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Gian Lorenzo Bernini

1598 - 1680

Bernini was the dominant artist of 17th-century Rome. Under successive popes he became virtual dictator of the arts. He was responsible for town planning schemes as well as for church buildings and interiors, including St Peter's in the Vatican.

Bernini was born in Naples in 1598, the son of a Florentine sculptor, Pietro Bernini. His precocious talent was manifested in a series of sculptures made for Cardinal Scipione Borghese. In Rome he designed and supervised projects that integrated architecture, painting and sculpture, such as the Cornaro chapel in S. Maria della Vittoria, which contains the statue of 'The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa'.

He was also the originator of the figurative Baroque fountains of Rome, such as the Four Rivers on the Piazza Navona. Bernini's colonnade in front of St Peter's transformed the approach to the church into a magnificent reception area for pilgrims to the city.

Bernini was not primarily a painter; his few pictures are mainly head studies and portraits. The 'Saints Andrew and Thomas' in this Collection shows some of the animation later realised in his sculpture. The work of Caravaggio influenced his painting style, and he was also an admirer of Rubens and Poussin.