ecstacy of st teresa

Ecstacy of st teresa
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.
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (alternatively Saint Teresa in Ecstasy or Transverberation of Saint Teresa; in Italian: L’Estasi di Santa Teresa or Santa Teresa in estasi) is the central sculptural group in white marble set in an elevated aedicule in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome. It was designed and completed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the leading sculptor of his day, who also designed the setting of the Chapel in marble, stucco and paint. It is generally considered to be one of the sculptural masterpieces of the High Roman Baroque. It depicts Teresa of Ávila.

Ecstacy of st teresa

Note: In creating his Ecstasy of Saint Teresa it is almost certain that Bernini made use of styles initiated by certain Mannerist artists. For example, we can see the basis for Bernini’s masterpiece in the simple piety, floating drapery and heavenward gaze of the Beata Michelina (1606, Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome), a painting by the influential Mannerist religious painter Federico Barocci (1526-1612).

Meaning of Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

Ecstacy of st teresa

Beside me, on the left, appeared an angel in bodily form. . . . He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire. . . . In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain wasso severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share.

Figure 3. The patron, Federico Cornaro, is 2nd from the right

Ecstacy of st teresa
Located above the altar of the Cornaro Chapel in Rome’s Santa Maria della Vittoria, Bernini’s The Ecstasy of St. Teresa represents an episode from the life of the saint as recorded in her spiritual autobiography. Teresa describes an angel carrying a fire-tipped spear with which he pierces her heart repeatedly, an act that sends her into a state of spiritual rapture. “The pain,” she writes, “was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul then content with anything but God.” (The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila by herself, Chapter 29)
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.

Ecstacy of st teresa
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, 1647-52 (Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome). Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker
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References:

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/ecstasy-of-saint-teresa.htm
http://courses.lumenlearning.com/zeliart102/chapter/berninis-ecstasy-of-st-teresa/
http://www.learner.org/series/art-through-time-a-global-view/dreams-and-visions/the-ecstasy-of-st-teresa/
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=RKcJvjP9zgY
http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/ecstasy-of-saint-teresa.htm

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