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The Bust of Costanza Bonarelli is a marble portrait sculpture by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini, created in the 1630s.[1] It is housed in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, Italy.[2] Considered among the most personal of Bernini's work, the bust depicts Costanza Piccolomini Bonarelli, the wife of Matteo Bonarelli, one of Bernini's pupils and coworkers. Bernini fell passionately in love with her. It is an exceptional sculpture in that it breaks with the tradition of seventeenth century portrait sculpturing and previews the style of the next century.[clarification needed][3]

Bust of Costanza Bonarelli
Gianlorenzo bernini, ritratto di costanza bonarelli, 1637-38, 02.JPG
ArtistGian Lorenzo Bernini
Year1636–37 (1636–37)
Dimensions72 cm (28 in)
LocationMuseo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
CoordinatesCoordinates: 43°46′13.34″N 11°15′30.06″E / 43.7703722°N 11.2583500°E / 43.7703722; 11.2583500


The subject of the work is Costanza Bonarelli, with whom he fell in love when her husband was working as Bernini's assistant in 1636. Later, Bernini discovered his brother had also been having a vigorous affair with Costanza. This created tension and led to Bernini assaulting his brother and ordering a slave to harm Costanza (leading to a deep scar on the side of her face), which led Pope Urban VIII to intervene. He advised Bernini to get married, which he did, in 1639, to Caterina Tezio. Their marriage lasted 34 years and produced 11 children. Bernini would remain professional and increasingly religious to the last, when another Pope blessed him on his deathbed.[2]


Bernini's theme in Bust of Costanza Bonarelli is the vitality of power. Bernini's aesthetic is centred on the power of sex, later epitomized in the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1647–1652). For Bernini, Costanza is an angel that fills him with ecstasy.[2]

Distinguishing featuresEdit

The Bust of Costanza Bonarelli invites such anachronistic descriptions as impressionist, romantic, and rococo. It has been described as being "light as air". Jonathan Jones wrote:

He has made an intimate monument to secret moments, a sculpted memento of his lover, whose marble reality dissolves, when you chance on her among the stony dead, into breath, life. Bernini's genius for motion is dedicated to making his lover live for ever. Her wild hair and loose clothes speak of energy and passion. He has caught her mid-glance, mid-conversation, perhaps before or after sex.[2]


  1. ^ Wittkower, Rudolf. Bernini, the Sculptor of the Roman Baroque. Fourth Edition, 1997, p. 256.
  2. ^ a b c d Jones, Jonathan (8 August 2003). "Costanza Bonarelli, Gianlorenzo Bernini (c1636-37)". The Guardian. Retrieved November 27, 2011.
  3. ^ "Bust of Costanza Bonarelli". The Terminartors. Archived from the original on March 23, 2012. Retrieved March 27, 2012. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help); Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)

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