Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece

If I could post a photo of Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne” sculpture, I would . . . alas, the Borghese Gallery prohibited photography so all I have is my memory of standing with my husband and two boys, just the four of us in the presence of that incredible statue, awed into hushed silence, absorbing the breathtaking beauty and detail of his artistry before other visitors entered the room.

In honor of Bernini’s remarkable talent, I offer a photo of St. Jerome instead.  This masterful sculpture is housed in the Duomo of Siena, in the Chigi Chapel.  

Bernini's St. Jerome ~ Chigi Chapel, Duomo of Siena, Italy

Bernini’s attention to detail left me standing in front of this piece for longer than I had intended — taking in the subtle ripples of muscles under the marble skin, which created a sense of suppleness, and the slightly-opened mouth, from which a pained sigh was certain to exit.  As St. Jerome cradled the crucifix, the sculpture emoted in a remarkably lifelike manner.

While I give you St. Jerome in response to this week’s challenge, I will close the post with reference to an interesting article titled “Bernini’s Genius” that the Smithsonian magazine published in October 2008.  The article reminds us of the many works that insure Bernini’s eternal artistic fame, such as the canopy over St. Peter’s tomb and the grand piazza outside of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican (both of which I featured in an earlier post). The words I leave you with hearken back to a different work of art, though, as mentioned in the opening of this post — the magic of Bernini’s masterpiece, “Apollo and Daphne”:

In his sculpture of the mythological Daphne, who was transformed into a laurel tree by her father to elude the unwanted attentions of Apollo, Bernini showed Daphne’s skin changing to bark, her toes elongating into root tendrils and her fingers sprouting leaves, just as the lustful Apollo, his prize in his grasp, begins to realize what is happening. The Apollo and Daphne is a jaw-dropping feat of virtuosity. “In my opinion, not even the ancients did anything to equal it,” Bacchi says. The roughness of the bark, the translucence of the leaves, the nymph’s flying tresses—all are carved with such exquisite specificity that, once again, it is easy to overlook the audacity of the concetto. The process of metamorphosis was a subject for painters, not something to show by chiseling and drilling hard stone. And yet, wasn’t metamorphosis a sculptor’s task? Carving a block of stone into a lifelike form could be seen as a supernatural—even divine—feat.

(Read the full article on Bernini: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/bernini-genius.html#ixzz2aCoWgAcV .)

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge.  ”Masterpiece” was this week’s theme.  Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here.

24 responses to “Weekly Photo Challenge: Masterpiece”

  1. Sheer perfection Kat! And phenomenal capture. “The Agony and the Ecstasy” remains one of my all time favourite books 🙂


  2. Good on you! After days of thought, I still couldn’t choose, so opted for a bit of a joke, so I’m envious there was one moment that took your breath away and has permeated your soul … 🙂


  3. I love Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne! And your image of St. Jerome. So cool how you can fall into such deep attention to a beautiful sculpture, it just draws you in. So, I found your blog by way of Off The Merry Go Round (thanks for your comment this morning!), but your post reminded me of this one I wrote on my own “fun” blog about some sculpture I was looking forward to seeing: http://thesimplegiftsblog.com/2013/04/24/the-five-davids/. I’m glad I found your blog!


  4. A lovely masterpiece, indeed. Enjoyed reading your thoughts. My son and daughter-in-law were just in Italy for their honeymoon and my son’s description of David sounded like your description of Bernini. I haven’t developed a sculpting eye–yet.


    • I have to say that it was on this trip to Italy that I really grew to appreciate sculpture — David was amazing, although I would love to return when it was less crowded (if there is ever such a thing). But, seeing the sculptures in the rooms designed around them in the Borghese Gallery was special, as was seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta in St. Peter’s, and Michelangelo’s Moses, . . . and kicking off that trip with a brief stop in Paris where we saw the classic Venus and could understand finally all the hype that surrounds her, although I have to say the Winged Victory of Samothrace left the deepest impression on me as I first saw climbing the stairs and had trouble pulling away from her imposing figure in the gallery. I have to wonder if reading the story of Michelangelo presented in Irving Stone’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy” just before the trip colored my attitude toward sculpture, as I found fascinating Michelangelo’s approach to sculpture as he chipped away the marble or other medium to reveal the form waiting inside. (Whew, that was long-winded!)


  5. I see you are a kindred spirit of Bernini. While my personal favorite is the Rape of Proserpina, I cannot get over the motion frozen in time of Apollo and Daphne. To be there at the Villa Borghese and be within a hair’s breath of these works was awe inspiring, and it’s been nearly 8 years. I still contemplate Pluto’s hand grasping Proserpina’s thigh and wonder how that much life, passion, and violence can be achieved in a piece of marble. Your choice is a fantastic representation of “Masterpiece”.


  6. Incredible — such emotion! I have got to add this to my must-see places, the next time I visit Italy . . . (Also have to say, thank you for giving us the close-up and from-below angle, it really brings home the majesty)


  7. I definitely agree that Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne rank up there as one of the greatest masterpieces ever created. My husband and I were awestruck by it’s incredible life-likeness and beauty. But though I have never seen Bernini’s St. Jerome, I love your image of the sculpture. The angle of your picture really creates a story. Beautiful.


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