International Journal of the Classical Tradition

, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 383–408 | Cite as

Bernini and ovid: Expanding the concept of metamorphosis

  • Ann Thomas Wilkins


Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) was influenced by a number of contemporary and ancient sources—including Ovid's Metamorphoses—and inspired by the very concept of changing forms. Two examples of the sculptor's early mythological works considered are the Apollo and Daphne, the most comprehensive demonstration of Ovid's influence in theme and concept, and the Neptune and Triton, in which we can observe perhaps the most subtle metamorphosis created by Bernini. From the front view the fleeting suggestion of an entire dolphin can be seen, with Neptune's foot forming the tail and the swirling end of his cloak suggesting the head. The spontaneous and unexpected appearance of this dolphin is Ovidian in concept, and the defiance of logic witnessed when a leg and a flying cloth suddenly form a leaping dolphin is likened thematically to the Metamorphoses, which recounts example after example of improbable happenings and appearances.


Classical Tradition Marble Group Visual Source Ancient Myth Classical Mythology 
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  1. 1.
    Nigel Llewellyn (“Illustrating Ovid,” in Ovid Renewed: Ovidian Influences on Literature and Art from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century, ed. C. Martindale [Cambridge, 1988], 151–66) refers to the use of Ovidian mythological subject matter from the Roman period onward (156) and states that the Metamorphoses was, until the last part of the eighteenth century, a major source, along with the Bible, Homer, and Vergil, for the visual arts (151. ff.). The familiarity of many of the tales appealed to patrons, and Ovidian themes were instructive as well as decorative. On the role of the Metamorphoses and the Fasti in the Renaissance, see Paul Barolsky (“As in Ovid, So in Renaissance Art,” Renaissance Quarterly 51 [1998], 451–74), who maintains that “Ovid pervades the visual culture of the Renaissance” (451). See Willem F. Lash (“Ovid,” The Dictionary of Art 23 [New York, 1996], 679–81) for a general discussion of the Ovide moralisé (an anonymous poem composed c. 1316–28), Christian interpretations of Ovid, the significance of illustrated editions of Ovid, the use of Ovidian subjects as villa and palace decoration, and Ovidian subjects for such painters as Giulio Romano, Titian, Giorgione, and Poussin. For further study of the reception of Ovid in the visual arts and literature from the Middle Ages well into the Modern period, see the following publications of collected articles of the Mannheim- and Jena-based research project of the “Ikonographische Repertorien zur Rezeption des antiken Mythos in Europa”: Die Rezeption der Metamorphosen des Ovid in der Neuzeit: Der antike Mythos in Text und Bild, ed. Hermann Walter and Hans-Jürgen Horn, Ikonographische Repertorien zur Rezeption des antiken Mythos in Europa I (Berlin, 1995); Der antike Mythos und Europa: Texte und Bilder von der Antike bis ins 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Francesca Cappelletti and Gerlinde Huber-Rebenich, Ikonographische Repertorien zur Rezeption des antiken Mythos in Europa II (Berlin, 1997); Die Allegorese des antiken Mythos, ed. Hans-Jürgen Horn and Hermann Walter, Wolfenbütteler Forschungen 75 (Wiesbaden, 1997). Specific articles in the above works, while not directly relevant to Ovid's influence on Bernini, are indicative of the far-reaching effects of Ovid's Metamorphoses upon the visual arts. See, for instance, Francesca Cappelletti (“L'utilizzazione allegorica dei miti tratti dalle Metamorfosi di Ovidio nella pittura e nell'emblematica fra ‘500 e ’600,” in Die Allegorese des antiken Mythos, 229–252) and Carmen Ravanelli Guidotti (“Le Metamorfosi ‘Vulgari’ d'Ovidio sulla Maolica Italiana,” in Die Rezeption der Metamorphosen des Ovid in der Neuzeit, 85–97). See also Paul Barolsky, “Poussin's Ovidian Stoicism,” Arion 6.2 (1998), 4–9.Google Scholar
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    Charles Avery (Bernini, Genius of the Baroque [Boston, 1997]) notes Ugo's print as a possible visual source (460).Google Scholar
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    One assumes, for instance, that Bernini and his contemporaries were well versed in many literary works and in their influences upon each other. See, for example, James Mirollo, The Poet of the Marvelous, Giambattista Marino (New York, 1963), especially his discussion of Marino's imitation of the works of Petrarch (181–5). See also Jan L. de Jong (“Ovidian Fantasies. Pictorial Variations on the Story of Mars, Venus and Vulcan,” in Die Rezeption der Metamorphosen des Ovid in der Neuzeit, 11–172), who notes that many artists knew the Metamorphoses not from the Ovidian Latin, but from Italian versions that had been adapted or translated from the original (161 f.)Google Scholar
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    Adapted from the Loeb Classical Library translation by Frank Justus Miller (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1946), 3.Google Scholar
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    G. Karl Galinsky (Ovid's Metamorphoses, An Introduction to the Basic Aspects [Berkeley, 1975]) discusses various aspects of the poet's theme of metamorphosis (including its frequent subordination to the theme of love) in the context of Augustan Rome. Leonard Barkan (The Gods made Flesh, Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism [New Haven, 1986], especially pp. 19–93) refers to what he understands as the paradox of the poem: “it proves the natural world magical and the magical world natural” (19).Google Scholar
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    See Joseph Solodow, The World of Ovid's Metamorphoses (Chapel Hill, 1988), 175. See also Brooks Otis, Ovid as an Epic Poet (Cambridge, 1966), 45 ff. and Harold Skulsky, Metamorphosis, The Mind in Exile (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1981), especially Chapter 2 (“Ovid's Epic Metamorphosis as Metaphysical Doubt,” 24–61).Google Scholar
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    Galinsky maintains that although the physical aspects of individuals may change, “their quintessential substance lives on” (45).Google Scholar
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    See the following for evidence of intensive interest in mythological subjects in the sixteenth century: Erwin Panofsky, Problems in Titian Mostly Iconographic (London, 1969); John Pope-Hennessy, Cellini (New York, 1985); and Charles Avery, Giambologna: The Complete Sculpture (Oxford, 1987). Panofsky, in his chapter on Titian and Ovid, speaks of Titian's “inner affinity” with Ovid, which allowed him to “interpret Ovid's texts... with minute attention to detail and in a spirit of uninhibited inventiveness” (140).Google Scholar
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    I used the term “multiple metamorphoses” in my 1997 presentation at Duquesne University (see introductory note). Barolsky's use of this term (with reference to a poem by Lorenzo, “As in Ovid, So in Renaissance Art,” 457) is independent from mine. For the idea see also Elizabeth Vinestock, “Ovid metamorphosed: Ovidian techniques transposed in Baïf's L'Hippocrène,” Renaissance Studies 13 (1999), 63–72.Google Scholar
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    Barolsky (“Florentine Metamorphoses”) maintains that Michelangelo's poetry “is scarcely Ovidian and in his sculpture and painting Ovid is never to be found” (14).Google Scholar
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    Barolsky, ibid., (“Florentine Metamorphoses”) maintains that Michelangelo's poetry “is scarcely Ovidian and in his sculpture and painting Ovid is never to be found” (14) 13. See his discussion of other sculptures by Michelangelo as well (15 ff.). Scholarly debate has long addressed the issue of the non finiti. Teddy Brunius (“Michelangelo's non finito,” in Per Bjurstrom et al., Contributions to the History and Theory of Art, Figura N.S. 6 [Uppsala, 1967], 29–67) discusses varying opinions regarding the sculptor's intentions, citing works such as Das Unvollendete als künstlerische Form. Ein Symposium, ed. J. A. Schmoll gen. Eisenwerth (Bern, 1959) and W. Körte, “Das Problem des Nonfinito bei Michelangelo,” Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 7 (1955), 293–302. See Brunius 31 and 59 ff. for further bibliography and 34 regarding Michelangelo's biographers, Giorgio Vasari and Ascanio Condivi. According to Barolsky, Condivi (whose veracity is questioned) maintained that Michelangelo intentionally left areas of roughly worked stone in order to indicate the difficulties involved in the transition from rock to fully delineated figure. For discussion of sixteenth-century art theory, see David Summers, Michelangelo and the Language of Art (Princeton, NJ, 1981).Google Scholar
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    For the most recent detailed discussion and extensive bibliography regarding this and other Bernini sculptures considered here, see the important papers in Anna Coliva and Sebastian Schütze (curators), Bernini Scultore: La Nascità del Barocco in Casa Borghese (Rome, 1998). For basic studies on the Apollo and Daphne, see also Peter Anselm Riedl, Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Apoll und Daphne (Stuttgart, 1960), and Apollo e Dafne del Bernini nella Galleria Borghese, ed. Kristina Herrmann Fiore (Milan, 1997).Google Scholar
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    The narrative progresses from the chase to Daphne's fear (indicated by her scream, which observers are able to see briefly before her eyes come into view), and finally to Apollo's confusion as he grasps and sees bark, leaves, and branches. There is a point at which the heads are no longer visible; foliage disguises god and nymph, and the transformation is understood as complete. This view, however, can only be seen if the sculpture is not placed against a wall. On theories about the placement, see Joy Kenseth, “Bernini's Borghese Sculptures: Another View,” The Art Bulletin 63 (1981), 191–202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    In his discussion of Bernini's “un bel composto” conception of the visual arts, Irving Lavin (Bernini and the Unity of the Visual Arts [New York, 1980]) states that “Bernini's works virtually from the outset create a startling sense of environment. We can almost see the sylvan glade where Apollo captures Daphne...” (19). In similar fashion, environments can be seen in other mythological groups as well: the addition of Cerberus in the Pluto and Persephone sites the action as taking place in the Underworld, and the shell on which the god stands in the Nepture and Triton helps create the aquatic context.Google Scholar
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    Adapted from the Loeb Classical Library translation, 39 ff.Google Scholar
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    See for instance Rudolf Wittkower, Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, 4th Edition (London, 1997), 240. Also see Howard Hibbard, Bernini (Harmondsworth, 1965), 48 ff. and Avery 55 f.Google Scholar
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    See Kenseth 195 ff. for a thorough discussion of the Marino version, particularly with reference to the repetition of verbs pertaining to flight, the change from action to stasis, and the shift from focus on the god alone to the god and Daphne. This poem was not the only Marino work that pertains to Apollo and Daphne; among other pieces he composed a sonnet (“Trasformazione di Dafne in Lauro,” 1614). See Gerald Ackerman, “Gian Battista Marino's Contribution to Seicento Art Theory,” The Art Bulletin 43 (1961), 326–36, and E. Cropper, “The Petrifying Art: Marino's Poetry and Caravaggio,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 26 (1991), 193–212, and Mirollo, The Poet of the Marvelous. For general information regarding Marino, see The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300–1900's, ed. Jane Davidson Reid, vol. 1 (Oxford, 1993), 328. See Mary E. Barnard, The Myth of Apollo and Daphne from Ovid to Quevedo (Durham NC, 1987), for discussion of the myth as represented by various authors, and Barkan 209–12 regarding Petrarch's tale of Daphne and Apollo.Google Scholar
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    See Avery 56 ff. for discussion of Bernini's visual sources, ancient and contemporary.Google Scholar
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    For discussion of the Apollo Belvedere and its appearance as Bernini would have viewed it, which is different from today's condition, see Phyllis Pray Bober and Ruth Rubinstein, Renaissance Artists and Antique Sculpture (New York, 1986), 71 f., and Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique (New Haven, 1981), 148 ff.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    The Apollo Belvedere now is lacking portions of both arms. As documented by Bober, after the sculpture was installed in the Cortile del Belvedere, the right arm was replaced by Montorsoli in 1532–2 and both hands restored (28). Montorsoli's additions were removed by Guido Galli in 1924–5 (see Georg Daltrop, “The Apollo Belvedere,” in The Vatican Collections. The Papacy and Art [exhibition catalogue; New York, 1982], 63). Thus Bernini's Apollo resembles Montorsoli's restoration more closely than that of Galli.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Vasari understood the Apollo Belvedere as “providing the lessons of ease and grace in rendering the human figure” to such artists as Leonardo and Michelangelo (Preface to part III of the Lives as referred to by Bober [71]; see Giorgio Vasari, Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori ed architettori, ed. Gaetano Milanesi, vol. IV [Firenze, 1906; repr. ib. 1998], 10).Google Scholar
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    Kenseth 195. See Avery 57 f. regarding sculptural sources such as Battista Lorenzi's Alpheus and Arethusa and Wittkower 15 regarding paintings and engravings as sources. See Francesca Cappelletti, “L' Uso delle Metamorfosi di Ovidio nella Decorazione ad Affresco della Prima Metà del Cinquecento. Il Caso della Farnesina,” in Die Rezeption der Metamorphosen des Ovid in der Neuzeit, 115–128.Google Scholar
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    Wittkower maintains that even though Bernini did not accept the multiple views apparent in Mannerist sculpture, he “did not return to the Renaissance limitations dictated by the block-form...” (15).Google Scholar
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    None of the three statues executed for Scipione Borghese's villa—the Apollo and Daphne, the David, and the Pluto and Persephone—was intended to be freestanding. For a detailed discussion of the placement of the sculptures, see Kenseth 193 ff. Kenseth disagrees with Hibbard, who places the Apollo and Daphne against the east wall (53 f.). According to Kenseth, early guidebooks to the Villa Borghese by Jacomo Manilli (1650) and Domenico Montelatici (1700) clarify the placements of the sculptures. For these texts, see Kenseth 202 ff. See A. González-Palacios, “La stanza di Apollo e Dafne in the Villa Borghese,” The Burlington Magazine 137 (1995), 529–49.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Kenseth points out that Cardinal Borghese, Bernini's patron, collected sculpture and paintings which represented sensual subjects. The ancient sculpture of a Hermaphrodite, for instance, also has “a most provocative rear view” (195). Thus, the initial rear view of Apollo was not unique.Google Scholar
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    Kenseth 195. See Avery 63 regarding the configuration of the sculpture in its room: Apollo and Daphne would have appeared to be running toward the window, which was the strongest light source.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    In addition to poetic and visual versions of the Apollo and Daphne myth, a dramatic cantata contemporary with Bernini was composed by Claudio Monteverdi. The Lamento di Apollo, c. 1620, reinforces the prevalence of and familiarity with mythological themes in Rome, at least among intellectuals. For general information, see The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300–1900's, vol. 1, 328.Google Scholar
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    For a clear summary, see Claire Farago, “Paragone,” The Dictionary of Art 24 (New York, 1996), 90 f. See also Rudolf Preimesberger, “Themes from Art Theory in the Early Works of Bernini,” in Gianlorenzo Bernini: New Aspects of His Art and Thought, A Commemorative Volume, ed. I. Lavin (University Park, PA, 1985), 1–18; here 9 ff.Google Scholar
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    See Wolfgang Stechow, Apollo und Dafne. Studien der Bibliothek Warburg (Berlin-Leipzig, 1932), regarding various representations of the Apollo and Daphne theme. For general information regarding literary and artistic representations of this myth, see Andor Pigler, Barockthemen, 2nd Edition (Budapest, 1974), and The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300–1900's, vol. 1, 325–7 (“Daphne”). Regarding the fresco of this subject by Baldassare Peruzzi in the Villa Farnesina in Rome (1511–12), see C. L. Frommel, Baldassare Peruzzi als Maler und Zeichner (Vienna, 1967). For discussion of Pollaiuolo's painting, see Paul Barolsky, “Florentine Metamorphoses of Ovid,” 9 f. See also Leopold D. Ettlinger, Antonio and Piero Pollaiuolo: Complete Edition (Oxford, 1978), 141.Google Scholar
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    Lew Andrews (Story and Space in Renaissance Art [Cambridge, 1995]), while discussing the evidence for continuous narrative in Renaissance art, maintains that by the seventeenth century this kind of narrative was no longer an important aspect of painting (104 f.).Google Scholar
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    For discussion of a letter of Galileo Galilei (1612) in which “sculpture is credited with being able to imitate tangible nature,” see Preimesberger 3.Google Scholar
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    See Wittkower 240.Google Scholar
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    For a thorough discussion of the collection, see Katrin Kalveram, Die Antikensammlung des Kardinals Scipione Borghese (Worms am Rhein, 1995). She maintains that since art collections generally consisted of antique sculpture and small contemporary works (100), the Borghese collection is unusual in that some of the capolavori were large contemporary sculptures, such as the works by Bernini, rather than antiques. These works were to be admired for their technical mastery (138). See A. González-Palacios, 529–49 and the articles pertaining to the “Stanza di Apollo e Dafne” in Apollo e Dafne del Bernini nella Galleria Borghese). For general information and extensive bibliography on the villa (which was built between 1612–15 to house his collections of antique and contemporary sculpture) see Sharon Gregory and David L. Bershad, “Scipione Borghese,” The Dictionary of Art 4 (New York, 1996), 405. f. For an overview of the Borghese and Ludovisi collections, see Haskell and Penny, Taste and the Antique, 26 ff.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Cited in Avery 55 (illustration of the base on p. 63). See Wittkower 240 regarding the inscription on the opposite side of the base. Consisting of lines from the Metamorphoses, it was carved by Lorenzo Caradelli in 1785, at the time when the group was moved to the room's center.Google Scholar
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    Filippo Baldinucci composed his biography of Bernini in 1682. Another biography, by the artist's son Domenico Bernini, was written in 1713.Google Scholar
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    Cited in Avery 55.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    David Wilkins has suggested to me that, since the Apollo and Daphne narration appears early in Ovid's text, Bernini may have come upon it while a youth practicing his Latin and that the challenge of representing such a complex and compelling theme may have percolated in the artist's imagination over a number of years.Google Scholar
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    On the relationship between Barberini and Bernini and on Bernini as the “Michelangelo del suo secolo,” see Sebastian Schütze in Bernini Scultore, 89 ff.Google Scholar
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    Rudolf Preimesberger discusses the sculptor's intellectual milieu (2 ff.). He identifies Barberini as the young sculptor's “intellectual mentor” who saw that Bernini was educated in art theory through debates, exchanges of letters, and workshop experience which taught him rules of proportions and other matters.Google Scholar
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    The gladiator had been discovered in 1611 and was in the collection at least by 1613 (Haskell and Penny 211). Also included in the Borghese collections were the Borghese Hermaphrodite, the Centaur with Cupid, Silenus with Infant Bacchus, and the Dying Seneca, all of which are currently in the Louvre. (As noted by Haskell and Penny, most of the Borghese antiquities were purchased by Napoleon Bonaparte, Prince Camillo Borghese's brother-in-law [179]). The Marcus Curtius Flinging Himself into the Gulf, a fragment that is thought to have been greatly restored by Pietro Bernini in 1617, was also in the collection (Haskell and Penny 192). See C. Gasparri, “Bernini e l'antico. Una proposta per l'Apollo e Dafne,” Prospettiva 33–36 (1983–4), 226–30, and Jan Bial/ostocki, “Gian Lorenzo Bernini e l'antico,” in Gian Lorenzo Bernini e le arti visivi, ed. Marcello Fagiolo (Florence, 1987), 59–71.Google Scholar
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    See Olga Raggio (“A New Bacchic Group by Bernini,” Apollo 108 [1978], 406–14) for a discussion of Bernini's study of ancient sculpture and the Vatican frescoes (413).Google Scholar
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    See Wittkower 235 f. and Avery 48 for description and discussion of the restorations. See also Jennifer Montagu, Roman Baroque Sculpture, the Industry of Art (New Haven, 1989), 104 ff. and 158–169.Google Scholar
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    For instance, Bernini added a mattress to the Hermaphrodite in approximately 1620, thus providing a naturalistic base for the reclining figure.Google Scholar
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    Avery discusses Bernini's treatment of the goat's coat and the blank eyes, as being deliberately reminiscent of Hellenistic sculpture (20).Google Scholar
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    Already he may have been testing himself using the benchmark established earlier by Vasari, who in his Lives of the Artists compared Michelangelo to ancient artists: “If it were possible to place ... [Michelangelo's paintings] beside the most famous Greek or Roman paintings, they would be held in even greater esteem and more highly honoured than his sculptures, which appear superior to all those of the ancients” (Preface to Part Three of Giorgio Vasari, The Lives of the Artists, trans. Julia Conaway Bondanella [Oxford, 1991], 282; Le vite, ed. Milanesi, vol. IV, 13–14). Vasari tells an anecdote meant to demonstrate how Michelangelo rivaled antique sculptors: ”... Michelangelo returned to Florence and carved a little figure of Saint John in marble ... and then with another piece of marble he immediately began to carve a life-size figure of a sleeping Cupid. When this was competed, Baldassare del Milanese showed it as a beautiful piece of work to Pierfrancesco, who agreed with Baldassare's judgement and declared to Michaelangelo: ‘If you buried it, I am convinced it would pass as an ancient work, and if you sent it to Rome treated so that it appeared old, you would earn much more than by selling it here.’ It is said that Michelangelo treated it in such a way that it appeared to be ancient, nor is this astonishing, since he had the genius to do this and more” (423=Le vite, ed. Milanesi, vol. VII, 147 ff.).Google Scholar
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    According to Wittkower, the sculpture was listed as anonymous in Villa Borghese sources “from Manilli (1650) to Nibby (1838)” (231). On Bernini's visual inspiration for this piece, which may have included Hellenistic and Roman scultptures as well as his father's work, see Hibbard 25. See Avery 19 ff. regarding this sculptural group, especially the dating and the significance of putti produced by the young Bernini, and I. Lavin, “Five New Youthful Sculptures by Gianlorenzo Bernini and a Revised Chronology of his Early Works,” Art Bulletin 20 (1968), 223–48. See also Alvar González-Palacios, especially 540.Google Scholar
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    See the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, vol. 1 (Zurich and Munich, 1981), 582 f. for complete references to Amalthea as a nymph or a goat. Cited are such sources as Callimachus, Hymn 1 (In Iovem), 49, and Schol. Homer, Iliad 15, 229.Google Scholar
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    See R. Preimesberger in Bernini Scultore, 38–51, regarding identification and other issues, such as political connotations. Avery notes that the subject of the suckling goat is a variation on the well-known Roman theme of the she-wolf and Romulus and Remus (19), and David Wilkins has suggested to me that Amalthea's own offspring, Pan, may be represented here. As noted in Irene Earls, Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary (New York, 1987), antique representations of Amalthea as a goat include a painting said to be from the Domus Aurea (Rome) in which infants (possibly Zeus and Hera) are carried on her back, and a marble relief in the Capitoline Museum (Rome) from the second century CE in which Amalthea is standing on a rock offering her udder to the infant while a goddess sits at her side (583).Google Scholar
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    The Pluto and Persephone, Apollo and Daphne, and David were all sculpted during the brief papacy of Gregory XV. When the Pluto and Persephone was completed, Borghese did not install it in his villa as intended but instead presented it to the Cardinal, nephew of the recently-elected Pope Gregory XV. See Hibbard 45 ff. and Matthias Winner (“Bernini the Sculptor and the Classical Heritage in his Early Years: Praxiteles', Bernini's, and Lanfranco's Pluto and Proserpina,” Römisches Jahrbuch für Kunstgeschichte 22 [1985], 191–208) regarding confirmation of the presentation to Ludovisi by payment records. The statue remained in the Villa Ludovisi until 1908, when it was purchased by the state and installed in the Galleria Borghese.Google Scholar
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    Adapted from the Loeb Classical Library translation, 265, 267.Google Scholar
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    Ovid Fasti (IV 417–620, especially 442–450).Google Scholar
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    Adapted from the Loeb Classical Library translation by Sir James George Frazer (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1951), 221, 223.Google Scholar
  55. 55.
    The absence of flowers seems at odds with the distich written by Maffeo Barberini for the original base: “quisquis humi pronus flores legis, inspice saevi/me Ditis ad domum rapi” (“you, who leaning near the ground pick flowers, look on me being carried away to the home of savage Dis”). See Pietro da Barga in Bernini Scultore, 184–203, here 190.Google Scholar
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    Avery 48 ff. See Bober and Rubinstein 56 f. regarding the frequent appearance of this theme on Roman sarcophagi and other funerary relief sculptures. One particular sarcophagus discussed, which does include representation of Cerberus, was known in Rome in the early seventeenth century. See Winner 193 for references to sarcophagi and 204 regarding Andrea Borboni's Delle statue (1661) and Seymour Howard, “Identity Formation and Image Reference in the Narrative Sculpture of Bernini's Early Maturity: Hercules and Hydra and Eros Triumphant,” Art Quarterly 11 (1979), 140–71. See Winner 204 ff. and Avery 52 ff. regarding allegory and the possibility that Bernini was challenging the bronze Praxitelian version of the same subject. On original placement and allegorical themes, see da Barga 187 ff. Avery states that “Bernini's achievement was to amalgamate pre-existing sculptural ideas and classical references into a new, much more dramatic composition” (54). See Ian Wardropper (“The Role of Terracotta Models in Italian Baroque Sculptural Practice,” in Bernini's Rome: Italian Baroque Terracottas from the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Ian Wardropper, organizer [Chicago, 1998], 30–42) for discussion of this sculptural group as Bernini's earliest piece with which we can connect preparatory studies (38).Google Scholar
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    For general information, see The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300–1900's vol. 2 (Oxford, 1993), 858 ff. for reference to a Marino Idyll, “Proserpina” (1620), a Monteverdi opera, Il rapimento di Proserpina (1611), and visual representations such as reliefs on bronze doors of St. Peter's in Rome by Filarete (1433–45). See also Pigler, 225 ff.Google Scholar
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    For further discussion see Avery 52.Google Scholar
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    See Winner 197 regarding “the renewing power of the bereft family tree of the Borghese” as seen also in Lanfranco's ceiling fresco, begun in 1624. Note that as is the case with the Apollo and Daphne, this group's current display differs from the one originally intended. Similar to Bernini's representation of the Apollo and Daphne myth, the abduction to the underworld would also have gradually appeared to the viewer. See Avery 48 ff. for discussion of the similarity of the Pluto and Persephone to the Aeneas group in the representation “of a figure supporting another in mid-air.”Google Scholar
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    Paul Barolsky (“Bernini and Ovid,” Source 16 [1996], 29–31) considers Bernini's representation of Persephone and Pluto as a metamorphosis not only of “marble into flesh” but also from the myth of Persephone into that of Pygmalion. Bernini's magical representation of fingers on flesh recalls Ovid's narration of Pygmalion's caressing the body of the statue (Metamorphoses 10. 258).Google Scholar
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    Baldinucci implies that Pietro Bernini was involved in this work, the first commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. See Avery 43.Google Scholar
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    See Galinsky 217–251 for a thorough discussion of “Ovid's Aeneid” in the context of the theme of metamorphosis and of the poet's relationship to Vergil and Avery 43 regarding paragone.Google Scholar
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    Preimesberger (“Themes from Art Theory in the Early Works of Bernini,” 8 f.) refers to—but does not elaborate on—“scholarly histories” as other sources.Google Scholar
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    Preimesberger, ibid. (“Themes from Art Theory in the Early Works of Bernini,” 8 f.) refers to—but does not elaborate on—“scholarly histories” as other sources.Google Scholar
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    See Hans Kauffmann, Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini. Die figürlichen Kompositionen (Berlin, 1970), 67 ff. On Christian ideas of Imago Pietatis see Wittkower 234, and on the Three Ages of Man see Avery 43. Regarding “Aeneas as the forefather of the Church and the Papacy,” see Preimesberger, “Themes from Art Theory in the Early Works of Bernini,” 7 ff.Google Scholar
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    Hinc videt Aenean oneratum pondere caro / et tot Iuleae nobilitatis avos: (“On this side he sees Aeneas burdened with the weight dear to him, and many an ancestor of the noble Julian line”) (Fasti V. 563–4: adapted from the Loeb Classical Library translation, 301). See Paul Zanker, Forum Augustum: das Bildprogramm, Monumenta artis antiquae 2 Tübingen, 1968, 16 ff). Another ancient representation of this theme was an acroterion of the Temple of Augustus on the Palatine. This, too, no longer survives but is represented on coins. See the Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae, vol. 1, 390.Google Scholar
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    See Hibbard 234 (n. 34) and R. Preimesberger in Bernini Scultore, 110–123, here 117 ff., regarding the transformation of pagan to Christian imagery. See Avery 43 ff. regarding Aeneas' similarity to Pietro Bernini's St. John the Baptist and other possible models, such as Raphael's Fire in the Borgo and Giambologna's Rape of the Sabines.Google Scholar
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    See Avery 179 ff. for a brief discussion of sculptural precedents for Bernini, especially Giambologna's group Simon Slaying a Philistine for the “conical spiralling position”—set “over a fountain in the grounds of the Cassino Mediceo in Florence in 1560” (Avery 181). See his discussion of Montorsoli's Fountain of Neptune as a precedent for others, including Ammanati, Tommaso Laureti, and Giambologna (179).Google Scholar
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    For the history of the sculpture after it was removed from its original location in 1786, see European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, ed. Paul Williamson (London, 1996). Sir Joshua Reynolds, the painter, purchased it that year and took it with him to England. At his death in 1792, it was sold to Charles Pelham, Lord Yarborough, who kept it in Walpole House, Chelsea. In 1906 it was moved to Brocklesby Park, Lincolnshire, and it is from there the Victoria and Albert Museum acquired the work in 1950 (132). For further discussion see Androsov and Kosareva (“Catalogue” in Bernini's Rome, 62), William Collier (“New Light on Bernini's Neptune and Triton”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 31 [1968], 438–440), and R. Wittkower, “Bernini Studies 1. The Group of Neptune and Triton,” The Burlington Magazine, 94 (1952), 68–76.Google Scholar
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    Adapted from the trnaslation by Allen Mandelbaum (Berkeley, 1971; repr. Toronto and New York, 1981), 6.Google Scholar
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    Adapted from the Loeb Classical Library translation, 23 William Collier suggests this passage as a source, maintaining that receding waters “would have been a strange theme for a fountain and pool. Are we to expect them to dry up at any moment?” (439).Google Scholar
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    Sebastian Schütze in Bernini Scultore, 170–79, suggests that perhaps the composition expresses two moments in time, one after the other: while Neptune is seen to call forth the water, already we see Triton signaling the flood's end. He maintains that in a single sculptural work we can understand divine anger as well as approaching calm.Google Scholar
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    Schütze discusses the intentional nature of this allusion to Genesis (175) and the symbolism of the waters both rising and ceasing as the trident is struck and the conch blown (175). Collier discusses contemporary papal issues and possible connections with the Nepturne and Triton theme as well as possible interpretations of the Barcaccia fountain (as “Ship of the Church”) and the Fountain of the Four Rivers (440).Google Scholar
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    See Avery 180 f. regarding this work, which dates from 1565–8. Although Neptune's stance is similar in both works, a narrative context is more clearly suggested in Bernini's work by facial expression and the addition of Triton. See Wittkower (Bernini) 234 f. regarding the influence of engravings. For general information regarding visual and literary representations of Triton (such as “Triton with Dolphins” by Giambologna cast in 1598), see The Oxford Guide to Classical Mythology in the Arts, 1300–1900's, vol. 2, 1038 ff.: “Triton has little mythology ... (He is) commonly depicted blowing on a conch shell and frolicking in the waves. ...” See Avery 180 f. and Hildegard Utz, “Skulpturen und andere Arbeiten des Battista Lorenzi,” Metropolitan Museum Journal 7 [1973], 60–1) regarding a representation of Triton blowing a conch shell produced by Battista Lorenzi early in the 1570's and probably known to Bernini, Sergei Androsov and Nina Kosareva (“Catalogue”, in Bernini's Rome, Chicago, 1998, 62 f.) regarding a terracotta study for the Neptune and Triton, and Luba Freedman for a history of how Neptune's appearance evolved in the 16th century (“Cinquecento Mythographic Descriptions of Neptune,” International Journal of the Classical Tradition 2 [1995/96], 44–53).Google Scholar
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    See Avery 180 for a discussion of the frontal view as “the central nodule at the hinge of the shell.” Note that spectators do not see this view until they walk around the pond.Google Scholar
  84. 84.
    Note that in Bernini's later Tritone fountain, in Piazza Barberini (1642–43), four dolphins support the shell. And, as noted by Androsov and Kosareva (“Catalogue,” in Bernini's Rome, 79 f.), there exists a terracotta model of Tritons holphins, possibly intended for Piazza Navona. For discussion of dolphins as symbolizing “princely benefaction,” see Hibbard 112.Google Scholar
  85. 85.
    Certainly, considerations other than narrative or symbolic existed: the marble group needed support, for instance.Google Scholar
  86. 86.
    Skulsky discusses the absurdity seen in “tree-perching dolphins, aquatic tigers” (24).Google Scholar
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    For discussion of the orientation of the sculpture, see Avery 180 ff. An important consideration for ready observance of the dolphin is the relative position of sculpture and observer.Google Scholar
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    See Barkan, who in his discussion of Ovid's Narcissus tale, states that “Metamorphosis, then, is a force that underlies all the motions in the story, and the overriding motion is the transformation of real substance into empty fleeting images” (51).Google Scholar
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    See Wittkower 56 regarding Bernini's work on St. Peter's and the church of S. Bibiana during the summer of 1624 as well as on the saint's joyful acceptance of martyrdom.Google Scholar
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    For discussion of the St. Teresa sculpture, see Irving Lavin, Bernini and the Unity of the Visual Arts, especially 107–124, in which he discusses the Cornaro chapel's “fusion of the arts” (14). Lavin considers Teresa's transverberation as “the point of contact between earth and heaven, between matter and spirit” (113). “The apparently distinct themes Bernini conflated with the transverberation—Teresa's death, her eucharistic levitation, and her mystical marriage—are thus profoundly related. Their union made of the Teresa altarpiece an actual embodiment of the ultimate meaning of the liturgy: love, the greatest of Christian virtues, conjoins the invocation of the saint, the sacrifice at the altar and the promise of salvation.”Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ann Thomas Wilkins
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ClassicsDuquesne UniversityPittsburghUSA

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