ecstasy of st. teresa
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).
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.
Figure 3. The patron, Federico Cornaro, is 2nd from the right
Figure 2. Bernini, Cornaro Chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Francesco Mochi (1580-1654)
First Baroque sculptor; on a par with Caravaggio and Carracci.
To formalize and “authenticate” the scene as a genuine spiritual experience approved by the Catholic Church, Bernini added two groups of “witnesses” carved in life-size relief sculpture to either side of Tereasa. The first group, composed of four male members of the Cornaro family, is located to the left of the altar as if in a box at the theatre. A second group, consisting of male representatives of church and state are located to the right.
Harbison, Robert. Reflections on Baroque. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
Harris, Ann S. Art and Architecture of the Seventeenth Century Art. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004.
St. Theresa of Avila was a Spanish nun, mystic and writer during the Counter-Reformation. Some sources suggest that as a girl, Theresa was willful and spoiled, and chose to enter the Carmelite sisterhood instead of marrying a wealthy hidalgo based on the mistaken belief that as a nun she would be afforded more freedom.
St. Theresa of Avila