Ecstasy of St. Teresa
Gianlorenzo Bernini 1645-1652.
Santa Maria della Vittoria Cornaro Chapel, Rome.
Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa emulates many key features of Baroque art. Bernini certainly did not fall short of conveying St. Teresa’s purely ecstatic experience in this life size marble sculpture. Teresa is alive with the passion of love for God. Bernini followed Teresa’s own account of the miracle quite accurately. She described an angel with a golden spear tipped with fire. The angel pierced her heart with the spear and sent her into miraculous ecstasy. Teresa convulses with energy as she floats on her cloud in this chapel. The sculpture is strategically placed under a hidden window that not only allows natural light to bathe the scene but also reflects off the golden rods, which represent heavenly light.
Although controversial, Teresa’s ecstatic response to the piercing love of God is very naturalistic. Bernini is said to have captured many different passions and emotions in this single piece, including pain and pleasure (Martin 104). He no doubt brings to the real world a very limitless and spiritual world. This threshold, along with the concepts of light, naturalism, and dynamism make this sculpture truly representative of the Baroque period.
Martin, John R. Baroque. New York: Harper & Row. 1977.