ecstasy of saint teresa by bernini period
Bernini – then the leading sculptor in Rome – worked on the sculpture from 1647 to 1652, during the reign of the Pamphili Pope, Innocent X (1644-55), from whom he received no patronage, owing to his lengthy close relationship with Innocent’s predecessor, the extravagant Urban VIII (1623-44). At any rate, Bernini received the commission from the Venetian Cardinal Federico Cornaro (15791673), who had selected the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria of the discalced (or “barefoot”) Carmelites as the site for his burial chapel. The chapel’s interior, a stunning combination of architecture as well as, sculpture and painting, was also designed by Bernini, with his sculpture of St. Theresa as its centrepiece. Bernini’s fee was 12,000 scudi, an enormous sum at the time.
Francesco Mochi (1580-1654)
First Baroque sculptor; on a par with Caravaggio and Carracci.
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 entire ensemble was overseen and completed by a mature Bernini during the Pamphili papacy of Innocent X. When Innocent acceded to the papal throne, he shunned Bernini’s artistic services; the sculptor had been the favourite artist of the previous and profligate Barberini pope. Without papal patronage, the services of Bernini’s studio were therefore available to a patron such as the Venetian Cardinal Federico Cornaro (1579–1653).
Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker provide a description, historical perspective, and analysis of Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa.
This is her description of the event that Bernini depicts:
Boucher, Bruce. Italian Baroque Sculpture. London: Thames & Hudson, 1998.
Born in the Castilian town of Ávila in 1515, Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada entered a Carmelite convent around the age of twenty, but it was not until the 1550s that she began to experience divine visions like the one to which Gian Lorenzo Bernini gives tangible form here.
Baroque is a term that comes from Portuguese and Spanish meaning a large or irregular shaped pearl. The term Baroque was applied to this era because critics found the work of the artists, sculptors, musicians, and actors to be irregular. These pieces of art and music were not like the art that came out of the Renaissance, art that celebrated the Ancient Greece, the human body, and simplicity of nature. The art of the Baroque era was full or drama, movement, and energy. The clear departure from the Renaissance was a direct result of the social, political, and religious climate of the Baroque Era. The Baroque Era heavily defined by The Counter Reformation and the Council of Trent, the influences of royalty and the rising middle class, as well as the rise and expansion of scientific inquisition sparked by Sir Francis Bacon. Because of the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther, and the Catholic Church’s subsequent reaction to the reformation many pieces of art were commissioned and created as a religious attack, bolstering church doctrine, and essentially selling the public the Catholic Religion.
Saint Teresa’s description of the visit of the angel is sensual and physical and Bernini’s depiction of the event clearly eludes those sensual and physical emotions and feelings. However when looking at the Ecstasy of St. Teresa it is important to look at the entire space that was completed by Bernini in the chapel. The piece is placed in a side alter with St. Teresa rose up but to the sides Bernini sculpted theater boxes with individuals in the boxes pointing and watching the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. In fact the box includes Federico Cornaro and his posthumous family, the family that the piece was commissioned for. The space itself is all encompassing and makes the viewer feel like they are actually a part of the show as they are sitting near Cornaro’s family as they watch on, and the viewer is encompassed by the whole alter as the view on to Saint Teresa.