Saturday, 10 November 2012

Bernini: Sculpting in Clay



Today I will be reviewing Bernini: Sculpting in Clay, a book recently published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was one of the greatest sculptors in the history of art and, arguably, second only to Michelangelo Buonarroti. He was the father of the baroque style which emphasized motion and drama in sculpture, painting and architecture.

With essays by C.D. Dickerson III, Anthony Sigel, and Ian Wardropper this volume explores Bernini's clay "sketches" or bozzetti as they were known. Richly illustrated, Bernini delves into the working methods of the great sculptor, giving us a glimpse into how many of his iconic marbles evolved from conception through sketches on paper, clay sketches, and life-size clays.


Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Study for Daniel, ca 1655. Red chalk.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Study for Daniel, ca 1655. Red chalk.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Daniel in the Lion's Den, ca 1655. Terracotta.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Daniel in the Lion's Den, ca. 1655-57. Marble, over life-size.


The illustrations are wonderful, with many detailed photos of the clay bozzetti which allow you to inspect the tool-marks left in the clay and even Bernini's fingerprints. Several x-radiograph photos let you see inside the clays to understand how the structures were formed.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Model for the Fountain of the Moor, ca 1653. Terracotta.
Detail.
Detail.

Detail.
X-radiograph. Note hollowed head and torso, solid shell and base.


Fountain of the Moor, 1653-55. Marble, over life-size. Piazza Navona, Rome.


There is something magical in Bernini's best sculpture, an expressive motion which he was able to translate from drawing, to clay bozzetta, to finished marble; no easy feat, considering how elusive the gesture is at any one of these stages.


Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Saint Teresa in Ecstasy, ca. 1647. Terracotta.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Saint Teresa in Ecstasy, 1647-52. Marble, life-size.

Anyone interested in Bernini, renaissance sculpture, or the working methods of sculptors will enjoy this large, high quality book. A fascinating read.