Bernini's Michelangelo


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Carolina Mangone

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A novel exploration of the threads of continuity, rivalry, and self-conscious borrowing that connect the Baroque innovator with his Renaissance paragon

Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), like all ambitious artists, imitated eminent predecessors. What set him apart was his lifelong and multifaceted focus on Michelangelo Buonarroti—the master of the previous age. Bernini’s Michelangelo is the first comprehensive examination of Bernini’s persistent and wide-ranging imitation of Michelangelo’s canon (his art and its rules). Prevailing accounts submit that Michelangelo’s pervasive, yet controversial, example was overcome during Bernini’s time, when it was rejected as an advantageous model for enterprising artists. Carolina Mangone reconsiders this view, demonstrating how the Baroque innovator formulated his work by emulating his divisive Renaissance forebear’s oeuvre. Such imitation earned him the moniker “Michelangelo of his age.”
Investigating Bernini’s “imitatio Buonarroti” in its extraordinary scope and variety, this book identifies principles that pervade his production over seven decades in papal Rome. Close analysis of religious sculptures, tomb monuments, architectural ornament, and the design of New Saint Peter’s reveals how Bernini approached Michelangelo’s art as a surprisingly flexible repertory of precepts and forms that he reconciled—here with daring license, there with creative restraint—to the aesthetic, sacred, and theoretical imperatives of his own era. Situating Bernini’s imitation in dialogue with that by other artists as well as with contemporaneous writings on Michelangelo’s art, Mangone repositions the Renaissance master in the artistic concerns of the Baroque from peripheral to pivotal. Without Michelangelo, there was no Bernini.

Carolina Mangone is assistant professor in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University.

“This important new book offers the first in-depth and comprehensive investigation of Bernini’s life-long effort to emulate and, at times, challenge Michelangelo and his works.  What emerges is a new understanding of how Bernini defined his own originality and fashioned himself as a modern artist.”—Steven F. Ostrow, University of Minnesota

“The silver thread throughout [Mangone's book] is the centrality of Michelangelo to Bernini’s self-conception as an artist and to Baroque art theory in general. The relentless pursuit of the Michelangelo gene in Bernini’s DNA illuminates the artist’s major works and probes the fundamental paradox of originality in imitation.”—Joseph Connors, Harvard University

“As a study of artistic influence, [Bernini's Michelangelo] is surely unparalleled in its sweep, depth, and wealth of detail.”—Eric Gibson, New Criterion

“When one genius artist comes along and wants to take on the reigning genius artist of a prior age, what’s the most productive way to proceed? That’s essentially the question tackled by Carolina Mangone in Bernini's Michelangelo, in which the hugely ambitious 17th century Roman sculptor approaches the formidable achievements of the hugely ambitious 16th century Roman sculptor — in ways both sly and previously unsuspected.”—Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times

“Highly recommended”—A. V. Coonin, Choice
ISBN: 9780300247732
Publication Date: June 16, 2020
288 pages, 8 x 10
143 color illus.