Bernini in the spirit of Rome
by Ayfer Selamoğlu
Roma and Bernini, two names that integrate with each other. Pope Urban VIII said to Bernini: “You are made for Rome. Rome is also for you.”
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, the art virtuoso number one in the city, continues his existence as an immortal in the soul of the city, weaving every detail of so many works that we admire in Rome as lace and gives life to the marbles that he touches with his energy enthusiastic and passionate.
Appearing in about seventy percent of works in Rome, Bernini was a versatile artist working in the Baroque style. He was also a sculptor, painter, architect, poet and playwright. He was hardworking, intelligent, cultured and determined. He worked with an extraordinary discipline.
By combining his art with his extraordinary intelligence, sensitivity and enthusiasm, Bernini was able to achieve what classical painters and sculptors before him could not. He was tearing the marbles he touched with his skilled hands from their pedestals, giving them life. With his touch and the light he used, the marbles came to life, began to feel and move. She was scared, she was crying, running and screaming with her hair in the wind. The bodies created by Bernini bent and contracted with the intensity of emotion and flew through the void in flesh and blood. Marble became a moving hand, a running foot, a tense muscle, a swaying tree and a moving leaf. Bernini’s works made the public feel “memory”.
Most of Bernini’s works belong to the Baroque period, but he is one of the last truly Renaissance artists in Rome. During his time (1598-1680), popes and cardinals dealt with art and participated in competitions to discover genes. Bernini, born in Naples as the sixth child of a family of 12 children, began to sculpt with his father Pietro, who was a sculptor like him, from an early age, and to amaze everyone who knew him with his intelligence and talent, especially his father. When he was eight, he first presented himself before the Pope in Rome, where they moved, and says he doesn’t like to paint like ordinary people. Surprised by this, the pope takes Bernini under his protection, saying he is the future Michelangelo. Thus, he was among the genius children whose talents were discovered and who came under the auspices of the church. After that, he would always raise the bar of success and the environment. At the age of 20, Pope XV. He was awarded the Order of the Knight of Christ by Gregory. He was elected a member of the Academy of San Luca. He would also have been appointed to a senior position at the Fabbrica di San Pietro, which produced works of art for the Vatican with his brother Luigi. He served eight popes all his life. With his extreme passion for art and Rome, he created immortal works that today fascinate almost everyone.
In his sculpture “Apollo and Daphne”, one of his best knows works, Bernini revives an ancient Greek myth, the sad story of a love without hope. Legend has it that Apollo, the god of prophecy, was an excellent archer. One day, a good archer like him meets Eros and makes fun of his archery skills. Eros prepares two arrows to avenge this. One is immersed in golden water and will give passion and eternal love to the person with whom he is stuck. The other arrow, on the other hand, will completely distance the person with whom it is pierced from love and passion. With the golden arrow stuck in his heart, Apollo falls in love with Daphne. But Daphne, targeted by the other arrow, escapes the god Apollo, who wants to possess it. Thus began a chase between them. One day, Daphne runs into Apollo and starts running away. Realizing that this time she will be captured, Daphne asks the gods for help. The gods grant her wish and turn Daphne into a laurel tree. Bernini reflects this moment of transformation in his sculpture. Realistic figures, correct proportions and details demonstrate Bernini’s interest in the High Renaissance. The importance of the work in terms of Baroque is that it transmits the sense of movement to the public with great success.
Running away in fear, Daphne pleads with the gods with a frightened face. Apollo joined her and put her hand on his waist. However, Daphne’s prayers were answered and she began to transform. Whoever looks at the statue sees this very moment and feels its drama. Frightened, Daphne got rid of Apollo, but for this she chose to become a tree forever. Bernini perfectly described this scene by adding Daphne’s hands to the composition as they begin to transform into branches.
Bernini again attracts the public in the moment in his work “The Ecstasy of Santa Teresa” located in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Teresa of Avila, who lives in a monastery with faith in the search for the holy spirit, was canonized by the Pope 40 years after her death. Bernini described this moment of ecstasy, that is, the soul’s ecstasy from earthly reality, the state of ecstasy. Bernini describes her ecstatic state with a show of intense light, movement, touching facial expressions and dramatic undulating surfaces. His posture and facial expression support the expression. However, Teresa, whose legs were bent and her mouth open, was found quite voluptuous by the religious authorities of the time and caused controversy in her period. As a result, the statue was excluded at that time.
Bernini placed the “Fountain of the Four Rivers”, which is larger and more magnificent than the three fountains of Piazza Navona, there is one of the most beautiful squares in the city of fairy tales, by loading metaphors. There are four statues, four gods in the fountain. The statue with the oar is the god of the river Ganges, representing the Asian continent, and with his oar he indicates that the river is suitable for maritime traffic. The statue, whose head is covered with a cloth, is the god of the Nile River, representing Africa. The fact that his head is covered indicates that the source of the river is unknown. The statue touching the Pope’s coat of arms is the god of the Danube River, representing the European continent. This river is depicted like this because it is the closest place to the center of Christianity. The one who was frightened because he saw a snake was the god of the Silver River, which represented the Americas. With this, fears of stealing the money of the rich in America were expressed.
The Fontana della Barcaccia, said to have been built in front of the Spanish Steps and said to be one of his earliest works, was inspired by the flood days of the Tiber River. Since the River Tiber at the time had no walls, it overflowed with heavy rains. Another day like this, when the waters receded, a boat was left in the Piazza di Spagna. In Bernini’s hands, that boat was transformed into a magnificent fountain visited by millions of people every day.
In the Triton Fountain, located in the center of Piazza Barberini, built for the Barberini family, one of the 17th century nobles, Bernini depicts the powerful sea god Trion, son of Poseidon, on four dolphins surrounding the papal crown. Triton, drawn as a fish from the waist down and a human on top, is symbolized by shells. Sitting on a large oyster shell carried by four dolphins, he holds a spiral shell with both hands blowing into the tube. Here too Bernini demonstrates his ability to portray, capturing a dramatic moment with the water coming out of the tube, which makes it feel as if everyone is about to dive into the water. The bees placed between him and the man-loving dolphin are emblems of the papacy. The friendly Triton is Pope III. It refers to Urban who is friendly to people.
Lorenzo Bernini’s marble work “The Rape of Persephone” is again exhibited at the Galleria Borghese in Rome as one of the best examples of Baroque sculptural art. According to legend, Hades, brother of Zeus and Poseidon, whose name is mentioned as Pluto in Roman mythology, fell in love with Persephone as soon as he saw the daughter of Zeus and Demeter – the goddess of agriculture -. And he kidnaps Persephone underground to make her his wife. Demeter begs Zeus to free her daughter. Eventually, Persephone begins spending six months of the year underground with Hades and the other months on earth with her mother. Also in this work Bernini shows the moment in which Hades captures Persephone to the public with movements and expressions, transmits it with emotion and tension, and renders what happened. In this scene where violence and elegance are intertwined, the great Hades, with his lively hair and beard, strong arms and large fingers, holds the delicate body of the woman, creates pits where he touches and has an intimidating expression on the face, which looks with a smile. Hades laughs mischievously as the woman pushes him away with her wavy hair, and Persephone tries to get away with a look of disgust mixed with fear. Next to the two main figures is Cerberus, the three-headed dog of Hades.
The Fountain of the Bees is a fountain located at the point where Via Veneto enters Piazza Barberini. This historic fountain was sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1644 and was originally created to be used as a trough for horses.
The Elephant and the Obelisk in front of the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva is a wonderful example of Bernini’s strangely beautiful powers. The obelisk seated on an elephant was once part of the Temple of Isis. The combination of the Elephant and the Obelisk was designed by Bernini and executed by one of his pupils in 1667.
Bernini added ten statues of angels to the bridge, which was completed by the Roman emperor Hadrian in 134 AD, at the request of Pope Clement in 1699. He made two of the sculptures on the Ponte degli Angeli with his own hands. I couldn’t keep up with others. According to his design, the students completed other sculptures.
Bernini also signed his significant signature on the courtyard of St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the most important squares in the world. He designed the square to accommodate the people who waited below from the church balcony. He was waiting with outstretched arms, as if ready to embrace a plaza with a broad heart. For this, he created two large circular areas in the vast area, each consisting of four white columns. This project, which he endowed with codes of love and compassion, has gone down in history as Bernini’s great success.
Living, emotional and moving bodies, functional fountains, bridges and connecting squares, each of which achieves immortality in the skilled hands of Bernini, are the protagonists in every corner of immortal Rome with dramatized legends…