July 14, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

Art Review

Photo courtesy of the Getty Villa

Gian Lorenzo Bernini is a man whose talents seem to have been inexhaustible. As a sculptor he carved such breath-taking creations such as Apollo and Daphne – the god trying to lay his hands on a mortal girl who, to escape his unwanted advance, turns into a tree seemingly before our eyes: Leaves sprout from her fingers.

As an architect he designed the magnificent St. Peter’s square with its semi-circular embrace of colonnades. He wrote poetry and plays, produced theatrical sets; and, a savvy diplomat, he succeeded in working for 14 different popes during his long life that spanned most of the 17th century: He was born in Rome in 1598 and died there in 1680.

Among Bernini’s seemingly countless accomplishments is portraiture, which he took to astonishing heights, as you can see in the current exhibition Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture on view at the Getty Center through October 26.

The portraits – a few in bronze, several in drawings of great immediacy, and most in marble – make his subjects alive not only physically, but psychologically to a degree seldom achieved before or since.

Most likenesses depict popes, cardinals and other mighty men. Their power, pride, corruption and cunning are palpable and fascinating. Bernini manages to convey not only the warmth of the flesh, often creased with wrinkles or puffed with fat, and the richness of different fabrics animated by the movement of the body below, but also the active thoughts that make these people real.

His genius is evident in a comparison between his bust of Cardinal Scipione Borghese and that by his contemporary Giuliano Finelli, both made in 1632. Finelli’s version skillfully depicts the distinct features of the physical man. But Bernini’s captures Borghese’s mind at work. As ideas churn in his head, his lips part slightly, as if he were about to speak; his eyes catch something in the distance; his biretta slips back on his head; and his cloak creases as he pulls back his shoulders.

Borghese’s bust is only one in a gallery of masterpieces. Bernini’s portraits appear alongside outstanding works of his contemporaries. Most have never before been exhibited in this country. An opportunity to see them is a rare privilege and joy, and one not to be missed.

For more information, call (310) 440-7300 or visit www.getty.edu

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