Baroque: Painters, Sculptors, Architects: A visit to a Bernini chapel

VIS 122B    Baroque:  Painters, Sculptors, Architects
Length:  3 pages, typewritten, double-spaced (please number the pages and do not forget to put your name on the first page).  Please upload your paper to the class website on Canvas under the Assignment tab, First Paper Assignment.

A visit to a Bernini chapel

In a certain sense, a picture especially a panel or easel painting — is easier to analyze than a work of architecture or sculpture because everything is on the same plane:  you do not have to twist and turn around in space to see it.  But you have to move around, at least in your minds eye, in order to understand what is going on in a building or with a sculpture:  they cannot be taken in from a single point of view alone.  This is precisely the issue I would like you to consider in this paper.

What I would like you to focus on is the Cornaro Chapel in the church of S. Maria della Vittoria in Rome, a wonderful example of an ensemble of sculpture and architecture from the Baroque period.  The chapel was designed and decorated by Gianlorenzo Bernini.  Bernini is considered by many to be the greatest sculptor of the Baroque and the Cornaro Chapel, to be his greatest work.  Above the altar, the chapel has a sculpture showing St. Teresa of Avila and an angel.  There are sculpted figures in panels on the side walls and the whole is richly ornamented with colored marbles and stuccoes.  I have put a number of images of the chapel in a ppt on TED, labeled Second Paper Slides, for you to consult.  The images show the walls of the chapel from different angles and there are also many close-up details of the sculptures and decorations.  Use the images to study the sculptures and the space.

What I would like you to do is to concentrate on the three walls of the chapel and to describe and analyze how they relate to one another.  I would suggest you begin by looking carefully at the figures on the three walls.  What do they appear to be doing?  Do they relate to one another across the space of the chapel?  What about the dress, attitude and placement of figures and their gestures and expressions?  What about the lighting in the chapel?  Is there a window to the outside?  If so, where is it placed?  What effect does the lighting have on the sculpture?  What role does the color (or lack thereof) of the various materials marbles, stucco, paint — play here?       

These are suggested points and you do not have to consider every one of them, only the ones you see as important.

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