Bust of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine 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 Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine by Gian Lorenzo Bernini is a two-foot sculpture that the artist worked on in the 17th century. It was commissioned in 1621 and completed in 1624.

When working on the sculpture, Gian Bernini used marble to curve out the resemblance of Cardinal Roberto. The sculpture of the bust of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine depicts the Cardinal from his waist upwards. The Cardinal is stretching out his hands in prayer while adorning a priests robe and regalia. One has to be amazed with the skill which Gian Lorenzo possessed as he manages to capture every detail of the cardinal's features. The Mannerist artists mainly influenced this sculpture. It is a dynamic work of art which one can view from multiple directions which invite a viewer to be part of the art. He uses an emotive facial expression which further gives the sculpture feats of technical mastery.

The sculpture itself is soft and smooth to the touch with each feature placed where it is supposed to be. From the wrinkles in the hands to the buttons of the robe everything is intricately set with a great deal of artistic genius. The flutters of the fabric give it a snapped moment kind of look with stillness in the frenzy of motion. All these factors give the sculpture a natural look which critics term a perfected version of reality.

From his balding hairline to the beard which the cardinal had, the details are in shocking resemblance. Lorenzo Bernini even included stubbles on the face of the cardinal in this sculpture to indicate one of the facial features the cardinal possessed. The eyes seem to be deep in thought and below them are eye bags which show that the cardinal was a bit old and weary. There are wrinkle lines on the face of the sculpture which are in complete symmetry and they further enhance its facial attributes.

White marble was used for this sculpture mainly to signify purity that gets associated with the church. Bernini wanted the statue to indicate life. Although only a marble sculpture, one will be forgiven to think the spirit of the cardinal inhabits it. There is an internal animation of the Bust of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine that gives it a lifelike appearance. It portrays a person who is contemplative, has an inward-looking appearance but is still alive.

Although it has not received critical acclaim from pundits or the art world, everyone agrees that it is a thing of marvel. Bernini drew his influence from the greats that came before him. It was not surprising that he was referred to as the heir to Michelangelo. Bernini was a religious individual, but the mythological nature of the world also influenced him. The classic collections of Scipione Borghese were some of the figures he was interested in as well.

The Bust of Cardinal Roberto Bellarmine by Gian Lorenzo Bernini got commissioned by Pope Gregory XV and Cardinal Odoardo Farnese. It currently sits in the Church of the Gesu in Rome. It is rarely given out for viewing although the management recently allowed it to get showcased in America at the 75th anniversary of a Connecticut Jesuit University.