Artemisia Gentileschi, Self-Portrait as an Allegory of Painting, 1638-9
Gianlorenzo Bernini was one of the most prolific artists of the seventeenth century. Like the Renaissance
men of the preceding century, Bernini worked in all the media: architecture, sculpture, and painting. More
importantly, he brought the media together, treating his architecture as sculpture and bringing the
painterly qualities of color and light into both architecture and sculpture.
Bernini’s earliest works were sculptures for cardinals in Rome, including Cardinal Barberini who was elected
Pope Urban VIII. He commissioned Bernini to create a gigantic canopy over the high altar in 1624. The
Baldacchino, over the main altar in St. Peter’s, is as much a work of architecture as sculpture: it is about
one hundred feet tall, with great twisted columns (modeled after those thought to be from the ancient
Temple of Jerusalem built in the time of Solomon). At each of the four corners are huge angels, striding
into space. The entire work is cast in bronze, which is gilded in places to add the element of color. Bernini
was named chief architect of St. Peter’s in 1627 and completed other works there including the colonnade
from around 1656. He also took on projects for other patrons in Rome, including the Cornaro Chapel, with
its sculpture the Saint Teresa in Ecstasy (1645-52). Of all Bernini’s work, this ensemble shows his
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