drawing of the ecstasy of saint teresa
SWOON – Bernini brings all the passion and rapture of Teresa’s story to represent, perhaps for the first time, the now-immortalized image of a swoon: head thrown back, eyelids half-closed, mouth slightly open as she moans in ecstasy.
SETTING – Bernini is praised for his synthesis of sculpture, painting, and architecture. The church was extended so that a hidden window could be added to cast light upon the sculpture, as if from the Holy Spirit. Cherubs painted on the entrance arch bear a banner inscribed with the words Jesus spoke in one of Teresa’s visions: “If I had not created heaven, I would create it for you alone.”
The group is illuminated by natural light which filters through a hidden window in the dome of the surrounding aedicule, and underscored by gilded stucco rays. Teresa is shown lying on a cloud indicating that this is intended to be a divine apparition we are witnessing. Other witnesses appear on the side walls; life-size high-relief donor portraits of male members of the Cornaro family, e.g. Cardinal Federico Cornaro and Doge Giovanni I Cornaro, are present and shown discussing the event in boxes as if at the theatre. Although the figures are executed in white marble, the aedicule, wall panels and theatre boxes are made from coloured marbles. Above, the vault of the Chapel is frescoed with an illusionistic cherub-filled sky with the descending light of the Holy Ghost allegorized as a dove.
I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God. The pain is not bodily, but spiritual; though the body has its share in it. It is a caressing of love so sweet which now takes place between the soul and God, that I pray God of His goodness to make him experience it who may think that I am lying. 
Bernini’s sculptural group shows a cupid-like angel holding an arrow. His delicate touch and lithe figure give him an air of grace. With her head thrown back and eyes closed, Teresa herself collapses, overcome with the feeling of God’s love. Her physical body seems to have dematerialized beneath the heavy drapery of her robe. Twisting folds of fabric energize the scene and bronze rays, emanating from an unseen source, seem to rain down divine light. The combined effect is one of intense drama, the ethereality of which denies the true nature of the work of art. Despite being made of heavy marble, saint and angel—set upon a cloud—appear to float weightlessly.
Careri, Giovanni, and Linda Lappin. Bernini: Flights of Love, the Art of Devotion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is a subtraction sculpture in the round of the Baroque period. Despite this, it is mounted against a wall, preventing the viewer from getting a full, all-around view of the work. The sculpture is dense, yet smooth and intricately detailed, giving the impression of dramatic, flowing fabric.The piece is a depiction of an episode from St. Teresa’s life according to her autobiography, in which she describes having a vision of an angel coming down and stabbing her repeatedly through the heart with an arrow. Her experience was that of spiritual rapture, yet also described in a somewhat sexual nature. Bernini’s sculpture features St. Teresa reclining on a bed of clouds, with a smaller, cupid-like angel hovering over her, delicately holding a golden arrow between his fingertips, aimed at St. Teresa’s heart. The angel smiles looking at St. Teresa’s face, whose features are characterized by closed eyes and parted lips. Most of her body is hidden beneath draped fabric, but her limbs and hands hang limp as she is wholly caught up in the ecstasy of the moment. The sculpture itself measures in at a height of 3.5 meters, but the golden rods reach down towards the figures, extending the scene and giving the work added depth and height. The rods highlight the fiery rapture experienced by St. Teresa, as if coming straight down from the heavens, from God himself. The focal point of the piece is the interaction between the angel and St. Teresa, seen in the invisible line reaching from the angel’s gaze to St. Teresa’s face, displaying the intensely emotional and spiritual nature of the piece.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini created The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (L’Estasi di Santa Teresa) in 1645-1652 using marble, stucco, and gilt bronze. The work was commissioned by the Cornaro family, and resides in Rome in the Cornaro Chapel of the Santa Maria della Vittoria. The sculpture itself is situated above the church altar, positioned so the bronze beams illuminate the marble figures.
The word psyche in contemporary analytical psychology has taken on at least two meanings. On the one hand, it refers to the faculty of the human being that is capable of experiencing the imaginary world as well as the physical world. On the other hand, psyche may refer to the entire realm of experience, both conscious and unconscious. In the first case, the psyche is identified with the soul in the traditional sense; in the second, the psyche is the world of the soul.
Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) was a Spanish mystic who lived during the Counter-Reformation, a period of religious turmoil in Europe. Teresa founded several houses for discalced (or “barefoot”) Carmelite friars and nuns, who sought to live according to the original rule of the order. This was a more primitive and ascetic form of monastic life than was practiced in Spain at that time. In addition, Teresa was author of numerous books, including her Life, a personal autobiography, the Way of Perfection, a handbook for her nuns, and Interior Mansions, in which she describes the many different steps taken on the path to mystical union with God.