Bernini: Art as Theatre

Genevieve Warwick, Author
Genevieve Warwick. Yale Univ., $55 (224p) ISBN 978-0-300-18706-9
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Warwick, a University of Edinburgh lecturer and editor of Art History, forms a cogent analysis that locates a masterful sculptor, architect, playwright, and sceneographer within a baroque culture of performance and spectacle. As Warwick contends, Bernini’s (1598–1680) bewitching lifelike sculptures, which employed elements of painting and architecture, were informed by his work in theater at a cultural moment when “theater”—festival, ritual, social customs, and manners—played an organic role in court and religious life. Focused readings of sculptural works in context yield well-founded conclusions, such as that Cathedra Petri, Bernini’s reliquary altarpiece in St. Peter’s, pulled from, and gave “permanent form” to, the ritual performances and decorative displays of the Catholic Quarant’ore. Warwick works deftly across interrelated disciplines, as when she discusses the papacy’s redevelopment of public spaces in relation to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, commissioned by Pope Innocent X. Particularly lucid are Warwick’s later sections on Bernini in the French court, where she shows how creation of the sculptor’s sensational bust of Louis XIV came about amid an array of social, political, and cultural “performances” that manifested in the grand sculpture itself. If exclusively academic, the book repays reader effort with compelling insights. 24 color, 42 b&w illus. (Jan.)
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