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Bernini Exhibition – Los Angeles

Dec 7th, 2008 | By | Category: Property of the Week

Italy has sent 14 works by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for an exhibition at the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles – the first major loan since Italy and the Getty made peace after a long and bitter battle over contested antiquities.

The Getty’s show features 60 works by the 17th-century Baroque master including paintings, drawings and sculptures from museums including Rome’s Galleria Borghese and Palazzo Barberini as well as Florence’s Bargello Museum.

”I’m very proud that the Getty is hosting one of the most complete retrospectives ever dedicated to Bernini, who was without doubt one of the best portrait artists of all time,” said Getty director Michael Brand at the inauguration of the Bernini show this week.

Getty spokesperson Rebecca Taylor echoed Brand’s comments.
”It’s a really exceptional exhibition because for the first time in America all these masterpieces are gathered in the same room,” she explained.

Included in the Getty show are Bernini’s celebrated self-portrait oil painting from 1623 and a bust of Bernini’s early patron Cardinal Scipione Borghese, both on loan from Galleria Borghese.  Also on display is the Bargello’s marble bust of Bernini’s lover, Costanza Bonarelli – the only portrait Bernini ever produced without a commission.

British art critic Jonathan Jones has said that the bust captures Costanza ”mid-glance, mid-conversation, perhaps before or after sex”.   Other works are on loan from the British Museum in London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Art Museum in Copenhagen.

Bernini (1598-1680) first rose to prominence as a sculptor but, like his predecessor Michelangelo, his talent extended to painting and architecture.  The general public is mainly familiar with his work at the Vatican, where as chief architect he designed St Peter’s square and the surrounding colonnade.
He is also credited with shaping Rome into a Baroque city by sprinkling it with a number of churches and fountains, including the Triton fountain in Piazza Barberini and the spectacular Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona.

Relations between Italy and the Getty have been strained in recent years over a number of art treasures in the museum’s collection that Italy said had been illegally smuggled out of the country.  At one point the Italian government threatened to cut ties with the Getty unless the disputed artefacts were returned, but the museum eventually agreed to hand over 40 treasures last September, including a 5th-century BC statue of Aphrodite.
Bernini and the Birth of Portrait Sculpture runs at the Getty until October 26 before moving to the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa from November 28 to March 8, 2009.

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