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The drawings of Gian Lorenzo Bernini number around 300 in total, but many more would have been lost over the years since his career took hold in the 17th century
His most proficient sketchwork would have been study pieces for some of his sculptural or architectural commissions. These complex projects would need considerable planning prior to commencing the final piece and drawings could be put together extremely quickly in order to try our an idea on a specific element of the overall artwork.
Another reason for Bernini to opt for this medium would be to give small gifts to well connected friends and patrons as a way of strengthening his relationships and encouraging future opportunities. Rembrandt famously would do a similar thing, with little time or resources needed to make a very well received gesture. In many cases Bernini would produce direct portraits of those receiving the gift, such as Agostino Mascardi, Scipione Borghese and Sisinio Poli
The drawings of Bernini has received less artistic research than his sculptures but there are some insightful publications in a variety of languages which together provide an extensive survey of his work in this medium. Leipzig's Museum der bildenden Kunste held the most recent exhibition of his work in this field, boosted by their own impressive permanent collection. More can be found in the Vatican collection. The majority of the rest are spread thinly around major libraries and private collections across Europe.
According to the Royal Collection in the UK, a self-portrait dated circa 1675-1680 is considered his finest drawing, though they would be biased by their own ownership of this artwork. It was completed in black and white chalks on buff paper and is pictured as the main photograph in this page. One aspect of this drawing which certainly is intriguing is the honesty in how the artist portrays himself, displaying a clear confidence in himself and his appearance.
Whilst the vast majority of research literature on his career has been almost entirely on his sculptures, the most respected publications on Gian Lorenzo Bernini drawings are as follows:
- Heinrich Brauer and Rudolf Wittkower, Die Ziechnungen des Gianlorenzo Bernini, Berlin
- Verlag Heinrich Keller, 1931, reprinted New York: Collectors Edition, 1970
- Ann Sutherland Harris, Selected Drawings of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, New York: Dover, 1977
- Three Proposals for Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Master Drawings, vol. 41, no.2 (Summer 2003)
- Hans-Werner Schmidt et al., Bernini: Erfinder des barocken Rom, Bielefeld: Kerber Art, 2014
- Drawings by Bernini and His School at the Vatican Apostolic Library. Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, 2015