Bernini’s Portrayal of The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa
The artist Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini created the “Ecstasy of Saint Theresa” for the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome.
If you’d like to know more about the artist or the artwork, here are two related Wikipdedia links:
I also recommend Simon Schama’s Power of Art DVD (Disc 1) episode on Bernini that can be obtained from Amazon, Netflix, or other movie outlets. Some of the photos in this post are from that episode.
I am an art critic who avoids stretching for interpretations. I look for the plain meaning. I find it hard to view this work of art and to focus only on the religious. Bernini seems far more focused on the sensuality and mortality of the body.
(Click on the images if you wish to view them individually or larger.)
The Golden Arrow.
To a common eye, how can the boy not be perceived as part angel and part cupid? The arrow is pointing toward her center.
He is above her at the moment of her altered emotional state.
To understand an artwork, it’s important to understand its intended context. In this artwork, Bernini, who was equally an architect, also designed the contrasting darker walls, columns, and environment around his white sculpture.
If you want to know the era and type of architecture, it’s Baroque. But the term Baroque, and similar categorizations, do little for me to understand the merits of a specific work of art. It’s like saying a song is in the genre of rock n’ roll. For any real fan of music, that alone tells us very little. It’s a broad category. It does little to help us distinguish gold from fool’s gold.
I try to evaluate artworks both within their time period and beyond their time period. And regardless of the historical wishes of the patrons who commissioned this work, it appears Bernini was intent on portraying ecstasy – regardless if the ecstasy came from spiritual or sexual, Heavenly or Earthly, or tactile or cognitive sources or stimulations.
The sculpture is a congress of the spiritual and the sexual. The sculpture may often confuse those who wish only to see the spiritual. And the sculpture may put a knowing expression on the faces of those who have experienced the sexual, the physical – the rush of tactile, emotional, and coital intoxication.
The sculpture has been placed above a floor where death is clearly below . . .
. . . and light is above.
And between death and light, Bernini may be suggesting there may be moments of ecstasy worth saving and remembering.
© All rights reserved by the respective artists.
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