My Sketchy Date with Bernini


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Bernini self-portrat, completed when he was in his twenties.

Bernini self-portrait, completed when he was in his twenties.

“You must be in heaven!” my friend Toni messaged me. And she was right. She’d written in response to this photo (below) I’d posted of Gian Lorenzo Bernini‘s lion, a model for part of his Four Rivers fountain that’s just one of the exhibits in Il Laboratorio del Genio: Bernini Disegnatore, which is currently showing at the Palazzo Barberini in Rome, until May 24.

Clay model by Bernini of the lion for la fontana Quattro Fiumi

Clay model by Bernini of the lion for la fontana Quattro Fiumi

I fell in love with Bernini and his genius years ago at the Galleria Borghese where his incredible sculptures of Apollo and Daphne, the Rape of Proserpine and his masterful (and super studly) David are all on magnificent display. Having read a lot about my 400-year-old boyfriend, I knew he’d also earned a reputation as a painter but until I visited this Barberini exhibit I hadn’t had many opportunities to see his drawings—to witness the Cavaliere’s genius in progress.

The exhibit, which brings together sketches from museums all over the world, is divided into several sections, including portraits; ancient designs; St. Peter’s and the Vatican; and fountains, obelisks and statues.

It begins with several self-portraits by Bernini. He greets you in all his intensity right at the door.

Self-portrait of a young Bernini

Self-portrait of a young Bernini

And all the portraits, whether of himself or others, have a similar intensity in the eyes. No doubt his own keen observation of the world around him, and his ability to translate the inherent emotion onto the page or into marble, helped bring out his genius. Continue reading


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