On Exhibit: monumental first drafts | Calendar | Chicago Reader

On Exhibit: monumental first drafts 

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The inventory list reads like the triage ledger at an emergency room: Theresa is missing her right-hand middle finger and left-hand little finger; Neptune is without both arms; Pluto has lost his right arm and left hand; the Executioner lacks his left arm and his right hand; an angel is missing "both hands as well as the object in them."

But the spotlight in this exhibit currently at the Art Institute, "Bernini's Rome: Italian Baroque Terracottas From the State Hermitage," is really on the hands of artists like Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), who sculpted a dozen of the baked clay works on display. Standing one to two feet tall, with surfaces like cake frosting, these works originally served as models for the monumental papal commissions that put Rome on the map as "the center of Catholicism and the cultural capital of Europe," in the words of the show's organizers.

"By the 17th century, successful sculptors rarely put a chisel to the final sculpture themselves," writes Sergei Androsov, the Hermitage's curator of sculpture, in the exhibit catalog. "Thus, terracotta models were often the last objects in the process that sculptors touched with their own hands."

Black-and-white photographs document several finished projects as they exist today in Italy's piazzas and cathedrals, but almost all of these are scaled down to the same dimensions as the terra-cottas. By downplaying the magnitude of the finished works, the exhibit highlights the humbler models crafted directly by the artists' hands.

"Bernini's Rome: Italian Baroque Terracottas From the State Hermitage" closes this Sunday. It's at the Art Institute, Michigan and Adams. Call 312-443-3600 for more.

--Bill Stamets

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini photo courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago.


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Agenda Teaser

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