words by Carol King
New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting ‘Bernini Sculpting in Clay’ from 3 October. The landmark exhibition assembles almost all of the artist’s surviving terracotta models that showcase his dazzling skills as both a modeller and sculptor.
Dedicated to the great Roman Baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the show concentrates on the small, spirited clay models that he made worked with his fingers and small tools to visualise the life-size and colossal marbles that he went on to produce. Fired as terracotta, Bernini’s studies and related drawings reveal the first traces of the sculptor’s ideas that were then realised to produce some of the most famous statuary in Rome.
The show assembles for the first time some 40 of Bernini’s modelli (models), as well as 30 chalk or pen bozzetti (sketches) alongside three small-scale bronzes and a marble group. Combined with important clay studies created by his assistants, the works on display illustrate how the artist directed the largest workshop of the time by offering an insight into his creative process.
Works shown include a terracotta model for the lion (c. 1649-50) destined for the base of the Four Rivers Fountain in Rome’s Piazza Navona in Rome, and drawings and clay sketches for the Kneeling Angels (1672) on the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The most famous and important sculptor in 17th-century Europe, Bernini is best known for his dynamic works in marble that decorate many of Rome’s famous landmarks, such as the angels on the Ponte Sant’Angelo.
‘Bernini Sculpting in Clay’ is open until 6 January, 2013