Cardinal Federico Cornaro, belonged to one of the richest families of Venice. With him, Bernini did not have budget limitations and he and his team worked for years (1647-1651) on a chapel in honour of St. Teresa in the church of S. Maria della Vittoria. Cardinal Cornaro required Bernini to execute personally the sculptures and the outcome is one of his masterpieces.
(left) Cappella Cornaro seen from the exterior; (right) main altar
The light falls from hidden windows in the top of the altar on the statues of the saint and of the angel. The use of golden rays will again be considered by Bernini in St Peter's Chair of St Peter. The curved shape of the altar reminds me of the niches designed by Borromini in the same period in S. Giovanni in Laterano.
(left) Altar (right) coloured relief portraying Cardinal Federico Cornaro and members of his family
watching the ecstasy of St. Teresa
Cardinal Cornaro wanted many members (including ancestors) of his family to be commemorated so Bernini devised two reliefs showing them in the background of the nave of a church. The first impression is to see them in the boxes of a theatre.
Ceiling of the chapel
Details of the chapel: architecture of
the church behind the Cornaro family; self-portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini; St. Teresa's foot; a skeleton watching from the pavement
The genius of Bernini and the professionalism of his team are revealed by the attention to the details in all the elements of the chapel. Dan Brown set here an episode of his novel Angels and Demons; read some remarks on it.
Other pages dealing with Baroque sculpture:
Statues in the act of praying
Monuments showing the dead in a medallion
Three chapels by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Representation of Death in Baroque sculptures
Three busts by Alessandro Algardi
Baroque Monuments to the Popes
Bernini's Exiled Statue
Baroque High Reliefs
Statues Close to Heaven
Embittered Andrew (the statues in St. Peter's octagon)
Playing with Colours