The renowned Animas, two marble heads considered one of the most important works of baroque sculptor, painter and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s youth, are not a representation of a Christian soul’s personification enjoying the pleasures of the Heaven or tormented by the punishment received in Hell (as believed until now); rather they really are mythological sculptures: a nymph and a satyr, respectively.
This revelation came from David García Cueto, Arts History professor at the University of Granada (UGR), in an article published in the renowned Sculpture Journal magazine, belonging to the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom). In his article, García Cueto comes to this astonishing conclusion about these two renowned sculptures that can be seen at the Spanish Embassy in front of the Holy See (Rome).
García Cueto has proposed that the Animas are mythological sculptures based on unpublished documents of that time coming from the Archivio Storico Capitolino (the Roman Historical Archives) in Rome. “This revelation opens the way to a new interpretation of his work, absent in Bernini’s huge historiography until now,” the researcher stresses.
The first conclusions of this research were published at a conference held February 15 at Museo Nacional del Prado (Madrid, Spain) on the occasion of the exhibition Bernini, Roma y la Monarquía Hispánica, siglos XVI-XVIII (HAR2014-52061-P) [Bernini, Rome and the Spanish Monarchy, XVI-XVIII centuries].
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) was an Italian sculptor, architect and painter. He worked in Rome, mainly, and he is considered the most prominent sculptor of his generation and creator of the Baroque sculpture style.
As scholar Katherine Eustace has commented, “What Shakespeare is to drama, Bernini may be to sculpture: the first Pan-European sculptor whose name is instantaneously identifiable with a particular manner and vision, and whose influence was inordinately powerful.”
His talent extended beyond the confines of sculpture to a consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesize sculpture, painting, and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the art historian Irving Lavin the “unity of the visual arts.”
Bernini had the ability to express very dramatic narrative scenes in his sculptures. He was able to capture intense psychological states and also to compose sculpture sets transmitting a magnificent grandeur. His ability to sculpt marble lead to him being seen as a worthy successor to Michelangelo, and far above other artists of his time such as Alessandro Algardi and François Duquesnoy.
University of Granada