when was the ecstacy of st teresa made
The two central sculptural figures of the swooning nun and the angel with the spear derive from an episode described by Teresa of Avila, a mystical cloistered Discalced Carmelite reformer and nun, in her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus (1515–1582). Her experience of religious ecstasy in her encounter with the angel is described as follows:
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.
To begin with, the Cornaro Chapel is beautifully designed as a showcase for Saint Teresa. Its spatial construction, use of light, trompe l’oeil mural painting, along with the marble, gilded wood and gilt bronze materials used, is a perfect vehicle for such an expression of piety. The marble sculpture itself – its whiteness contrasting with the polychrome marble surround – precisely poised above the altar as if it were a divine occurrence in mid-air, is a perfect combination of movement and stillness. Yet the drapery also conveys the “agitation” of the swooning nun. And Bernini’s incredible attention to detail is clearly visible in the meticulous carving of the little finger of the Angel’s left hand, and the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.
After Innocent X
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is a white marble sculpture that was created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Bernini was considered one of the great sculptors of his day. The sculpture was commissioned by a Venetian Cardinal and was completed in 1652. It currently rests in Santa Maria della Vittoria Church in Rome, Italy. The sculpture depicts Saint Teresa of Ávila and is widely regarded as a masterpiece among Roman Baroque sculptures.
The sculpture shows a lithe, delicate angel who resembles cupid holding an arrow aloft, poised to strike Teresa. With curly hair and dainty features, the angel has a graceful air. Theresa herself seems to have collapsed. Her eyes are closed and her head is thrown back in what seems to be rapture. Bronze rains down behind the sculpture, seeming to illuminate it, and the figures appear to float on a cloud.
As inspiration for his 1652 sculpture Saint Teresa in Ecstasy, Gianlorenzo Bernini kept returning to one passage in the autobiography of Saint Teresa of Avila:
ANGEL – “He was not tall, but short, and very beautiful,” related Teresa of her vision, “his face so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest types of angel who seem to be all afire.”
Harbison, Robert. Reflections on Baroque. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.
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)