…to my 400-year-old boyfriend, Gian Lorenzo Bernini…
…and to all the tortured lovers out there (and those of us who are still searching)!
Gian Lorenzo Bernini had a raucous love life. Judging by his self-portraits in the Galleria Borghese, he was a dark eyed, intensely handsome guy, with a wide forehead and a full shock of dark hair. (And if his body is anything like his reportedly self-modeled David, then…enough said.)
As an artist he was intense, with a quick temper, and that fervor spilled over into his personal life when, in the mid-1630s, he took up with Costanza Bonarelli, the young, buxom wife of his collaborator Matteo Bonarelli. Bernini captured her earthy looks in a bust that can be seen in Florence’s Bargello Museum.
Before long, the love triangle became a square: Bernini’s younger brother Luigi started sleeping with Costanza as well. When Bernini discovered his half-dressed lover kissing his brother, “Bernini went berserk,” Franco Mormando writes in Bernini, His Life and His Rome. The artist chased his brother through Rome with his sword drawn, intent on fratricide. Even more shocking, he sent one of his servants to slash Costanza’s face with a razor. According to Mormando “in Baroque Rome it was a common, conventional public ritual of revenge…carried out by men upon their faithless lovers.”
In the end, however, Costanza’s marriage survived, Luigi fled Rome for about a year and Bernini was let off the hook by Pope Urban VIII but told in no uncertain terms to find a wife, which he did: the beautiful, respectable, 22-year-old Caterina Tezio. They were married for 34 years and had 11 children. —Lisa Chambers
(This story originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Dream of Italy.)
“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.
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.
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