Fig. 2, Jacopino del Conte, “Portrait of Michelangelo”, c. 1535 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Fig. 1, Gianlorenzo Bernini, “Self-Portrait as a Mature Man,” c. 1630s, Borghese Gallery (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Influence of Michelangelo on Bernini

Rachel Crist


Gianlorenzo Bernini was one of the greatest artists of his time. He was well-known for his many works in sculpture and architecture. Throughout his lifetime, this artist had many influences that helped him to create his own style while working on many different works. One of the most influential people in his life was Michelangelo Buonarroti, even though this artist had died long before Bernini was born. Michelangelo’s works can be seen distributed across Rome, and Italy, which proved as useful resources for Bernini to study while working on these various pieces of art. The main influences of Michelangelo that can be compared to Bernini’s work are the symbolism and iconography of the posing of the figures and the facial features; the similarities of technique such as drapery, musculature, and preparation of work; and the themes of the works, which are both mythological and religious. The works of Michelangelo and Bernini can be analyzed and compared to reveal the similarities of style, technique, and theme. The works to be compared are primarily sculpture, with the exception of one example of architecture. The sculptures will include some of the most prominent works in each artist’s portfolio. Michelangelo’s works will include the Statue of David, the Pieta, and the Dying Slave. Bernini’s works will also include the David figure, as well as the Ecstasy of St. Teresa, and St. Sebastian. The architecture that will be studied is Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s Basilica and Bernini’s Baldacchino. By analyzing and comparing these works, it will help to better understand what type of influence Michelangelo had on Bernini, and what were the specific themes Bernini took away from this great artist’s work. To determine the exact influence Michelangelo had on Bernini, the viewer must be aware of the history of both artists, must be able to comprehend the differences in the work, while also seeing the similarities, and must see the importance of symbolism in each work.