By Anne Leader
Sculptor Pietro Bernini was born on 5 May 1562 in Sesto Fiorentino. He died sixty-seven years later in Rome. Pietro is much better known for his son and best student Gianlorenzo. After a career divided between Florence and Naples, Pietro moved with his son to Rome in 1605. Though not seen as a great inventor, Pietro is recognized as a master technician intimately familiar with the work of Giambologna, lessons he passed down to his gifted and more talented son. In Rome, Pietro received several important commissions, including an altarpiece showing the Assumption of the Virgin (1606) at Santa Maria Maggiore and the tomb of Clement VIII (1611-13) in the same church. At the Barberini Chapel in Sant’Andrea della Valle, he installed his St. John the Baptist (1612-15). He also made secular works for Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who would become one of Gianlorenzo’s great patrons. Though his works are of uneven success, in those like Faun Teased by Cupids one can see how Gianlorenzo learned to sculpt. Pietro’s biographer, Giovanni Baglione famously said of him, “had he had greater compositional ability, he would have been a remarkable artist.”
Reference: Michael P. Mezzatesta and Rudolf Preimesberger. “Bernini.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.
Further reading: Bernini by Howard Hibbard (1991); European Sculpture, 1400-1900 in The Metropolitan Museum of Art by Ian Wardropper (2011).
Pietro and Gianlorenzo Bernini, Bacchanal: A Faun Teased by Children, ca. 1616-17, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, Fletcher, Rogers, and Louis V. Bell Funds, and Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1976
The Assumption, 1607-10, Marble, Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome
St. John the Baptist, 1612-15, Marble, Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome