Fathering a Master: Evidences of Pietro Bernini in the Work of Gianlorenzo
by Kaylah Rodriguez

Fig. 1. Gianlorenzo Bernini, “Aeneas, Anchises, Anscanius” ,ca. 1618, Villa Borghese, Rome (source – artstor.org)

Fig. 1. Gianlorenzo Bernini, “Aeneas, Anchises, Anscanius” , ca. 1618, Villa Borghese, Rome (source – artstor.org)

Gianlorenzo Bernini is widely regarded as one of the greatest Italian sculptors of all time and certainly of his own time. His artistic genius is undeniable but is often surrounded by myth. This myth is the belief that his genius was essentially unprompted and almost miraculous in nature.  Bernini’s biographer, Franco Mormando, describes this myth as the understanding that “the…realization of the young artist’s potential took place…with little or no active assistance from other human beings, all of whom would have been lesser mortals compared with Gianlorenzo Bernini.”[1]

What this mythic understanding of Gianlorenzo’s genius usually does not take into account, is the fact that his father, Pietro Bernini, was in fact a sculptor himself. Traditionally, Pietro’s critical role in Gianlorenzo’s artistic ability and development has been rarely discussed. In instances where it has been briefly acknowledged, it has generally still been minimized or dismissed.  However, within an examination of the stylistic qualities of both artists’ work and their comparable involvement in the paragone, as well as a psychoanalytic interpretation of Gianlorenzo’s work, there exists evidence of a highly involved and influential Pietro in the life of his son.

[1] Franco Mormando, Bernini: His Life and His Rome (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), 37.