|Bernini, Charity with Four Children, ca. 1627-34|
The show gathers together some 50 clay models and 30 related drawings for many of Bernini's sculptures, and traces the artist's thoughts as he rejected some ideas and developed others.
|Bacchanal, ca. 1616-17|
The exhibit begins with a marble sculpture, a bacchanal with a faun teased by children, by a young Bernini and his father. It gives just a glimpse of what's so appealing in much of Bernini's work -- a dynamic liveliness that makes the viewer want to walk around the statue and a total mastery of the human figure, as though the artist were painting in stone.
|Lion (Four Rivers Fountain), ca. 1649|
The bacchanal is the only finished sculpture on view (it's from the Met's own collection). The rest are small models that show Bernini working out his ideas, both the rough models early in the process (called bozzetti) and the more finished pieces that might be shown to the client or serve as a guide for Bernini's workshop (called modelli).
Some of these are wonderfully expressive -- St. Longinus, for St. Peter's; the lion and the Moor, for the fountains in the Piazza Navona; Charity with four children; Daniel, for Santa Maria del Popolo; a life-size head of St. Jerome.
|St. Longinus, ca. 1628|
Additional insight into Bernini's thinking and working methods can be had from his drawing, and the fullest demonstration of Bernini's process is where both drawings and clay models have survived.
One example is the preparatory studies for the ten angels that line the bridge from Rome proper to the Castel Sant'Angelo and Vatican City, a Papal commission that Bernini undertook when he was 70.
|Angel with Superscription, ca. 1667-68|
Those seeking the dazzle of Bernini's finished sculptures -- the portraits that seem to breathe, the female saints in an almost sexual ecstasy -- may be disappointed. Those works that take your breath away are here only in large black-and-white photographs.
But if you want to see the modeling done by a supreme artist's bare hands, facial expression masterfully made with wooden tools, and surfaces sometimes smoothed with wet or dry brushes or the artist's own fingers, the intimacy gained from that experience will be ample reward.
|St. Jerome, 1661|
Text and images (c) Copyright 2012 Laura Gilbert