Bernini Updates




Posted here are updates and corrections to my published research on Bernini, as new archival documentation comes to light, as well as answers to queries sent to me or arising in book reviews.

(click on items below for direct links to each):

I. Regarding Domenico Bernini’s Life of GLB

II. Regarding Bernini: His Life and His Rome

III. Other New Research Discoveries, Insights, and

Replies to Reviews and Queries


Bernini, Church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, oculus above main altar (photo: F. Mormando)

Bernini, Church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, oculus above main altar (photo: F. Mormando)





  • 1.  To download a scanned copy of the original  January 1681 issue of the Mercure galant containing the Bernini obituary:

 click on this link to the French website, Le Gazetier universel. For further information on the Mercure galante, see the online website, Dictionnaire des journaux 1600-1798, ed. Jean Sgard.


  • 2.  “Bellini, 2002″ cited in n. 13 to the Introduction needs to be added to the Bibliography:

Bellini, Eraldo. Agostino Mascardi tra ‘ars poetica’ e ‘ars historica’ Milan: Vita e Pensiero, 2002. This study by Bellini (eminent expert of the intellectual world of Baroque Rome) is the most recent and most exhaustive of the work of Agostino Mascardi.

  • Also to add to the Bibliography:   Zirpolo, Lilian H., “Christina of Sweden’s Patronage of Bernini: The Mirror of Truth Revealed by Time,” Woman’s Art Journal 26 (2005): 38-43.
Bernini Mirror Design 1670 ca

Bernini’s Mirror for Christina of Sweden (“Truth Revealed by Time”), drawing by Ncodemus Tessin, Jr, who saw the mirror when visiting the queen’s art collection in Rome (drawing in National Museum, Stockholm)



  •  3.  Corrections to the INDEX:
  1.  Index, p. 464, 1st column: “Arisosto” should be spelled “Ariosto”.
  2.  ADD to Index, on p. 471, 2nd column: Boccapianola, Camilla (B’s paternal  grandmother), 272, n. 6.
  3.  Index, p. 479, 1st column, last line of sub-entry under “Poussin, Nicolas:” “300-101n. 25″ should be “300-01n. 25″.
  4.  Index, p. 480, 2n column:  The “Santi” of  the entry “SS [Santi] Rufina e Seconda” should be “Sante,” i.e., feminine plural. (Please also note that in contemporary documents Santa Rufina is also spelled “Ruffina.”)


  • 4.  Typos and Other Corrections:

Page 221 (Domenico, 162): line 8 should read: “with the proceeds of the sale of some of these drawings and modelli, a sufficient” etc. (add “and modelli“)

Page 327, note 43, second-to-last line: Astolfo should be Atlante

Page 356, note 1: for “Diary of Alexander VIII,” read: “Diary of Alexander VII.”

Page 387, note 16: correct spelling: magnificentia


  • 5.  Pages 12-14 of my Introduction: for further discussion of hagiography in Early Modern Italy, see:

Frazier, Alison K. Possible Lives: Authors and Saints in Renaissance Italy. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Please note that in my discussion of hagiographic commonplaces (topoi) as found in Domenico, I do not claim that the list of topoi given on pp. 13-14 is exhaustive or that there was only one model of the “saint’s life” in circulation in the seventeenth century.


  • 6.  For further discussion of historiography in Early Modern Italy, see:

Grafton, Anthony. What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 2007.


  • 7.  For new primary-source information on Bernini’s trip to Paris, see:

de La Gorce, Jérôme. “Le voyage du Cavalier Bernin en France, d’après des correspondances inédites.” Confronto: Studi e ricerche di storia dell’arte europea, no. 10-11 (dicembre 2007-giugno 2008) (2007-2008): 63-72.

Among other new primary source documentation, de La Gorce prints the text of King Louis XIV’s April 11, 1665 letter to Ambassador Créqui in Rome. He also prints the text of Louis’s letter to Pope Alexander VII (requesting Bernini’s service) as found in the archives of the French government’s department of Affaires Etrangères, which bears the date of April 11, 1665, unlike the copies (from other archives) published by Baldinucci, Domenico, Clément, and Fraschetti, which bear the date of April 18. Among several other new details, the article (p. 65) cites primary source documentation of a stop at Parma by Bernini and his entourage en route to Paris. De La Gorce (p. 66) also publishes extracts from a report from the Venetian ambassador, which describes Bernini’s extravagant idea of converting the entire Ile de la Cité into a royal government district, which would have entailed the razing of a massive number of buildings located there.


Church of the Feuillants, Rue St. Honoré, Paris, close to the present-day Rue de Castiglione (seen here in an early 18th-century map). This was the church routinely visited by Bernini for ordinary worship during his stay in Paris. It was to become noteworthy during the time of the French Revolution, after which it was demolished.

  • 8.  Regarding Bernini’s monumental bronze crucifix commissioned by King Phillip IV of Spain (Domenico, 64 and p. 334, note 1),

a recently published article by Tomaso Montanari (“Bernini per Bernini: il secondo ‘Crocifisso’ monumentale.” Prospettiva 136 [2009]: 2-25) adds new, illuminating data as well as correcting some minor errors of past scholarship.


The article also discusses other related bronze crucifixes, e.g., the replica of the Spanish crucifix that Bernini created for his personal use (eventually giving it as a gift to Cardinal Sforza Pallavicino) and a similar crucifix commissioned by Cardinal Antonio Barberini, Jr. in Paris. Contrary to what until recently was believed, Barberini commissioned that crucifix for himself, not as a gift for King Louis XIV of France (who received it only years later as a postmortem bequest by the cardinal’s heirs). As for the Sforza Pallavicino gift-crucifix, Montanari argues that it corresponds to the one now in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. Montanari, furthermore, hypothesizes that Bernini had originally created that crucifix as a form of artistic self-defense in the wake of the embarassing “dethronement” by King Philip of his crucifix (for reasons unknown) from its place of honor in the mausoleum of the Spanish kings at El Escorial.


On the El Escorial crucifix, now see (an article I have not yet have had time to read):

García Cueto, David. “Sobre el encargo y envío a España de los Crucificados de Gian Lorenzo Bernini y Domenico Guidi para El Escorial.” In Los crucificados, religiosidad, cofradías y arte. Actas del simposio 3/6-IX-2010, edited by Francisco Javier Campos, 1081-99. El Escorial: Real Centro Universitario Escorial-María Cristina, 2010.


As to the attribution of the Toronto crucifix, not all scholars are in agreement with Montanari that it is indeed a work by Bernini. Charles Scribner (personal communication, June 25, 2011) has written: “[L]et me go on record as saying, with as much regret, that [the Toronto crucifix] is not by Bernini. It surely derives from his crucifix for Philip IV — or from the still lost copies he made for himself and for Barberini — but not by Bernini himself. It lacks his distinctive tension and persuasiveness; too attenuated and ‘pretty'; today it might be described as ‘Bernini Lite.'” (Scribner, I might add, is author of one of the most useful, best written, and best-selling introductory books on the art of Bernini: Gianlorenzo Bernini, New York: Abrams, 1991.)


Update from Charles Scribner, April 14, 2012 (personal communication):

“The museum’s condition report — specifically, that the bronze was cast in 5 or 6 separate pieces — solves, for me, the central paradoxical puzzle: namely, that parts of that highly finished bronze crucifix appear an exact, slavish copy of the Bernini original in the Escorial [something he himself never did and would never do, as he explained to Chantelou] yet others [drapery, exaggerated feet and spindly legs] seem so arbitrary and utterly lacking in Bernini’s ‘handwriting’. Solution: the Toronto bronze is a later casting and assemblage, not overseen by Bernini himself, comprising perhaps the original cast of the head and torso [hence an almost exact copy of the Escorial original [the differences would be due to final chasing]; if not the original cast, then perhaps one based on the original model] and added limbs and drapery, from new casts, meant to ‘complete’ the Bernini head and torso.  Bottom line: it’s an intended ‘replica’ of the Bernini original, finished with loving care by a pro, with added flourishes of detail meant to to be Plus-Bernini, but not by the maestro himself.”

Crucifix Bernini Toronto Traini

Bernini, Crucified Christ (corpus from monumental crucifix), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Canada (photo courtesy of George Traini)


  • 9.  Regarding Bernini’s bust of the Savior:

Domenico (p. 225) describes the pose as “our Savior in half-figure …with his right hand slightly raised, as if in the act of imparting a blessing.” Like most people, I have simply understood the gesture as a blessing, pure and simple. However, as Charles Scribner explains in an article that has recently come to my attention, the issue is more complex and offers some clarification:

“The unusual gesture — clearly no simple blessing — that [Irving] Lavin interpreted as ‘an ambiguous gesture of abhorrence and protection’ may more precisely , I submit, refer to the Noli me tangere of Saint John’s Gospel (20:17), the first appearance of the resurrection Christ to Mary Magdalene. . . . Evoked through Christ’s upturned eyes and raised hand — an aloof, cautionary benediction — Bernini’s biblical allusion would have been reinforced by the angels [of the intended but never executed pedestal] that, with hands covered, raised the divine effigy above the touch of mortals…. Considered afresh in its original context, as a sacramental apotheosis, the Savior may finally come into focus” (Charles Scribner III, “Transfigurations: Bernini’s Last Works,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 135.4 (1991):490-509, here 507.


Bernini: His Life and Works

BY Charles Scribner III

Bernini's final (and recently rediscovered) sculpture: Bust of the Savior (1679), San Sebastiano in Via Appia (photo courtesy of Charles Scribner, III)

Bernini’s final (and recently rediscovered) sculpture: Bust of the Savior (1679), San Sebastiano in Via Appia (photo courtesy of Charles Scribner, III)


Dr. Scribner has kindly sent me an advance copy of his entry on the bust of the Savior that will be included in the forthcoming new edition of his book on Bernini:


Bust of the Savior

1679-80 Marble, height 106 cm.

San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura, Rome

      In his final sculpture the eighty-year-old maestro “summarized and condensed all his art,” Domenico Bernini wrote, adding that his father’s “bold conception” more than compensated for the “weakness of his wrist.” Bernini undertook this parting work not for his own tomb, a marble slab in Santa Maria Maggiore, but as a gift for Rome’s preeminent Catholic convert, Queen Christina of Sweden. When she refused to accept it, saying she could never afford to repay Bernini for its true worth, he bequeathed it to her. On his deathbed he asked for Christina’s prayers since she shared “a special language with God.” It was precisely through Bernini’s special language of gesture and facial expression that his otherworldly “speaking portrait” of the Lord communicates its meaning.

     The bust was originally mounted on a round Sicilian jasper base and supported by two angels kneeling on a gilded wooden socle. Bernini’s sketch (Museum, Leipzig) for the pedestal reflects his drawing (also in Leipzig) of similar angels elevating a monstrance to display the sacramental Body of Christ. Bequeathed by Christina to Innocent XI, Bernini’s Savior was later adapted as the official emblem of the Apostolic Hospital in Rome before vanishing in the early eighteenth century. Only a preliminary drawing  preserved Bernini’s redeeming image until Irving Lavin published in 1972 the marble in Norfolk, Virginia, as the lost bust. This was followed a year later by the discovery, in the cathedral of Sées, of the copy commissioned by Bernini’s Parisian friend Pierre Cureau de la Chambre. While the latter bust reveals a classical beauty and polish typical of a competent copyist, the Norfolk version, on the other hand, appears almost Gothic by comparison, and it remained puzzling–even if accepted by most scholars. The recent rediscovery, four decades later, of the lost original in the sacristy of San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura in Rome confirms—as Lavin himself attests–that the Norfolk bust is in fact a copy (perhaps dating from the late 18th century); the bust at San Sebastiano, now brilliantly displayed in a grand niche in the basilica proper, reveals in full glory Bernini’s magnificent sunset in marble.  It is well worth the pilgrimage along the Appian Way.

     Clearly no simple blessing, the unusual gesture that Lavin interpreted as an ambiguous combination of “abhorrence and protection” may, more precisely, refer to the Noli Me Tangere — the first appearance of the resurrected Christ to Mary Magdalene: “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father” (John 20:17). Evoked through Christ’s aloof visage and raised hand — an unexpectedly cautionary benediction — Bernini’s biblical allusion would have been reinforced by the angels that, with hands covered, lifted the divine effigy above the touch of mortals. When designing a symbolic globe to raise his Louis XIV in a royal apotheosis, he explained that its practical function was to prevent viewers from touching the bust. Considered afresh in its original context, as a sacramental apotheosis, the Savior may finally come into focus. The features that seem exaggerated up close, together with the tumultuously abstracted drapery folds and the blank eyes of classical Roman portrait busts, are resolved into an expression of enormous spiritual intensity when viewed from below. Its concetto is emphatically Eucharistic — a huge white Host elevated as “the Bread of Angels.” This is Bernini’s marble sacrament, raised in his last labor of adoration.

     According to his biographers, Gianlorenzo’s career commenced with the posthumous bust of Bishop Santoni, a public effigy; seven decades later, it concluded with a private bust of the Eternal Savior, animated through marble folds that follow no natural pattern. The striking realism of the child prodigy was transfigured, in the end, by the ethereal vision of a genius for whom life and art were as inseparable as fact and faith.

                                                           –Charles Scribner III [from Bernini–revised 2014 eBook edition]

  • 10.  An English translation of Rudolph Preimesberger’s essay on Bernini’s The Goat Almathea with the Infant Jupiter and a Satyr (first published in 2002 in Bernini scultore, ed. A. Coliva)

is now available in the recently published collection of his essays, Paragons and Paragone (Los Angeles: The Getty Research Institute Publications Program, 2011).  Still considered virtually universally as Bernini’s first independent work of sculpture, it is discussed in my Domenico edition on p. 279, n. 13. I would add to that note the fact (cited by Preimesberger, 2011, 54) that contemporary writer and artist Joachim von Sandrart describes the work as Bernini’s “first famous work” (sein erst berühmtes Werk), attesting to the success of the sculpture as a paragon of overcoming the difficultas of treating such a theme in marble.


Bernini, The Goat Almathea with the Infant Jupiter and a Satyr
(Galleria Borghese, Rome, image: Web Gallery of Art)


  • 11.  For more on Filippo Maria Bonini and his L’ateista convinto dalle sole ragioni (Venice, 1665),

cited on p. 314, n. 27 and p. 414, n. 9 (for criticism of Bernini’s work on the Four Piers of St. Peter’s), now see: Tomaso Montanari, “Roma 1665: il rovescio della medaglia. L’ateista convinto dalle sole ragioni dell’abbate Filippo Maria Bonini,” Ricerche di storia dell’arte 96 (2008): 41-56. Bonini’s book, ostensibly a series of dialogs between an open-minded atheist and a convinced Jansenist, is actually a vehicle for Bonini to deliver biting satires of various aspects of contemporary Rome, especially the world of the Roman (papal) court and of the art world in its multiple dimensions.


  • 12.  To the bibliography cited in note 23 on page 422 regarding Bernini’s various busts of Pope Clement X Altieri (mid-1670s),

add the good, succinct, thorough discussion by Lisa Beaven, “Bernini’s Last Papal Portrait and its Audience: The Statue of Pope Clement X Altieri,” in The Italians in Australia: Studies in Renaissance and Baroque Art, ed. David R. Marshall, 95-106, Florence: Centro Di; Melbourne: The Membership fo the Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, 2004.


Bernini, Pope Clement X Altieri, formerly Palazzo Altieri, now Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Palazzo Barberini, Rome (photo: Wikimedia Commons)


  • 13.  Regarding Cardinal Maffeo Barberini’s desire to have the young Bernini complete an unfinished statue by Michelangelo (Domenico, my note 10 on p. 279), see:

Frommel, Christoph Luitpold, “Michelangelo, Bernini e le due statue del Cristo risorto.” In Società, cultura e vita religiosa in età moderna: studi in onore di Romeo De Maio, ed. Luigi  Gulia, Ingo  Herklotz and Stefano Zen (Sora: Centro di studi sorani Vincenzo Patriarca, 2009), 177-215, esp. 195-201 for Bernini discussion.

Evidence now seems to point to the Michelangelo statue in question as the second, only rudimentarily “roughed out” Resurrected Christ (the first being that in Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome). It was, instead, Vincenzo Giustiniani (not Maffeo Barberini) who ended up purchasing the work in late 1618 or early 1619 and who, it would seem, commissioned the young Bernini to bring it to completion in the same period. Bernini’s finished product is — though the attribution is not universally agreed upon — the statue now located in the church of San Vincenzo, in Bassano Romano. Rather than a “completion” of work started by Michelangelo, Bernini’s statue is, in effect, a near-entirely separate creation, done in a sedate neo-classical style in accordance, one presumes, with the tastes of the patron. Michelangelo stopped work on the statue because of a long, vertical black vein that came to the surface on the face of the figure: in the Bassano Romano Resurrected Christ, Bernini — if he is indeed the author — cleverly minimizes the impact of that vein by having it coincide with a crease or fold of skin, running alongside the nose and mouth.


Risen Christ, San Vincenzo, Bassano Romano (Wikimedia Commons)

  • 14.  For more information on Chantelou’s diary as primary source for Bernini’s life, see the various essays from the November 2007 symposium devoted to the diary (held at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris) now published in the volume edited by Ferdinando Bologna, Confronto: Studi e ricerche di storia dell’arte europea, n. 10-11 dicembre 2007 – giugno 2008 (Naples: Paparo, 2009).

    Title page of the first published edition of Chantelou’s Diary, 1885


  • 15.  Bernini’s eclipse during early years of Pope Innocent X:

As mentioned in my notes 23 on p. 346 and 27 on page 354, yet another reminder that during the early years of the reign of the anti-Barberini (and thus anti-Bernini) Pope Innocent X Pamphilj — that is, before the Spring 1648 reconciliation between pope and artist with the granting of the Piazza Navona Fountain commission — Bernini did not suffer total exclusion from important papal projects is the newly publicized fact that in Spring 1647 Bernini was commissioned to sculpt two statues (of Saints Luke and Bartholomew) for the niches of the nave of the Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano, which was undergoing major renovations by Borromini, under the supervision of Virgilio Spada (the pope’s deputy in matters of art and architecture).

This was a major project, involving all the eminent sculptors of Rome. We know of this project and Bernini’s commission from the papers of Virgilio Spada. For reasons unknown Bernini never completed the statues, but we have several drawings (in Leipzig) and one clay modello (in the Museo di Roma) attesting to his preparatory work on the statue of St. Luke. For all of the preceding see: Tomaso Montanari, “Bernini in Laterano: Una nuova lettura per sette disegni berniniani a Lipsia,” in Dessins de Sculpteurs, II: Quatrièmes rencontres internationales du Salon du Dessin, 25 et 26 mars 2009, ed. Cordelia  Hattori (Société du Salon du dessin, 2009): 69-78.


Nave of St. John Lateran, showing the niches for which Bernini had been commissioned to provide two statues (never executed)


  • 16.  New bibliography on Bernini’s Triton Fountain in Piazza Barberini (1642-43), described by Domenico, 60-61:

(a)  Averett, Matthew. “Bernini’s Triton Fountain: War and Fountains in the Rome of Urban VIII.” Journal of Religion and Society: Supplement Series. “Religion and the Visual,” ed. Ronald A. Simkins and Wendy M. Wright. Supplement 8 (2012): 119-32. (Averett sheds convincing new light on the “concetto,” the political-literary symbolism, of the fountain and its cultural-political resonance in the early 1640s.)

(b)  Curzietti, Jacopo. “Gian Lorenzo e Luigi Bernini. Nuovi documenti per la fontana del Tritone in piazza Barberini.” Storia dell’arte 125/126 (2010): 110-23. (the new documents help us understand which workers did which components, most notable is the fact that Luigi sculpted the statue of Triton himself based on his brother’s design.)


Piazza Barberini, Rome


  • 17.   New article on Bernini’s portrait (and self-portrait) drawings (discussed on p. 296 n.12 and 298 n.18):

Sutherland Harris, Ann. “Bernini’s Portrait Drawings: Context and Connoisseurship.” Sculpture Journal 20, no. 2 (2011): 163-78. In this article, the author presents a hitherto unpublished drawing in a private collection in London: Profile Portrait of an Unknown Man, red chalk on light beige paper, Fig. 16, p. 173. (Happily, Sutherland Harris — together with Tod Marder — is now completing a new, much-needed edition of all of Bernini’s drawings, of which about 300 are extant, plus related drawings from his workshop.)


At the Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig, Germany (Nov. 9, 2014 to Feb. 1, 2015), an exhibition based upon its extensive collection of Bernini drawings (in fact, it is the largest in the world): “BERNINI: Erfinder des barocken Rom” (Bernini: Inventor of Baroque Rome). From the museum’s website:

“The Bernini Exhibition. Inventor of Baroque Rome presents the topical breadth of Bernini’s oeuvre for the first time via the medium of drawings, demonstrating the lasting influence that the artist had on Rome. The Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts owns over 200 drawings by Bernini and his studio, permitting one-of-a-kind insight into the origins and emergence of his artwork. The exhibition additionally features loans from the Roman and Vatican collections and from the Albertina in Vienna, among others. This traces Bernini’s creative process, from the initial idea to its final definition. The ingenuity with which Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) and his ecclesiastical and secular clients merged piety and claim to power with art and architecture is largely unparalleled to the present day. Active under six popes, Bernini became a living legend as a sculptor, architect, painter, author, theatre director and as an extremely gifted draughtsman. His longstanding contribution as innovator and designer of Baroque Rome was exemplary for the development of Baroque art throughout Europe. Bernini’s most lauded works include St. Peter’s Square, the high altar ciborium in St. Peter’s Basilica and the Piazza Navona with the Fountain of the Four Rivers. For all of these works the Leipzig Exhibition shows the defining ideas, sketches and preparatory work.”

FEBRUARY 10, 2015: I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT THIS EXHIBITION, IN SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT FORMAT, WILL OPEN IN MARCH 2015 AT THE PALAZZO BARBERINI IN ROME (Galleria Nazionale d’arte antica), but the museum’s website makes no mention of it at the moment.


  • 18.  Regarding Bernini’s bust of King Louis XIV (Domenico, 132):

I neglected to mention that according to the Memoirs of Charles Perrault (who had arranged for the delivery of the marble for the bust), it was Bernini who “as soon as he arrived . . . proposed doing a bust of the King” (1989, ed. and trans. J. Zarucchi, p. 61). Perrault is the only source to claim this. (In n. 26 on the same page, Zarucchi quotes a June 22, 1665 letter from Perrault to Colbert, discussing the fact that Bernini, however, has found every excuse not to do a full-sized statue of the king.) In any event, Bernini, as mentioned in my notes, probably came to Paris prepared for such a task, bringing with him his principal assistant in sculpture, Giulio Cartari.

St Germain en Laye

The royal residence of Saint Germain-en-Laye, in its current state (its magnificent gardens are, alas, no more). Nineteen kilometers west of Paris, it was Louis XIV’s principal residence during Bernini’s service at the French court; it was here that Bernini did most of his sketching for his Louis XIV portrait bust and has most of his interactions with the king. (photo: F. Mormando)


  • 19.  Regarding Costanza Bonarelli (more properly, Bonucelli), Bernini’s mistress (Domenico, 27):

With the publication of Sarah McPhee’s Bernini’s Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini (Yale UP, 2012), we now possess much new information about the hitherto mysterious Costanza and her life before and after the violent affair with Bernini. Very little of new is communicated about Bernini or his works (except for the author’s sensitive reading of the Costanza bust as a work of art and an expression of Baroque feminine allure).

Note that, as the primary source documentation that McPhee publishes in appendix, Costanza’s married name was legally and without a doubt “Bonucelli,” and not “Bonarelli,” as usually rendered in past literature. Yet, she usually referred to herself by her maiden name, Piccolomini, as she is named by Filippo Baldinucci in the catalogue of Bernini’s works appended to his 1682 life of the artist.

– For more information culled from McPhee’s study, see below on this page under Bernini: His Life and His Rome, pp. 99-109.

(Wikimedia Commons)

(Wikimedia Commons)



  • 20.  Bernini as a “man without letters” (see my introduction to Domenico, pp. 58-60):

Pertinent to this topic is a January 1639 letter by contemporary poet and diplomat, Fulvio Testi, that boasts (as elsewhere) of his close friendship with Bernini and that happens to mention that the artist “sa molto anche di belle lettere” (also knows much about literature). The letter is #403, vol. 1, pp. 432-33 in the 1967 edition of Testi’s letters edited by M. L. Doglio.

Portrait of Fulvio Testi by Ludovico Lana (Galleria Estense, Modena, Wikipedia Commons)

Portrait of Fulvio Testi (1593-1646) by Ludovico Lana (Galleria Estense, Modena, foto: Wikipedia Commons)


  • 21.   Bernini as the Michelangelo of his age:

    For yet another detail from Michelangelo’s biography that is also attributed to Bernini — his capacity of working intensely and non-stop on his art until a state of exhaustion and  requiring only little food and drink to sustain him — see Domenico, p. 179 and Vasari’s “Life of Michelangelo” (in Vasari, Artists of the Renaissance. A Selection from Lives of the Artists, trans. George Bull, New York: Viking, 1978, 289).


  • 22. Bernini’s use of clay models, especially for the bust of Louis XIV:



For Bernini’s clay models in general, now see the essential exhibition catalogue:

Dickerson III, C.D., Anthony Sigel, and Ian Wardropper. Bernini: Scultpting in Clay. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, distributed by Yale University Press, 2012.

In his essay in the aforementioned catalogue, Tomaso Montanari corrects a long-standing error first put in print by Rudolf Wittkower and subsequently repeated by various scholars (including me, on. p. 388, n. 18):  p. 70, n.46:

“If Chantelou appears never to have seen any bozzetti for the king’s bust, he was certainly aware of a single, presumably lifesize modello, to which he made repeated reference in his diary.” [See Chantelou, 1985 ed., June 24, p. 40; June 27, p. 43; June 30, pp.44-45; July 1, pp. 46-49; and July 13, p. 60.]. TM, p. 70,  n. 47: “Wittkower did not believe there was such a work, but in fact it was commented on by, and subject to the approval of, various figures at court…” including Colbert: see Chantelou, 1985, July 1, p. 48: “M. Colbert then saw the model for royal bust”; there is also reference to the modello in a letter by Mattia de’ Rossi from Paris to Rome. Alas, the modello long ago disappeared, as did all of the numerous preparatory sketches Bernini made of Louis XIV.

  •   23.  Page 411, n. 31, regarding the Altieri-sponsored church of San Bonaventura in Monterano, built in 1675-77, see also: Michele Benucci and Giuseppe Romagnoli, La Chiesa di San Bonaventura a Monterano. Documenti, Immagini, Strutture, Materiali (Vetralla: Davide Ghaleb Editore, 2009). As I observe in my note, the original documents do not mention Bernini, only his architectural assistant Mattia de’ Rossi. It is only in 1702 that we find the first mention of Bernini as supposed designer (“ideatore”) of this church (Benucci-Romagnoli, 19-20). Monterano, in the province of Rome, became the feudal possession of the papal Altieri family, who commissioned the church and other structures from Mattia de’ Rossi. The whole small town was abandoned in the late 18th-century following the French invasion and chronic problems with malaria. For further good photographs of the entire site, see the Monterano travel webpage.

Church of San Bonaventura in the borgo of Monterano, designed by Bernini’s disciple, Mattia de’ Rossi a commission from the Altieri family, its feudal lords. Abandoned due to malaria in the 19th century. (foto F. Mormando, March 2013, with thanks to Leonardo Tondo)



  • 24. Page 185, note 3: the “Pollini” cited in Pope Alexander VII’s diary:

This is undoubtedly Alessandro Pollini, man of letters (dates unknown) about whom thus far I have been able to gather only scant biographical information. But his name appears often in relation to the personal intellectual circle of Alexander VII of which he was an esteemed member.

From Ludwig von Pastor, History of the Popes [St. Louis: Herder, 1940, vol 31, p. 269]: “As Ferdinand of Fürstenberg, subsequently Bishop of Paderborn, reported in the year 1657 [in a letter to Francis van der Veken, June 23, 1657], [Fabio Chigi] was in the habit even as Pope and during the hottest hours of the day to forgo the customary siesta of the Italians. He invited instead, as it were in rotation, some of his poetically endowed friends such as Natale Rondinini, Alessandro Pollini, Agostino Favoriti and Fürstenberg himself, and during the midday meal and afterwards he would discourse with them and Sforza Pallavicino for a couple of hours on literary and scientific topics.”

Giulio Negri, S.J., Istoria degli scrittori fiorentini [Ferrara, 1722, p.  23] reports: (my translation): “Alessandro was born and did his studies in Florence and dedicating himself to the ecclesiastical life, he moved to Rome where he was soon named a canon of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. He deepened his studies, including that of Latin poetry and left several compositions whose excellence merited not only popular applause but the honor of being published together in a volume of the most select Latin verse of the illustrious men of that era. One can find some of his poetry in the book entitled, Carmina illustrium Virorum Edita Antwerpiae in octavo.

We know further that in 1655 (or 1656) he was member of the special scholarly commission convened by Alexander VII to confirm the authenticity of the relic of the so-called “Chair of St. Peter” (Cathedra Petri), soon to be encased in a magnificent new setting by Bernini (Alessandro Angelini, Gian Lorenzo Bernini e i Chigi, Siena, 1998, p. 292, n. 87). See also the few brief citations in Montanari’s 1998 article, “Sulla fortuna poetica di Bernini” cited in my bibliography.


  • 25. Page 413, note 4 to Domenico, p. 166: Allegory of Charity on the Alexander VII tomb:

The “Charity” was bare-breasted in Bernini’s original design but subsequently covered up: when and by whose orders are not known. An engraving published by Jesuit Filippo Buonanni in his Numismata summorum pontificum of 1696 shows “Charity” still uncovered (for a reproduction of the engraving and further information, see below my note to p. 238 in the section on Bernini: His Life and His Rome).


  • 26. Page 374, note 15 to Domenico, p. 182: sculptor-collaborator Niccolò Sale:

Sale’s contribution to the Bernini-designed Raimondi Chapel in San Pietro in Montorio is usually identified as the floral ornamentation on the base of the column on the right, pictured below.

Raimondi Sale Roses FM

Bernini (design), Raimondi Chapel, S. Pietro in Montorio, detail (photo: F. Mormando)

Raimondi Chapel FM

Bernini (design), Raimondi Chapel, San Pietro in Monotorio (photo: F. Mormando)

Sanguis Christi painting

Bernini (design)l G. Cortese, “Il Borgognone” (execution in oil), “The Blood of Christ “(private collection, Genoa; believed to be the original ordered by Bernini from his drawing; there are several other contemporary copies or versions).

  •  27.  PP. 228-29, regarding Bernini’s “Blood of Christ” (Sanguis Christi) composition:

see now Francesco Petrucci, Il Sanguis Christi di Bernini (Ariccia: Arti Grafiche Ariccia, 2013, 16 pp; (Quaderni del Barocco. Dipinti inediti del barocco italiano da collezioni private. Numero Speciale, 1), which reproduces and discusses all relevant drawings, engravings, and painted versions of Bernini’s composition. The essay is also available online through the website of the museum of Palazzo Chigi, Ariccia.

*   28.  P. 365, n. 16 on Antonio Raggi:

As mentioned in the note, Raggi executed Bernini’s design of the Madonna and Child statue, commissioned by Cardinal Antonio Barberini for the Carmelite Church of Paris, Saint-Joseph-des-Carmes, where it is still in situ (Rue de Vaugirard). I somehow feel that in designing the statue, Bernini had in mind Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna. Since it is difficult to find photographs of the statue, I posted these three, unprofessional though they be. The altar setting of course makes explicit reference to Bernini’s Cornaro Chapel. (My thanks to Dr. Charles Scribner III for 2 of the 3 photos):

Bernini Raggi Madonna Paris Entire Altar

(photo: Charles Scribner, III)

paris madonna bernini raggi close up Scribner

(photo: Charles Scribner, III)

Raggi Bernini Paris Madonna and Child

(photo: F. Mormando)


* 29. Page 167 (orig. Domenico p. 94): One of Domenico’s Suspected Exaggerations Proves if not True, then Quite Possible:

In discussing the promotion of Cardinal Fabio Chigi to the office of Secretary of State, Domenico claims that Bernini happened to encounter Chigi “in the antechamber of Cardinal Camillo Astalli” in the papal palace, on “the very same day” that he (Chigi) returned to Rome from Germany. I have always suspected that this chronology was yet another example of Domenico’s dramatically exaggerated “same day” (or “very next day”) topos that appears several times in his narrative.

Well, it turns out that Chigi’s personal diary notes the fact that during the evening of the same day that he returned to Rome, Thursday, November 30, 1651, Chigi did indeed go to the Vatican to pay his respects to the “cardinal nepote,” Camillo Astalli (F. Petrucci, “Bernini, Algardi, Cortona ed altri artisti nel diario di Fabio Chigi cardinale [1652-1655],” Rivista dell’Istituto nazionale d’archeologia e storia dell’arte, 53 [III Series, Anno XXI, 1998], 169-196, here, 170.) So, it is quite possible that the encounter between Bernini and Chigi did happen when and where Domenico says. Nice to know that Domenico is (probably) accurate on even a small detail of this type (Baldinucci makes the same claim about the encounter between the two men, as I point out in my note to this passage).


Gaulli, Portrait of Pope Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi), ca. 1667 (








For an excellent discussion of the difficulties of converting from one currency to another or measuring the value in modern terms of salaries or prices  from far-away history, see the website created by university economic historians,

For further data on the economy of Baroque Rome, see the recently published Painting for Profit: The Economic Lives of Seventeenth-Century Italian Painters by Richard Spear and Philip Sohm (Yale University Press, with contributions by Ago, Fumagalli, Goldthwaite, Marshall, and Morselli), especially pp. 33-40, discussing currency, incomes, food, rent, and other costs of living. The authors do not attempt a conversion from 17th-century papal scudi to modern American dollars, as I do. In any event, all that I have read or been told since writing my own preface on the subject does not change my own educated guess at such a conversion, namely, 25,000 scudi = (approximately and conservatively) one million dollars today.

An additional useful point of fact regarding the typical salaries of seventeenth-century Romans comes from Renata Ago, Economia barocca (Rome: Donzelli, 1998, pp. 8-9) who reports that the average wage of a skilled worker (“operaio specializzato“) in Rome in the 1620s was 3 scudi per month. Ago’s otherwise excellent book does not give much data by way of wages and cost of living in Baroque Rome; but on pp. 169-70, we find a couple of interesting data points: in 1627, a Roman woman living in a two-room attic appartment (rione [neighborhood] not identified) was paying 8 giulii (i.e., less than one scudo) per month (1 giulio = 10 baiocchi; 100 baiocchi = 1 scudo); in rione Regola another Roman was paying 10 scudi per year (type of appartment not identified), which amounts to a similar monthly rental cost. On a higher level of transaction (Ago, op. cit., 169), the “Illustrissimo Signor Antonio del Drago” in 1628 was renting an entire Roman patrician palazzo from Duke Cesarini for 300 scudi per year.

According to the List of Expenditures relating to the Barberini musical play (Chi soffre speri) for the Carnival season of 1639, the tailor working on the costume and/or scenery was paid 4 giulii (40 baiocchi) per day (Elena Tamburini, Gian Lorenzo Bernini e il teatro dell’arte, Florence: Le Lettere, 2012, p. 98).

Papal silver scudi from 17th-century Rome

Papal silver scudi from 17th-century Rome


for more information about the diary, its author and contents, see the various essays from the November 2007 symposium devoted to the diary (held at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, Paris) now published in the volume edited by Ferdinando Bologna, Confronto: Studi e ricerche di storia dell’arte europea, n. 10-11 dicembre 2007 – giugno 2008 (Naples: Paparo, 2009).




Two papers given at the 2012 Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting perhaps offer additional reasons why Bernini, throughout his life, hardly made mention at all of his birth and childhood in Naples: the Neapolitan character did not have such a great reputation in the rest of Europe, especially with regards to artistic temperament and genius:


(1)  Thomas Willette, University of Michigan, “Spanish Vices and the Character of Neapolitan Artists” (Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, 2012, Washington DC, Program: Session 20325, p. 305):

“One of Vasari’s explanations for the poverty of the arts of design in Naples is that the geography and climate of southern Italy are inhospitable to genius. That certain defects are inherent in the complexion of Neapolitans was well established. Vainglory and jealousy, exacerbated by a preoccupation with personal honor and disdain for civic virtue, are among the national traits reported by outsiders and insiders alike….”


(2)  Livio Pestilli, Trinity College, Rome Campus, “The Napoletaneità of Neapolitan Artists” (Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, 2012, Washington DC, Program: Session 20425, p. 338):

“In describing Salvator Rosa’s peculiar personality, the Umbrian Giambattista Passeri claimed the artist’s vainglorious character was a disposition common to all Neapolitans. In Passeri’s view, Rosa’s narcissism and vanity were not just ascribable to the painter’s personal character. Rather, ‘These qualities were typical national traits that he could not eradicate, since they were inherited from the local climate.’ Two generations earlier, don Pietro d’Aragona, who in 1668 had begun a radical attempt to eliminate brigandage in the Kingdom of Naples, believed banditry was an inevitable evil ‘por ser natural en el genio de la nacion.’”

Pietro Bernini detail

Pietro Bernini, “Madonna and Child with Young St. John the Baptist,” ca. 1606, detail (Museo di San Martino, Naples)




Sarah McPhee, Bernini’s Beloved, 2012, 27 (citing the research of Thomas Dandelet), mentions the interesting statistic that in early 17th-century Rome, about 25% of the city’s population was comprised by Hispanic nationals (that is, Spanish and Portuguese).


Chiesa del Sacro Cuore, Piazza Navona, Rome, formerly San Giacomo degli Spagnoli, one of the two Spanish churches during Bernini’s life (facade has been remodeled since then)



  • PAGES 18-19 (& 175 & 204): MASSIVE POVERTY RATE IN ROME:

The July 1656 census of the population of the Roman rione of Campo Marzio (a special census occasioned by a new outbreak of bubonic plague) confirms the existence of massive poverty in papal Rome. According to the census, in Campo Marzio, the heart of Rome, there were 15,543 persons divided among 3,599 households, of which households only 79 are described as “ricche” (rich) and only 1,002 as “commode” (comfortable) whereas 2,330 are classified as “povere” (poor) and 188 as miserabili (destitute). (Source: Enrico Narducci, “Artisti dimoranti in Roma nel rione di Campo Marzo l’anno 1656,” in Il Buonarroti: Scritti sopra le arti e le lettere di Benvenuto Gasparoni continuati per cura di Enrico Narducci [Rome], vol. 5, 122-26 [statistics on p. 122]).



The topic of poverty — and in general, the “demi monde” — of Baroque Rome is explored in an art exhibition at the Villa Medici (French Academy) in Rome (Oct.7, 2014 – Jan. 18, 2015), entitled:

The Baroque Underworld: Vice and Destitution in Rome

“The Baroque Underworld reveals the insolent dark side of Baroque Rome, its slums, taverns, places of perdition. An “upside down Rome”, tormented by vice, destitution, all sorts of excesses that underlie an amazing artistic production, all of which left their mark of paradoxes and inventions destined to subvert the established order. This is the first exhibition to present this neglected aspect of artistic creation at the time of Caravaggio and Claude Lorrain’s Roman period, unveiling the clandestine face of the Papacy’s capital, which was both sumptuous and virtuosic, as well as the dark side of the artists who lived there.

Seicento Rome was the most lively cultural center of Europe, with a vibrant avant-garde which attracted artists from all over Europe. Many were the Italians, French, Dutch, Flemish, and Spanish who settled and made their careers in the Capital of art. In contact with this “splendid and miserable city”, as Pasolini called, they gambled with the visual codes and standards of beauty, measuring themselves against the universe of slums and  dangers of nightlife, the Carnival and its licentiousness. This milieu which was both burlesque and poetic, vulgar and violent, became, for some, a central theme, and for others, an experience of life.

The exhibition features over fifty works of art created in Rome during the first half of the XVIIth century by artists from all over Europe, including Claude Lorrain, Valentin de Boulogne, Jan Miel, Sébastien Bourdon, Leonaert Bramer, Bartolomeo Manfredi, Jusepe de Ribera, or Pieter van Laer. In the Grandes Galeries, the public will discover the works of the greatest Caravaggesque painters, the major Italianate landscape artists and the Bamboccianti, painters of the bambocciate, who heralded the representation of ordinary life in Rome and the surrounding countryside. Paintings, drawings, prints from major European museums, as well as works from private collections, rarely exhibited to the public.”



The Bernini home facing the southern side of basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore is to be found just below the word, “Maria,” in the map given on the page. The address today is Via Liberiana, 24; a plaque commemorates Bernini’s residence there.


Plaque (of Nov. 28, 1968) on Bernini Home near Santa Maria Maggiore: “The great works of his early career as a sculptor, such as the Rape of Proserpina, the David, the Apollo and Daphne, Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted in this his father’s house, his home from 1606 to 1642.” (photo: F. Mormando)




       see note 13 above in the previous section on Domenico’s bio.



It was only after my Bernini biography went to publication that I realized that the portrait of Francesco d’Este listed in the Bernini post-mortem inventory must be the painting done by Justus Suttermans and sent to Bernini in 1650 or 1651 as the basis for his sculpted portrait in marble of the duke.

Francesco I d'Este by Diego Velasquez

Francesco I d’Este by Diego Velasquez




For more on the Accademia di San Luca (the Academy of Saint Luke), the professional guild of Roman artists,  see the website, “The History of the Accademia di San Luca, c. 1590-1635: Documents from the Archivio di Stato di Roma.” For the Bernini-related documents transcribed and uploaded thus far, do “Guided Search” under “Personal Name,” selecting Bernini from the menu of artists’ names.


The Accademia di San Luca, Rome, Palazzo Carpegna, a short distance from the Trevi Fountain




For more on Filippo Maria Bonini and his L’ateista convinto dalle sole ragioni (Venice, 1665), cited on pp. 91 and 338 (for criticism of Bernini’s work on the Four Piers of St. Peter’s), see note 11 above in previous section on Domenico’s biography.

Santa Rufina

The former convent of SS. (Sante) Rufina e Seconda, Via di Lungaretta, Trastevere, Rome, seen from Piazza di Santa Rufina (photo: F. Mormando)


This fact is mentioned in Domenico’s biography of his father (p. 53); the women in question are Agnese and Cecilia, who were sent to the convent, respectively at the ages of 15 and 13 (judging from the years in which they disappear from the annual family census). The convent in question, SS. (Sante) Rufina e Seconda in Trastevere, was a community of religious women, the Oblate Orsoline, following the Rule of Saint Ursula, who took no vows and were not confined to the property by the rule of cloister as were more typical of nuns and religious sisters at the time (later in the century all Ursuline convents were slowly forced to conform adopt the cloister rule).

The community was founded by two charismatic French aristocratic women, Françoise de Montjoux and Françoise de Giurcy, during the pontificate of Pope Paul V (Borghese); their residence and church in Trastevere (Via di Lungaretta) was built by Camilla Orsini Borghese, on the foundations of what was believed to be the old Roman residence of the early Christian martyrs, Rufina and Seconda, and included a medieval church, whose bellower still survives today.

There is not much bibliography on the community (which died out in the 18th century; in addition to Filippo Bonanni’s Ordinum religiosorum in ecclesia miltanti catalogus, v. 2, # 103, cited in my note, see Pierre Hélyot and Maximilien Bullot, Histoire des ordres religieux, vol. 4, Paris, 1715,  pp. 229-32, Suite de la Troisieme Partie, Chap XXXI. See also Ernesto Iezzi, Studio storico della chiesa e del monastero delle SS. Rufina e Seconda in Trastevere, Rome: San Nilo, 1980. See also the section on the Ursulines of Rome in Gaetano Moroni’s Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica, within the entry on the “Orsoline.”

Habit of the Ursulines of Santa Rufina

Habit of the Ursulines of Santa Rufina, from Bonanni, “Ordinum religiosorum in ecclesia militanti catalogus”, v. 2, #103.



With the publication of Sarah McPhee’s Bernini’s Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini (Yale UP, 2012), we now possess much new information about the hitherto mysterious Costanza and her life before and after the violent affair with Bernini. Very little of new is communicated about Bernini or his works (except for the author’s sensitive reading of the Costanza bust as a work of art and an expression of Baroque feminine allure). Note that, as the primary source documentation that McPhee publishes in appendix, Costanza’s married name was legally and without a doubt “Bonucelli,” and not “Bonarelli,” as usually rendered in past literature. Yet, she usually referred to herself by her maiden name, Piccolomini, as she is named by Filippo Baldinucci in the catalogue of Bernini’s works appended to his 1682 life of the artist.

Some further additions and corrections to the record, afforded by McPhee’s new book:


1. Costanza was living in the Vicolo Scanderberg closer to the center of town (her house and her street are still extant) at the time of her affair with Bernini, not in the Santa Marta neighborhood near St. Peter’s, as previously believed and as reported in my book (p. 102; see McPhee, 37 and 216, n. 3).


2. Unlike most women of her age, Costanza could read and write, as we know from a surviving letter in her hand (McPhee, 59-60). On the other hand, Bernini’s mother, Angelica Galante (as I suggest on p. 101) was illiterate, for as McPhee points out (p. 59) she had to sign her last will and testament with a cross, not a real signature.


3. Until now we knew nothing of what happened to Costanza as a result of the affair. Did she suffer any consequences, legal or otherwise? We now know answers to such questions: see McPhee, 52ff. Costanza’s husband, Matteo Bonucelli (the artist and Bernini workshop collaborator) apparently did not denounce her to the authorities, it was some unnamed eyewitness or neighbor. She suffered imprisonment for her crime and probably other punishments, as McPhee, 54, describes: “For women there were prescribed rituals of public humiliation and mandatory confinement. If Costanza’s punishment followed the legal course [as it would seem], she was whipped, shorn of her famous locks, and sent to the Casa Pia [at Santa Chiara, behind the Pantheon] to await her husband’s forgiveness.” It is certain that Costanza suffered a painful four-month period of imprisonment at Santa Chiara, as we know from a plea written in her own hand sent from there. (She mentions hunger and other deprivation, her husband refusing to send her food and other forms of succor). Costanza’s plea to the Governatore di Roma was heard and her release was approved in early April 1639.


4. Contrary to what I report in my biography (p. 105), Costanza did not voluntarily leave a post-mortem bequest to the convent of the Convertite: by law all female “criminals” of her type (“wayward women”!) were obliged to leave one-third of their estate to the Convertite, which is one of the ways in which that establishment maintained itself financially.


5. The destiny of Bernini’s bust of Costanza after the end of their affair: in reality, as McPhee points out (see her summary discussion of the question on pp. 217-18, n. 35), the documentation regarding the post-affair vicissitudes of the Costanza bust is — once again in Bernini scholarship — frustratingly incomplete and hence we cannot with complete certainty and thoroughness reconstruct this piece of Bernini history. We know for certain that by November 2, 1646 the bust was in the Medici granducal collection in Florence, seen there by a French visitor to the gallery, Balthasar de Monconys (Montanari, 2009, p. 329 in the exh. cat. I marmi vivi). What is not certain is how it got there: the report by Montanari (and repeated by me on p. 109) that it had been given as a gift by Bernini to Cardinal Giovanni Carlo de’ Medici comes from an anonymous contemporary recorded among the notes gathered by Florentine biographer Filippo Baldinucci while he was researching his Bernini biography (published in Florence 1682). However, as McPhee mentions, there is no record of the gift in the cardinal’s inventories, where one would expect to find it.


At the same time, we have a letter dated July 18, 1640 from Francesco Mantovani, the Roman agent of the Duke of Modena, reporting that the Costanza bust was going to be sent to Modena as a gift to the duke from Monsignor Annibale Bentivoglio, to be delivered by Donna Mathilde Bentivoglio (who, we know from an avviso, departed Rome for Modena on July 21). McPhee does not say whether the inventories of the ducal collection in Modena confirms receipt of the bust, or if indeed any other document confirms arrival of the bust in Modena. Some scholars (Zanuso and Zikos) suggest that Cardinal Giovanni Carlo de’ Medici may have instead received  the bust from the same Annibale Bentivoglio who was not only a relative of his but also the papal nunzio (ambassador) to the Medici court of Florence.



In any case, my point (p. 109) that Bernini’s poor wife, Caterina, had to endure the sight and memory of he husband’s former mistress, Costanza, in her very own home after her marriage to the artist remains valid: not only did Bernini still have in his studio at home his double painted portrait of Costanza and himself but the terracotta modello (presumably full-size and in final state of execution) of the Costanza marble bust (seen there by Antonio Ferragallo as he mentions in his Jan. 25, 1641 letter to Cardinal Jules Mazarin. However, if contrary to the Mantovani letter of 1640 stating that the bust was being sent to Modena, the bust never made it to Modena, the Costanza bust seen by Ferragallo could have been the marble original and not the terracotta modello (unfortunately in reporting the several busts he saw in Bernini’s studio, Ferragallo does not distinguish between marble originals and terracotta modelli; some of the busts he saw, except perhaps Costanza, had had to have been in fact terracotta modelli, since the marble originals had long been delivered to their intended recipients). In the 1681 inventory of Bernini’s possessions compiled just a couple of months after his death, there is no specific mention of the Costanza bust in marble or terracotta; however, the “testa di donna” (medium not specified but presumably a sculpture) on display right next to Bernini’s self-portrait in the “Prima stanza contigua all’Anticamera” may be in fact the Costanza bust modello (cc.504v in the original document; p. 255 in the published version in Martinelli, 1996, L’ultimo Bernini).

San Tommaso in Parione

Church of San Tommaso in Parione, where Bernini wed Caterina Tezio, one year after the fiery end of his affair with Costanza Bonucelli (photo: F. Mormando)



Virtually all the Italian scholars (most notably, Ameyden-Bertini, Storia delle famiglie romane, 1910-14 ed.) originally consulted by me and who discuss the ultimate destiny of the Bernini family  claim that Prospero Bernini (d. 1858) was the artist’s last direct descendant (through Bernini son, Paolo). This is incorrect: it would be more accurate to say “last direct descendant” on one section of the male line of the family, since other Bernini son, Domenico Stefano had heirs, and presumably at least one (if not all three) of Bernini’s three married daughters, Angelica Bernini Landi, Maria Maddalena Bernini Luccatelli, and Dorotea Bernini de Filippo, produced heirs. (I have received an email from one Italian American who claims descent from Bernini through one of these female lines, according to his family oral tradition.)

At present, the Forti family of Rome (inasmuch as they are descendants of the Concetta Caterina Galletti mentioned on this page of the biography) claim the title of “Bernini’s descendants” (one of the males of the family has legally inserted “Bernini” into his last name). Augusto Forti, who wrote for the Strenna dei Romanisti and who died in 1984, was a member of this family.

Carloni cover

Besides Paolo, Bernini had one other married son, Domenico Stefano (his biographer) who produced heirs, Giovanni Lorenzo, Caterina, and Angela. Now, thanks to the research of Rosella Carloni published in her extremely well-documented book, Palazzo Bernini al Corso: Dai Manfroni ai Bernini storia del palazzo… (Rome: Campisano, 2013), we know much more about Domenico’s descendants.

On page 117, Carloni publishes the genealogical tree of Domenico’s branch of the family which indicates that the aforementioned Giovanni Lorenzo had eleven children (Carloni does not give information about Angela’s children; other daughter, Caterina became a nun; there was also another child (in fact, the first of the 4 children), Luigi, who died young in 1705.

See p. 111 of Carloni’s book for a summary genealogical tree of patriarch-artist Gian Lorenzo’s family (down to the Forti family of the present time), and p. 116 for the descendants of his great-grandson, Mariano (1734-1789), son of Prospero (1694-1771), who was child of Paolo Valentino (1648-1728) and who married the aristocrat, Ortenzia Manfroni and moved the Bernini family to the Manfroni palazzo on the Corso, which then became known as Palazzo Bernini.

Palazzo Bernini al Corso

Palazzo Bernini on the Corso, Rome, between Via Frattina and Via Borgognona (photo: F. Mormando)




“Considering how much participants would have wanted to hide their activities, the number of documented liaisons between noblemen and castrati is surprising. Marc’Antonio Pasqualini’s intimacy with Cardinal Antonio Barberini [Jr.] in the 1640s is well known: contemporary testimony leaves little doubt tht the cardinal’s ‘veritable passion’ extended to more than Pasqualini’s beautiful voice.” — Roger Freitas, Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage, and Music in the Life of Atto Melani (Cambridge University Press, 2009) p. 127.


For Andrea Sacchi’s large, allegorical portrait of Pasqualini mentioned on the same page (120), see the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s entry on the painting in its collection.





This episode is discussed in Chapter 2, pp. 127-28 of the biography, based upon the account given by Russo in the 1976 issue of Strenna dei Romanisti. A new account, based on the same archival documents, has now been published by Lothar Sickel:  “Virgilio Spada im Streit mit Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Eine merkwürdige Episode in der unbekannten Geschichte des Palazzo Cybo,” in Ordnung und Wandel in der römischen Architektur der Frühen Neuzeit: Kunsthistorische Studien zu Ehren von Christof Thoenes, eds.Hermann  Schlimme and Lothar Sickel (Munich: Hirmer, 2011), pp. 215-34.

As far as Bernini is concerned, no significant new details are reported by Sickel that had not already been reported by Russo (who is not cited by Sickel), except to identify the property in question as the Palazzo Cybo and the “Cardinal Barberini” who intervened on Bernini’s behalf (with a payment of 50 scudi) as Cardinal Antonio, Junior.  Sickel does, however, publish in appendix the texts of all the relevant documents and provides extensive information about Palazzo Cybo.

virgilio-spada Sickel also reproduces a contemporary portrait of Virgilio Spada, Bernini’s Oratorian opponent and writer of the original memorandum about this episode, located in the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Sassia, Rome. For more on Virgilio and the Spada family, see the website prepared by a Spada descendant:





A new article by Francesco Petrucci points out overlooked references in Pope Alexander VI’s diary to the trip (of at least three days) that Bernini took to the papal port of Civitavecchia in mid-January 1662 to inspect the nearly terminated construction of the Arsenal there, a work of his design. Until now, scholars have believed that this was a commission that Bernini simply  executed “from afar,” without actually having seen the work. (Note that Bernini’s arsenal was destroyed by bombing during World War II, on May 14, 1944).  See F. Petrucci, “Un dipinto ritrovato e alcune considerazioni su una perduta architettura berniniana: ‘L’Arsenale di Civitavecchia” di Viviano Codazzi,” in La festa delle arti: Scritti in onore di Marcello Fagiolo per cinquant’anni di studi, eds. Vincenzo Cazzato, Sebastiano Roberto, e Mario Bevilacqua (Rome: Gangemi, 2014): vol. 2, pp. 396-401; p. 396 for the 1944 destruction; p. 398 for Pope’s diary on Bernini’s trip).







To the list given on this page of Bernini’s Spanish-related works must be added his design for the tomb of Spanish Cardinal Domingo Pimentel, O.P (died 1653), who served in the important role of “Cardinal Protector of the Reign and Affairs of Spain” in Rome. The tomb is located in a dark corner of the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome, placed against one of the walls in a corridor leading to the rear entrance of the church to the immediate left of the sanctuary.

Though the design is entirely Bernini’s, it was executed by his close assistants Giovanni Antonio Mari, Ercole Ferrata, and Antonio Raggi. Bernini was constrained by the very shallow corridor space allotted to the tomb — hence it is very difficult to photograph — but once again the artist triumphs over his handicaps, for the tomb seems much more substantial in depth than it is in reality: another clever baroque deception. The design clearly relates to (and in fact initiates) a series of similar Bernini tombs that will culminate in his monument to Pope Alexander VII in St. Peter’s. This work is not mentioned by Domenico Bernini, but does appear in the appended catalog of Bernini works in Baldinucci’s biography.

Pimentel Tomb FM

Bernini (design), Tomb of Cardinal Domingo Pimentel, Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome (photo: F. Mormando)


now see the Prado exhibition, “Bernini’s Souls: Art in Rome for the Spanish Court” (Nov. 6, 2014- Feb. 8, 2015)

The published catalogue is entitled: Bernini: Roma y la Monarquía Hispánica
edited by Delfin Rodriguez Ruiz (Madrid: Museo Nacional del Prado, 2014).

Publisher’s Summary: “The complex diplomatic and political relationships between Rome and Spain were reflected in the commissions Bernini received both from Spanish patrons in Rome (including key figures such as the Duke of el Infantado, Cardinal Pascual de Aragón and the Marquis of Carpio) and from the Spanish monarchy. These commissions particularly related to the fact that Philip IV wished to be represented in diplomatic, religious and political terms in Rome, funding projects in some of the city’s most important churches such as San Pietro and Santa Maria Maggiore just as he did at El Escorial and the Real Alcázar in Madrid.

The exhibition revolves around three sections that illustrate Bernini’s complex relationship with Spain and, at the same time, provide a virtual synthesis of his own development as a multi-faceted artist, based on a rich itinerary that stretches from some of his grand architectural and urban projects to his chapel scenes and sculptures, not to mention his fountains, paintings and drawings for other projects, both ephemeral and festive, decorative and luxurious.”


Bernini’s “Anima Beata” (Rome, Spanish Embassy to the Holy See)


Cat. entry #7 (pp. 92-93) of the Prado catalog is a little-known Spanish eulogy in honor of Bernini, the Elogio de el Cavallero Juan Lorenzo Bernini, by an anonymous Spaniard who, however, had personal familiarity with Rome and Bernini’s life and career, dated ca. 1682-85. Though directly derived from Pierre Cureau de La Chambre’s Eloge du cavalier Bernin, the author adds further details to La Chambre’s text. The catalog editor claims (p. 92) that “[t]his brief and succinct manuscript document represents, without a doubt, one of the most vivid literary contributions on the part of Hispanic artistic culture to the reception and posthumous fortune of Bernini in Spain.”

Spanish Elogio of Bernini Ms

First page of the “Elogio de el Cavallero Juan Lorenzo Bernini” (Biblioteca Publica de Tarragona, mss. 177, 4 fols.)




for “cardinal of colleges,” read: “College of Cardinals”.



Yet another reminder that during the early years of the reign of the anti-Barberini (and thus anti-Bernini) Pope Innocent X Pamphilj — that is, before the Spring 1648 reconciliation between pope and artist with the granting of the Piazza Navona Fountain commission — Bernini did not suffer total exclusion from important papal projects is the newly publicized fact that in Spring 1647 Bernini was commissioned to sculpt two statues (Sts. Luke and Bartholomew) for the niches of the nave of the Basilica of San Giovanni Laterano, which was undergoing major renovations by Borromini, under the supervision of Virgilio Spada (the pope’s deputy in matters of art and architecture). This was a major project, involving all the eminent sculptors of Rome. We know of this project and Bernini’s commission from the papers of Virgilio Spada.

For reasons unknown Bernini never completed the statues, but we have several drawings (in Leipzig) and one clay modello (in the Museo di Roma) attesting to his preparatory work on the statue of St. Luke. For this see: Tomaso Montanari, “Bernini in Laterano: Una nuova lettura per sette disegni berniniani a Lipsia,” In Dessins de Sculpteurs, II: Quatrièmes rencontres internationales du Salon du Dessin, 25 et 26 mars 2009, ed. Cordelia  Hattori (Société du Salon du dessin, 2009): 69-78.


Cornaro Wide FM

Bernini, Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome (photo: F. Mormando)

In these pages, I describe Bernini’s St. Teresa/Cornaro Chapel as an example of his “famous bel composto” (“beautiful whole”).  I am here employing the term in the way it has been used by modern art historians (popularized by Irving Lavin in 1980) to refer to Bernini’s creation of a complex work of art (e.g., a chapel) in which multiple forms of art (painting, sculpture, architecture) are expertly employed together, blending seamlessly with each other so as to create an aesthetically unified, integral whole. The term comes from Filippo Baldinucci’s Life of Bernini (in Domenico Bernini’s Life of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it is called the “maraviglioso composto“).

But, in fact, as I discuss in the Introduction to my 2011 edition of Domenico’s biography, pp. 46-49, summarizing recent scholarship on the question (by Montanari and Delbeke), that modern meaning of the term is NOT found in or can be inferred from either Baldinucci or Domenico or any other primary source. Baldinucci uses the term to refer only and specifically to Bernini’s painterly approach to his architecture, whereas Domenico (to the extent that one can decipher his meaning) refers to the blending of the forms of art within Bernini’s own mind.



    For a description of this sewer, the “Chiavica di San Silvestro,” finally covered up by Pope Pius V in 1571 (as one of his many hydraulic improvement projects), see Katherine Rinne, “Urban ablutions: cleansing Counter-Reformation Rome,” in Rome, Pollution and Propriety: Dirt, Disease and Hygiene in the Eternal City from Antiquity to Modernity (Cambridge University Press for the British School at Rome, 2012), p. 197 (article is 182-201): “The Chiavica di San Silvestro, an open drain that ran through the Campo Marzio, had been a notorious health hazard since at least the fifteenth century. It ran for almost two kilometres from the Trevi Fountain to the Tiber…”


In Chapter 4, the point is made, citing contemporary complaints, that much of the restoration and aggrandizement projects of the papal Renovatio Romae of the early modern period did not benefit the ordinary citizens of Rome. The above-cited Waters of Rome by Katherine Rinne, page 155, confirms this observation, citing the case of the many new fountains:

“The civic fountains that ornamented Rome in the early 1620s were unequalled by those in any other European city for centuries to come. Alive with impressive jets, abundant sprays, rushing cascades, spangled rains, and swirling pools, these fountains attracted wide attention. They impressed visiting dignitaries and pilgrims, increased the prestige of the city, and burnished the reputations of the popes who had sponsored them. Yet, even a cursory glance at their uses shows that provision was rarely made for day-to-day needs. In fact, they appear to have been relatively useless for average Romans who needed a dedicated drinking supply for themselves and their animals; water for domestic tasks such as cooking, bathing, irrigating kitchen gardens, and washing clothes; or a source of water for industrial procedures like manufacturing paper or wool cloth.”

Related to this observation is the statistic cited by Rinne, page 181, that by 1623 80% of the aqueduct water supply of Rome was claimed by cardinals, nobles, monasteries, and charitable organizations.



For a detailed examination of Pizzati’s suggestions, now see Dorothy Metzger Habel, “When All of Rome Was Under Construction”: The Building Process in Baroque Rome (Penn State UP, 2013),  pp. 133-68.



Thanks to my Roman friend, Dr. Leonardo Tondo, I give you here a photograph of the inscription on the simple tomb of Donna Olimpia in the church of the village of San Martino al Cimino (Viterbo), the Pamphilj fiefdom which she helped to re-design and which she ruled as “Principessa di San Martino.” Of note in the inscription is the absence of reference (as is usual in funerary inscriptions) to any grieving relative as the one who saw to her proper burial and memorialization — not surprising given that she was universally hated, even by her family, it would seem. Instead, it was Donna Olimpia herself who made the plans for her burial:

Inscription on Donna Olimpia’s grave, San Martino al Cimino
(photo courtesy of Dr. Leonardo Tondo)





Joannes Terhalle, S. Andrea al Quirinale von Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Rom: Von den anfängen bis zur grundsteinlegung. Weimar: Verlag und Datenbank für Geisteswissenschafen, 2011.

– This is a comprehensive, detailed study, which publishes much new primary source documentation. (Please note, however, that the correct first name of Jesuit cardinal, Sforza Pallavicino, is Sforza, not the inexplicable “Pietro” that someone a long time ago gave him and which Terhalle repeats.  Someone long ago probably assumed that the “P.” found in front of his name was an abbreviation for “Pietro,” whereas it is the abbreviation for his clerical title, “Pater” or “Padre.” Too many scholars have simply repeated and thus perpetuated this error. (I am happy to report that my letter on the subject to the U.S. Library of Congress was successful in getting them to correct their own entry on Pallavicino.)


Giuseppe Vasi, Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, 1748

Gesu facade clean FM

Jesuit Church of the Gesù, Rome (photo: F. Mormando)


the most recent discussion thereof is now: Jacopo Curzietti, Giovan Battista Gaulli: La decorazione della chiesa del SS. Nome di Gesù (Rome: Gangemi, 2011), pp. 41-51.


A corner of Gaulli’s ceiling fresco, Church of the Gesù, Rome (photo: F. Mormando)




Forgive the typo: the allegorical statue covered up by Pope Innocent XI was that of “Truth,” not “Charity.” The statue of “Charity” was allowed by Pope Innocent to remain bare-breasted as Bernini intended; however, sometime later it too was covered up. When or by whom it was ordered to be covered is not known. An engraving of the Alexander VII tomb included in the lavishly illustrated volume on the history of St. Peter’s, the Numismata summorum pontificum templi Vaticani fabricam indicantia (at times referred to as the Templi Vaticana Historia) published in 1696 by Jesuit Filippo Buonanni (Bonani, in Latin) shows the “Charity” still uncovered (tabula 37, p. 93, Rome: “Ex typograhia Dominici Antonii Herculi [i.e., Antonio Herculano] 1696, et iterum Anno Magni Jubilaei 1700″):

Buonanni Alex Tomb

photo: Burns Library, Boston College (F. Mormando)




on p. 254, I say: “Colbert found many things wrong [with Bernini’s Louvre design] on all fronts” — yes, all fronts EXCEPT, as I explain on the next page, stylistic: that is to say, contrary to what you will frequently enough read in the Bernini literature on this question, no where in the documentation is any element of any of Bernini’s five Louvre designs ever crticized for its artistic style, namely, for being “too Baroque,” “too extravagant” or “too Roman.”



One of the oft-cited letters of the famous Horace Walpole gives us an extremely vivid, first-hand account of the frightening experience of crossing the Alps, confirming my own description: the letter is dated November 11, 1739, written from Turin to Richard West. (Walpole, by the way, says it took 8 days to get from Lyon to Turin, 4 of which were spent in crossing the Alps.) The letter can be found in any collection of Walpole’s correspondence, which has been published several times. In the London 1798 edition of The Works of Horace Walpole, Earl of Oxford, 5 vols., available through Google Books, it can found in vol. 4, pp. 431-32.

For further information about the practicalities of crossing the Alps in the seventeenth century (routes, difficulties, terrors, etc.), see Laurent Bolard, Le voyage des peintres en Italia au XVIIe siècle (Paris: Realia / Les Belles Lettres, 2012), pp. 36-39.

See the 1755 drawing by George Keate (1729-97), A Manner of Passing Mount Cenis (British Museum), showing a traveller being borne across the Alps in a sedan chair carried by two porters (cat. 50, p. 100) in the exhibition catalogue, Grand Tour: The Lure of Italy in the Eighteenth Century (London: Tate Gallery Publishing, 1996).

The Keate drawing is also accessible through the online site, “The Correspondence of James Barry,” edited by Tom McLoughlin, as a gloss (footnote 6) to Barry’s letter to Edmund Burke, dated September 24, 1766, Turin, which describes his crossing of Mt. Cenis (“up and down the horrid ridges of the mountains, and sometimes in the most gloomy vales between them”).


Pont de Beauvoisin, first town that Bernini reached after the climb over Mont Cenis


The caption to figure 29 says, “It is not known what favor or service Bernini expected from Lotti.” However, I now think that this might be possibly a reference to the poems being written by Lotti in celebration of Bernini’s Cathedra Petri in St. Peter’s basilica and his colonnade of St. Peter’s Square. Given the public outcry against the vast expenditures represented by these monumental works, Bernini would have much appreciated such excellent PR in the form of elegant verse written by Lotti, a well-known poet and respected erudito of contemporary Rome.

In his sonnets on Bernini’s works, Lotti characterizes them as the apex of the papacy’s artistic-architectural ambitions; in praising the works, Lotti also praises the genius of Bernini: see Thomas Frangenberg, “Giovanni Lotti on a lost work by Bernini,” Burlington, v. 144, n. 1192 (July 2002), p. 434. For the poems themselves, see Giovanni Lotti, Poesie latine, e toscane, ed. Ambrogio Lancellotti [Lotti’s nephew], Rome, 1688, pt. 1, p. 8 (“Alle glorie del Signor Cavalier Bernino per la Cattedra di S. Pietro illustrata da lui di più sublime sito, e ornamento, e per l’ammirabil Teatro di Colonne nella Piazza dil gran Tempio Vaticano”) and p. 9 (“Per le Statue di Bronzo, che sostengono la Catedra [sic] di San Pietro”).

Since biographical information about Lotti is hard to come by, I summarize what his nephew Ambrogio tells us of his life in the “Vita dell’Autore” that accompanies the aforementioned anthology of Lotti’s poetry. He was of Tuscan origin, born in Ripamarance (today’s Pomerance, Val di Cecina). Orphaned of his parents, he was sent to study in Bologna, thanks to the patronage of Antonio de’ Medici. After completing those studies, he moved to Naples, ingratiating himself with the social and literary elite of that kingdom. After an unspecified amount of time, he moved on to Rome where he entered the service of Cardinal Antonio Barberini, Jr., through which he developed a friendship with Giulio Rospigliosi, playwright-prelate and future Pope Clement IX. His years in Rome — where he remained for the rest of his life — were marked by public success as poet and “erudito” (scholar). He died at the age of  83 (from some other, unfortunately now-forgotten source I found his date of death as 1688), as a member of the Colonna household which he served as tutor to the children of the Conestabile.


Charles Perrault by Philippe Lallemand, 1672 (Wikimedia Commons)

Charles Perrault by Philippe Lallemand, 1672 (Wikimedia Commons)


An important new article in the scholarly journal, Renaissance Studies (v.27, n.2, June 2013, pp. 356-70): “Perrault’s memoirs and Bernini: a reconsideration” by Jeanne Morgan Zarucchi of the University of Missouri at St. Louis. In it, Prof. Zarucchi gently takes me and other scholars to task, who simply followed without question the judgement of Cecil Gould’s 1982 Bernini in France, and have painted a thoroughly negative view of Charles Perrault as Bernini’s nemesis in Paris who worked hard to defeat Bernini at Louis XIV’s court. By reading with fresh, impartial eyes exactly what and how Perrault says about Bernini in his Memoirs and by comparing his accounts with those of other, more pro-Bernini primary sources (e.g. Chantelou’s diary), Zarucchi persuasively shows that in fact such a negative view of Perrault is unsustainable.

Though, of course, we do not know what Perrault said and did outside of what he chooses to tell us in his Memoirs – the existence of the anti-Bernini cabal at the French court is affirmed by Chantelou and it is hard to imagine that Perrault simply stayed clear of it — I still am convinced by Prof. Zarucchi’s well-researched argument that Perrault, as she says, “may in fact be a reasonably reliable witness in regard to Bernini’s character and personality” (I, in fact, doquote Perrault extensively in my Bernini, having believed that there was at least a kernel of truth in what he said, even if colored by his supposed opposition to Bernini). Furthermore, Prof. Zarucchi concludes, there is not enough evidence to characterize Perrault — as I do (Bernini, 268) — as “a leading member of the French cabal organized to defeat Bernini at court.”



Please correct my lapsus: the intended recipient of the sculpture was indeed, King Louis XIV’s wife but her name was Maria Teresa, daughter of King Philip IV of Spain and Elizabeth, daughter of King Henri IV of France. Henrietta Anne was the wife of Louis’s brother, Philippe, the Duke of Orléans, known simply as “Monsieur.” Maria Teresa is correctly identified as Louis’s wife on p. 245. The error on p. 272 was discovered during the process of compiling the Index when the corrected page proofs had already been sent to the printer; it was supposed to be corrected by the printer, but was not. This explains why in the Index under “Marie Thérèse (Maria Teresa), Queen of France,” you will find a citation to both pp. 245 and 272.

Paolo Bernini Christ Child



Some scholars translate this literally as “the true portrait of the true crucifix,” whereas I believe the proper translation is “the true likeness of the Crucified One (i.e., Jesus Christ)”.

I believe Bernini’s (and Perrault’s) contemporaries would have readily understood this as a reference to the famous holy relic of the so-called “true likeness” of Jesus, several different versions of which were (are) found in different parts of Christendom, East and West, known by various names: the “Vera Icona,” the “Volto Santo,” the “Mandylion,” and “Veronica’s Veil,” the latter referrring to the pious legend according to which Jesus impressed his likeness upon the veil used by Veronica to wipe his face on the way to his crucifixion. For Bernini, the most familiar and perhaps the authentic “true likeness” of Jesus was the relic preserved in St. Peter’s Basilica in one of the four piers under its dome, deocrated by Bernini himself in the 1620s, and bearing the statue of St. Veronica.

Moreover, to translate the word “crucifixo” as “crucifix” begs the question: Which “true crucifix”? There was no such thing. A crucifix is a cross bearing a corpus, that is, a representation of the body of Jesus in some medium (ivory, metal, paint, etc.). Minus the corpus, the object is called simply a “cross,” in Italian, “croce,” as in the name of the Roman Basilica of “Santa Croce in Gerusalemme,” which housed a relic, that is, a piece of the “true cross” supposedly found by St. Helena in the 4th century. St. Helena is honored in yet another of the four piers under the cupola of St. Peter’s decorated by Bernini, this same pier housing yet another piece of the “true cross.” As Catholics well knew, the “true cross” found by Helena had long been splintered into hundreds of pieces scattered as relics across all of Christendom.

Finally on a linguistic note, in Italian, the word “ritratto” (portrait) is almost never used to refer to anything other than the likeness of a person, and not an inanimate object.

Mandylion Vatican Wikimedia Commons

The Mandylion or Volto Santo, St. Peter’s Basilica (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 Sanguis Christi painting

  • PAGES 304-05, Bernini’s “Blood of Christ” (Sanguis Christi) drawing:

for new bibliography see my n. 27 above in Domenico Updates section.



  •  PAGE 309: the 1623 editing of Michelangelo’s homoerotic poetry by his grand-nephew, Michelangelo Buonarroti the Younger:

For the latest detailed discussion of the extensive “reputation-saving” revisions of Michelangelo’s love poetry in the first published edition by his grand-nephew — who removed any homoerotic allusions and any less-than-completely orthodox religious language — now see Janie Cole, Music, Spectacle and Cultural Brokerage in Early Modern Italy: Michelangelo Buonarroti il Giovane (2 vols., Florence: Olschki, 2011), pp. 39-45 (see n.71 on p. 42 for other detailed discussions of this well-known fact).




On page 331, mention is made of Bernini’s being granted authorization to draw water from the public water supply to feed a private fountain on his property in Via della Mercede. New research by Katherine Rinne (The Waters of Rome: Aqueducts, Fountains, and the Birth of the Baroque City, Yale UP, 2010, pages 185-186) now shows that Bernini had earlier received access to personal use of the public water supply as part of his “reward” for aqueduct restoration for Pope Urban VIII: “When the [Aqua] Felice restoration was complete, Urban gave Gian Lorenzo an oncia of Felice water . . . Then, between 1640 and 1642, Bernini received another twelve oncie of Felice water, which he could use however he pleased, as part of his payment for the Triton and Bee Fountains in Piazza Barberini.”

For more on the hydraulic history of Rome from antiquity onward, see Rinne’s website, Aquae Urbis Romae: the Waters of the City of Rome.



A further reminder of the pervasive element of fear of God in the popular preaching and catechesis of early modern Roman Catholicism is this passage from St. Ignatius Loyola, a saint very familiar to Bernini:

“Although serving God our Lord much out of pure love is to be esteemed above all; we ought to praise much the fear of His Divine Majesty, because not only filial fear is a thing pious and most holy, but even servile fear — when the man reaches nothing else better or more useful — helps much to get out of mortal sin. And when he is out, he easily comes to filial fear, which is all acceptable and grateful to God our Lord: as being at one with the Divine Love.” – St. Ignatius Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises, “To have the true sentiment which we ought to have in the Church Militant,” Eighteenth Rule (trans. Elder Mullan SJ, 1914).

Angry Jesus Wash DC

Christ the Judge, apse mosaic, National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington DC. Lest anyone think the Vengeful, Wrathful God of the Old Testament has really disappeared; this is his 1950s Aryan version — muscular, blond hair, blue eyes! (photo: F. Mormando)



  • PAGE 389:  Add to the Bibliography:

Zirpolo, Lilian H., “Christina of Sweden’s Patronage of Bernini: The Mirror of Truth Revealed by Time.” Woman’s Art Journal 26 (2005): 38-43.


David Beck, Queen Christina of Sweden, before 1656 (Wikimedia Commons)






  • The Intellectually Dishonest Professional Book Review

“This happens ALL the time:” In a public lecture at Boston College (April 12, 2012), Sam Tannenhaus, editor of the New York Times Book Review, responded to my question about what editors like he do when they receive a badly written, intellectually dishonest, irrationally negative book review, i.e., one that is logically incoherent, makes assertions without proof, and is full of jaundiced “cheap shots” against the book or author. “This happens ALL the time,” replied Tannenhaus. To hear his complete answer, view the video on BC’s “Front Row” (his answer begins at minute 23:30).

  •  Two common complaints of reviewers of this book:

1. “There are not enough illustrations:”  It was my publisher who put a limit on the number of images that I could include in the book. I would have wanted many more.

2. “There is not enough detailed discussion of Bernini’s individual works of art:” As clearly stated in my Preface, this is not meant to be an art historical discussion, or a Bernini “art appreciation” guidebook; there are many such books already in circulation. Rather, my work focuses, as no other book in English has done in the past, on Bernini the flesh-and-blood human being and his historical context.

As a matter of fact, my original manuscript did include more discussion of the individual works of art, but I was obliged by the publisher to reduce the size of the text. In the course of his long lifetime, Bernini produced hundreds of art works: it would take 1000 pages to do justice to even just the most famous of them.

It is, nonetheless, a puzzle to me that, whereas virtually no one who writes a biography of a literary figure, such as Shakespeare, would ever be expected to give a summary and/or analysis of each of his plays or poems, the biographer of an artist is somehow under an obligation to treat the artist’s works of art, as if the works of an artist are somehow more revelatory of his or her psyche and personal life than the literary works of a poet or playwright!  They are not.



  • Preface, Bernini: His Life and His Rome as the “first English-language biography of the artist:”

This claim is accurate: if someone finds evidence to the contrary, I would be happy to receive it.

Please note Howard Hibbard’s Bernini (first published by Penguin Books in 1965 and still in print) is NOT a biography and was never meant to be one: it was written as a discussion of Bernini’s career as sculptor. Note what the author himself says in the “Foreword” therein: “In the following pages I have tried to present Bernini’s sculpture in an an organic, which is to say chronological order…. My hope was to give some idea of the growth and development of Bernini’s artistic vision. In order to do this it was impossible to confine the text to a discussion of sculpture alone, although I was asked to write specifically about that aspect of Bernini’s work. There is a vital connexion between Bernini’s sculpture and his architecture. I have not approached the buildings as an architectural historian, but rather tried to show how Bernini’s architecture arises out of his novel approach to artistic problem.” In other words, this is an art historical-critical exposition of Bernini’s work, not his life, that is, it is an account of the sculptor and architect, not of the man, even though there is some biographical data sprinkled in here and there.


  • Bernini: His Life and His Rome, page 25: Bernini’s home parish, Sant’Andrea alle Fratte:

The church, “St. Andrews in the Thickets,” was inadvertently omitted from my Index. In any case, note that in seventeenth-century documentation the church’s name appears both as “alle Fratte” and “delle Fratte,” with the former — it would seem — more common than the latter until the eighteenth century when it all but disappears giving way to today’s single form, “delle Fratte.” For the designation, “alle Fratte,” see, for example: Rudolfo Grimming, Sedici pellegrinaggi per le 365 chiese di Roma (Rome: Ghezzi, 1665); Filippo Titi, Studio di pittura scoltura et architettura nelle chiese di Roma (Rome: Mancini, 1674) and Giuseppe Vasi, Indice istorico del gran prospetto di Roma (Rome: Pagliarini, 1765).


The Church of Sant’Andrea delle Fratte, late 16th century construction, most famous for its belltower by Borromini (slightly visible in the upper left). In Bernini’s time it was run by the Order of the Minims of St. Francesco da Paola.


  • Bernini as Guest of Marchese Riccardi in Florence (Domenico, 124-25):

As Domenico and Baldinucci both observe, while in Florence, Bernini was guest of Marchese Gabriello Riccardi, chief steward to the granducal court in early May 1665 en route to Paris. In 1659 Riccardi had purchased from the Grand Duke the Palazzo Medici in Via Larga (now Via Cavour), which was being expanded and embellished in the 1660s when Bernini came to town. Bernini presumably slept in this palazzo during his three-day visit. However, in order to view the Riccardi collection of antiquities, he also visited the other (and original) Palazzo Riccardi, which, as Baldinucci observes in his Life of Bernini, was in “Via Gualfonda.”

Thanks to the kindness of my friend and long-time resident of Florence, Dott.ssa Francesca Avezzano-Comes, I came to learn (during my own recent visit to Florence) that “Via Gualfonda” is today’s “Via Valfonda” (alongside the Stazione di Santa Maria Novella) and that Palazzo Riccardi still stands at #9, the headquarters of the Associazione degli Industriali della Provincia di Firenze. Here is a photograph of the building:

Palazzo Riccardi, Via Valfonda 9, Florence
(photo courtesy of F. Avezzano-Comes)

And on the topic of the Riccardi family and Bernini:

The Altes Museum (the Old Museum of Antiquities and Sculpture) in Berlin owns an ancient Roman piece that used to belong to the Riccardi of Florence, but was sold to the Germans in 1842: Head of Singing (or Talking) Dionysius (marble, Roman, after an original from 279-250 BC). I have not yet been able to verify that this head was indeed in the collection at the time of Bernini’s visit, but it is a nice coincidence that the work is one of the “speaking likeness”type, that is, a “portrait” of the subject in the act of speaking (or here, perhaps singing), a dramatic moment that Bernini himself liked to capture in stone in his portraits:

Riccardi Roman bust Berlin frontal

Riccardi bust Berlin sideview


  • Bernini: His Life and His Rome, page 351: “If you seek his monument, just look around you:”

This final line of my book in the unabridged first draft of my manuscript had the following footnote, which was omitted in the final version due to space considerations:

“This is the epitaph of English architect, Christopher Wren (whom we met briefly in Chapter 5), written by his son. The original is in Latin: ‘Si monumentum requiris, circumspice.’ It refers to London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral, a work of Wren’s design and his burial place. It has since been applied to many an architect, but to whom is it more applicable than Bernini and ‘his’ Rome?”


  • Regarding Bernini and King Charles I


Francis Haskell’s The King’s Pictures: The Formation and Dispersal of the Collections of Charles I and His Courtiers (Yale University Press, 2013) reports (p. 89) that, for the purposes of public auction (after the king’s beheading), Bernini’s marble portrait bust of English King Charles I (later lost in the great Whitehall fire of 1698) had the great distinction of being officially valued at 800 pounds, a figure “higher than any other piece of sculpture in the royal collection, including antique sculpture.”

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The recent royal exhibition, In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion organized by The Queen’s Gallery, displayed both the original triple-portrait of the king by Anthony van Dyke (now in Windsor Castle) used by Bernini to execute his marble portrait of Charles and a contemporary marble bust of the king (attributed Jan Blommendael, 1650-1707) that gives some idea of the lost Bernini original.

Unfortunately, the text and reviews relating to the exhibition perpetuate two undocumented stories that have long circulated about Bernini and Charles I: there is absolutely no proof that Bernini, upon receiving the king’s portrait in Rome, made a remark to the effect that “this was the portrait of a doomed man.” The other error is the claim that the bust was a gift from Pope Urban VIII to his god-daughter, Queen Henrietta Maria, Charles’s wife. While the pope did grant his permission for Bernini to do the work, the work was a direct commission from the English royal family, who paid for all of the (exceedingly large) expenses involved, including cost of marble, labor, and transportation.