Bernini: Art as Theatre

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Overview

Bernini: Art as Theatre forges a new analysis of Baroque illusionism through a study of this artist’s sculptural ensembles. Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) was a sculptor, architect, and painter, but also a court scenographer, playwright, actor, and director. Bernini’s work in theater served as a wellspring for his art’s visual effects. Theater was the dominant cultural paradigm of the Baroque, manifest in the rise of opera and ballet, as well as increasingly magnificent scenographic technologies for the performed rituals of church and court. Bernini drew on a lexicon of theatrical effects, deploying light, movement, and a fusion of fictive and physical space to render new forms of artistic illusion in both his sculptural mise-en-scènes and his stage sets. The force of his art’s illusionistic powers lay in a fiction of materials effected through medial exchanges between sculpture, painting, and architecture. This book opens up provocative new frameworks for the analysis of Baroque illusionism extending beyond Bernini to a reconsideration of 17th-century visual culture as a whole.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Warwick, a University of Edinburgh lecturer and editor of Art History, forms a cogent analysis that locates a masterful sculptor, architect, playwright, and sceneographer within a baroque culture of performance and spectacle. As Warwick contends, Bernini’s (1598–1680) bewitching lifelike sculptures, which employed elements of painting and architecture, were informed by his work in theater at a cultural moment when “theater”—festival, ritual, social customs, and manners—played an organic role in court and religious life. Focused readings of sculptural works in context yield well-founded conclusions, such as that Cathedra Petri, Bernini’s reliquary altarpiece in St. Peter’s, pulled from, and gave “permanent form” to, the ritual performances and decorative displays of the Catholic Quarant’ore. Warwick works deftly across interrelated disciplines, as when she discusses the papacy’s redevelopment of public spaces in relation to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, commissioned by Pope Innocent X. Particularly lucid are Warwick’s later sections on Bernini in the French court, where she shows how creation of the sculptor’s sensational bust of Louis XIV came about amid an array of social, political, and cultural “performances” that manifested in the grand sculpture itself. If exclusively academic, the book repays reader effort with compelling insights. 24 color, 42 b&w illus. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300187069
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2013
  • Pages: 308
  • Sales rank: 709,361
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Genevieve Warwick lectures and writes on early modern European art at the University of Edinburgh, and is editor of Art History.

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