Revisiting Bernini, Master of Marble

BY Paul Solman  August 21, 2012 at 12:14 PM EDT

The trigger for this post is the publication of a new book on Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini, “Bernini’s Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini.” The author, Emory University art historian Sarah McPhee, is the daughter of New Yorker writer John McPhee and has written on Bernini before. But no one has written more about the 17th century Italian master of marble than Irving Lavin, for decades the resident art historian at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. Indeed, when I sat in on Simon Schama‘s “Power and Authority in the Baroque” course at Harvard in the early ’90s, Lavin was the key Bernini reading.

Soon after, I got to meet Lavin, and in 1998 interviewed him for the NewsHour in conjunction with an exhibit of Bernini terracotta studies at the Art Institute of Chicago. The transcript of that story has been online, but the video has not…until now. I’m pleased to have this Art Beat opportunity to embed the video from our ’98 story, “The Fury of Creation.” It includes Bernini’s bust of Costanza Piccolomini.

P.S. Lavin’s wife, Marilyn Aronberg Lavin, is also a distinguished art historian, and for two years now I’ve wanted to alert Art Beat readers to a recent book of hers: “Artists’ Art in the Renaissance” (The Pindar Press), which contains write-ups of great works of art that were kept by their makers: Lorenzo Ghiberti; Piero della Francesca: Andrea Mantegna (his famous “Dead Christ” with the feet in your face); Michelangelo; Botticelli: Giovanni Bellini; Titian; and, yes, Bernini. The book is impossibly pricey, even used, so I’d look for it (Marilyn, forgive me) at the library.