Bust of Alessandro Peretti di Montalto Gian Lorenzo Bernini Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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The Bust of Alessandro Peretti di Montalto was executed in 1622-1623 by the famous Italian sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

The marble portrait sculpture was considered lost and only identified during the 1980s. It's the reason why it wasn't included in the catalog published by German art historian Rudolf Wittkower's. In 1910, the masterpiece was consigned to the Hamburg Kunsthalle by Freiherr Johann Heinrich von Schroder together with his full collection of paintings dating to the 19th century. However, there's no registration, attribution or date concerning the time of the grant.

Cardinal Montanto ordered the Neptune and Triton fountain from Bernini at his villa next to Rome. Bertini also created the David statue for Cardinal Montalto's Villa Borghese. Concerning the bust of the cardinal, art historians and scholars are still debating who commissioned it. Some argue that the cardinal requested its creation, while others state it's a tribute paid by Bernini in honor of Peretti. Alessandro Peretti di Montalto was a Cardinal Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. His uncle granted him the title in 1585 after he was named Pope Sixtus V when Montalto was only 14 years old. That same year, Montalto became a Venice patrician, as described in the Libro d'Oro.

The cardinal's life was extravagant. He was passionate about music and theatre and hosted many shows at the Cancelleria Palace. The Bust of Alessandro Peretti di Montalto has no precedent. It comprises both simplicity and sophistication. Bernini uses exquisite marble carvings to express the nobility of the cardinal and outline his expressivity. The artist depicts the Cardinal's power and passion for perfection through the carefully sculpted facial features. The cardinal appears immersed in thought and his direct view suggests his sought for answers. Bernini accurately sketches the cardinal's bone structure which argues in favor of his strength and social ranking.

The life-size portrait precisely expresses Montalto's grandeur and prestige. Bernini slightly includes dynamics to the static portrait through the waves of the cardinal's garment. It's a tribute to his personality's depth and intensity. The garment appears closed and suggests a reluctance of the cardinal's state of being. Although he was an esteemed cardinal of the time, he maintained an inner peace and serenity which allowed him to be rational but also indulge in his love for the arts.

The Bust of Alessandro Peretti di Montalto has been subject to debate throughout the years. Both art historians and scholars are unsure about the commissioning of the portrait. Bernini's sculpture is in exquisite condition and displayed at the Hamburg Kunsthalle. The only damage caused to it is a small nick of the upper edge on his left ear. Also, the sculpture's base was altered and heightened. The dimensions of the portrait stand at an overall height of 88 cm including the base and a width of 65 cm.