The sixteenth century in Europe was a time of unprecedented change. It was the beginning of the modern era, and it saw a revolution in almost every aspect of life. The century opened with the discovery of a new continent
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This sculpture presents a mystical figure who is physically overwhelmed by a miraculous vision. Functioning as a sort of tableau vivant with busts of members of the Cornaro family seeming to serve as witnesses, the composition reflects Bernini's experience as a stage designer. The fusion of architecture, painting, and sculpture is further intensified by the combination of colored marbles.
The Baldacchino was the first of Bernini's works mixing sculpture and architecture. The result was a Baroque construction which replaces the usual ciborium by showing a scenographic allegory of a funerary catafalque. The work was executed in collaboration with numerous collaborators of the artist, including Francesco Borromini for the architectonic part, and Stefano Maderno, François Duquesnoy, Andrea Bolgi, Giuliano Finelli and Luigi Bernini for the sculptural one.
Was a prominent and influential Baroque architect, and active in Rome and contemporary with the prolific papal architect and often rival, Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Baroque architecture, starting in the early 17th century in Italy, took the humanist Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and used it in a new rhetorical, theatrical, sculptural fashion, expressing the triumph of absolutist church and state. New architectural concerns for color, light and shade, sculptural values and intensity characterize the Baroque. But whereas the Renaissance drew on the wealth and power of the Italian courts, and was a blend of secular and religious forces, the Baroque was, initially at least, directly linked to the Counter-Reformation a movement within the Catholic Church to reform itself in response to the Protestant Reformation.
long, narrow naves are replaced by broader, occasionally circular forms
After Pope Urban VIII died, the papacy became restricted in their power. The Barberini family, who supported Bernini, soon fell out of power following the election of the new pope, Innocent X. Bernini had been Urban's favorite sculptor, but was replaced by Algardi. To make matters worse Bernini lost his job as the architect of St. Peters, after he failed at building the bell towers. While it had not been Bernini's fault, the south tower had cracked because of the bad foundation, and had to be dismantled. Rival artist took the opportunity to take Bernini's power and respect that he had worked so hard to gain. Borromini and other sculptors claimed Bernini was incompetent after the bell tower fiasco.
Ganges, symbolizing the continent of Asia, holds an oar and looks solemnly over the piazza. The Nile statue personifies Africa. The sculpture's face is covered with a robe to characterize the mystery that surrounds the continent. A palm tree rises from the base and lions come from the crevasse in the rock for a drink. Finally, the Rio della Plata symbolizes the Americas and shrinks against the rock with his arms raised. As he leans back, he guards a treasure of coins. The Plata is portrayed as a black man and has some Moorish features to him, such as the jeweled leg-band. Even the fountains drain was given a creative twist and turned into a fish with its mouth open, as if drinking the water.
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