “Sick Bacchus” in the Galleria Borghese (Pomella, 2004). The “Sick Bacchus” is a meditation on the theme of “love’s sting”, that is, on the woes of love gone awry.
During the Baroque, the awareness of point of view led, for the first time in Western history, to something which can be considered today as self-reflection, a self-consciousness of the human individual (Bal, 1999). Studying “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas’, also known as “Doubting Thomas”, it may come as no surprise to learn that Caravaggio failed to win the commission to paint a resurrection for the Jesuits. By the time he had completed this painting, Caravaggio’s notion of a “religious” image had already worried Counter-Reformation churchmen.
His reputation for painting in a style which has neither sacred, nor profane, but a hybrid of the two, had attracted uneasy commentary among potential ecclesiastical patrons. In this respect, the “Incredulity of St. Thomas” might almost be read as gauntlet thrown in the face of counter-reformation orthodoxy. This works is an evidence for Caravaggio’s decision to explore the central mystery of the Christian faith, the incarnation and the resurrection, with what might, tendentiously, be termed an almost Protestant literal-mindedness (Porter, 1997).
To be able to understand the personality of Caravaggio through his works, as observed from the video, is an unforgettable occurrence for me. It had shown me that sometimes, there are certain things which artists have to do that defies the society and still, defines them as a whole individual or as a skilled artist. It also made me understand that most of the time, the paintings or artworks do not simply show particular sceneries or another model, but reflects the skills, personality and visions of the creator itself. References Bal, M. (1999). Quoting Caravaggio: Contemporary Art, Preposterous History.
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Pomella, A. (2004). Caravaggio: Art Courses. ATS Italia Editrice. Porter, R. (1997). Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present. New York: Routledge. Sofaer, J. (2007). Material Identities. Australia: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Strickland, C. and J. Boswell. (1992). The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to Post-modern. Missouri: Andrews McMeel Publishing. Varriano, J. (2006). Caravaggio: The Art of Realism. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press.