Bernini's Biographies

Critical Essays

Paper or softback
Maarten Delbeke, Evonne Levy, Steven F. Ostrow
Published 13 Jun 2007
List Price £29.95



“Although there is more biographical writing on the incomparable Gian Lorenzo Bernini than on any other early modern artist, including Michelangelo), the investigation of these writings remains surprisingly incomplete. This fascinating and highly original book is therefore a welcome addition to the literature, for it both consolidates our present understanding of these biographies, which can be traced to Bernini himself, and raises important questions about these writings for future consideration. Bernini’s Biographies will therefore be of great interest to scholars of art history, literature, and the social history of art alike.”

—Paul Barolsky, University of Virginia

“In addition to bringing together various methodologies to bear upon the study of Bernini’s vite, this work also seeks to unravel the Gordian knot of the authorship of the biographies. . . . Taken as a whole, this collection of essays provides a series of departure points for future studies in the history of Bernini’s biographies, the life of Bernini himself, and artistic biography in general. . . . Despite the seeming contradiction between engaging closely with the history and genesis of Bernini’s biographies while simultaneously interrogating them from various literary, historical, and philological viewpoints, these essays are an immensely useful addition to the field.”

—Kristin A. Triff, Renaissance Quarterly

“An outstanding contribution to a subject of signal importance.”

—Brian Tovey, Art Newspaper

“This is an important book that is essential reading for anyone engaged in the study of Bernini and the Baroque, and indeed a cautionary and exemplary tale for historians who take artists’ lives at face value. . . . Bernini’s Biographies is a challenging read but a rewarding one . . . [which] brings together and epitomises the problems and debates surrounding the construction of an artist as a historical and/or literary figure. It will prove useful for those interested in this difficult and complex area—the confluence of art history and literary theory.”

—Carol M. Richardson, The Art Book

“This [is an] absorbing book, which tells us a great deal about Bernini, but also a fair bit about textuality, myth, sub-genres of biography and even in one essay, the typological conventions of the time.”

—Keith Miller, Times Literary Supplement

“As an edited volume of scholarly essays, this collection sets a new standard for excellence. The quality of all contributions is uniformly high—something that can rarely be said of such collections.”

—Sheila McTighe, Oxford Art Journal

Unique among early modern artists, the Baroque painter, sculptor, and architect Gianlorenzo Bernini was the subject of two monographic biographies published shortly after his death in 1680: one by the Florentine connoisseur and writer Filippo Baldinucci (1682), and the second by Bernini’s son, Domenico (1713).

This interdisciplinary collection of essays by historians of art and literature marks the first sustained examination of the two biographies, first and foremost as texts. A substantial introductory essay considers each biography’s author, genesis, and foundational role in the study of Bernini. Nine essays combining art-historical research with insights from philology, literary history, and art and literary theory offer major new insights into the multifarious connections between biography, art history, and aesthetics, inviting readers to rethink Bernini’s life, art, and milieu.

Contributors are Eraldo Bellini, Heiko Damm, John D. Lyons, Sarah McPhee, Tomaso Montanari, Rudolf Preimesberger, Robert Williams, and the editors.


List of Illustrations


Prolegomena to the Interdisciplinary Study of Bernini’s Biographies

Maarten Delbeke, Evonne Levy, and Steven F. Ostrow

1 At the Margins of the Historiography of Art: The Vite of Bernini Between Autobiography and Apologia

Tomaso Montanari

2 Bernini’s Voice: From Chantelou’s Journal to the Vite

Steven F. Ostrow

3 Plotting Bernini: A Triumph over Time

John D. Lyons

4 Chapter 2 of Domenico Bernini’s Vita of His Father: Mimeses

Evonne Levy

5 “Always Like Himself”: Character and Genius in Bernini’s Biographies

Robert Williams

6 Bernini Portraits, Stolen and Nonstolen, in Chantelou’s Journal and the Bernini Vite

Rudolf Preimesberger

7 Gianlorenzo on the Grill: The Birth of the Artist in His “Primo Parto di Divozione”

Heiko Damm

8 Gianlorenzo Bernini’s Bel Composto: The Unification of Life and Work in Biography and Historiography

Maarten Delbeke

9 From Mascardi to Pallavicino: The Biographies of Bernini and Seventeenth-Century Roman Culture

Eraldo Bellini

10 Costanza Bonarelli: Biography Versus Archive

Sarah McPhee


List of Contributors


Maarten Delbeke is Assistant Professor of architectural history and theory at the universities of Ghent and Leiden. Formerly the Scott Opler Fellow in Architectural History at Worcester College (Oxford), he is the author of several articles and a forthcoming book on Seicento art and theory.

Evonne Levy is Associate Professor of the History of Art at the University of Toronto. She is also the author of Propaganda and the Jesuit Baroque (2004).

Steven F. Ostrow is Professor and Chair of Art History at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Art and Spirituality in Counter-Reformation Rome: The Sistine and Pauline Chapels in S. Maria Maggiore (1996) and served as contributing editor for Dosso's Fate: Painting and Court Culture in Renaissance Italy (1998).