The Influence of Bernini on Rodin: Conveying Emotion

By Mary Williams

Figure 20: Bernini, "Damned Soul," 1619, Rome, Spanish Embassy (source-

Figure 20: Bernini, “Damned Soul,” 1619, Rome, Spanish Embassy (source-

Dramatic portrayals of emotion were characteristic of the Baroque, especially Bernini’s, artwork.[1] He used facial expressions, body language, and movement to create a compelling composition. A work in which Bernini exhibits the most intense emotion is his Damned Soul (Figure 20). The tense muscles stretch across his face as his mouth opens wide in a fit of rage. The curls of his hair mimic the wildness of the man’s actions. Bernini depicts the true torment of a damned soul. The powerful agony emanates from the figure and captivates the viewer. Rodin was captivated by Bernini’s powerful sense of emotion, and after his trip to Italy he began to explore the depths of emotion his sculptures could reveal.

Rodin became known for his use of emotion as well. His bust The Cry directly relates to the misery and energy Bernini used in his sculpture (Figure 21). The man depicted throws his head back and calls out in sorrow in the same way the Damned Soul cries out in rage. His brow is furrowed and his eyes plead for help. James Huneker described the work of Rodin and suggested, “His marbles do not represent, but present, emotion; they are the evocation of emotion itself; as in music, form and substance coalesce.”[2] The Cry clearly exhibits the characteristics Huneker described. Rodin did not make a simple bust of a man that cries out. He made a bust that became the man experiencing pain, allowing the viewer to experience the raw emotions. From Bernini, Rodin learned to use the details of the facial expression, such as the tense brow and compelling eyes, to convince the viewer of the man’s emotional state.


Figure 21: Rodin, "The Cry," 1886, Paris, Musée Rodin (source-

Figure 21: Rodin, “The Cry,” 1886, Paris, Musée Rodin (source-

[1] Gerard G. LeCoat, “Comparative Aspects of the Theory of Expression in the Baroque Age,” Eighteenth-Century Studies 5, no. 2 (Winter 1971-1972): 207-208, (accessed April 2013).

[2] James Huneker, “Introduction,” Rodin: The Man and His Art, Judith Cladel, trans. S.K. Star (New York: The Century Co., 1917)