Bernini Self-Portrait at a Mature Age

Self-Portrait at a Mature Age is the oil on canvas by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The dimensions of the painting are 53 x 42 cm. It is located in Room XIV of the Borghese Gallery.

History

The portray likely constitutes the left half of a Double Self-Portrait with Costanza Bonarelli, reported as already separated at the artist’s death.

Between about 1620 and 1640, Bernini devoted himself to painting, executing one hundred and fifty works according to Filippo Baldinucci (1682), two hundred if you believe the biography written by his son Domenico (1713)

The Self-Portrait, which appeared on the old 50,000-lira banknotes, belongs to the artist’s mature period, when the impact of Guercino, Lanfranco, and Velázquez (which can be seen within the portraits from the 1620s, such as the Self-Portrait as a Young Man and the Portrait of a Boy, both within the Borghese collection) is not apparent. Nevertheless, the style and orientation of the figure are certainly innovative concerning the past solutions.

Additionally, the work is on the level of the most resonating results accomplished by Bernini in sculptural representation, such as within the recent busts of Scipione Borghese and Costanza Bonarelli.

Analysis

Together with the Portrait of a Boy and the Self-Portrait as a Young Man (both located in this room), this painting, datable to 1630/1635, is an example of the artist’s pictorial output especially of his interest in physiognomy. 

In fact, nowadays, about a dozen paintings by the artist are known to exist

The three-quarters pose adopted by Bernini in this self-portrait is the mirror image of his Self-Portrait as a Young Man, even though his expression appears to have changed. While his face, now thinner, shows signs of aging, his hair is receding a little, there are some lines on his forehead, and he has faint rings under his eyes. Thus, ten years later, his expression is more composed.

The background and the white shirt collar and dark outer clothes are rendered with just a few brushstrokes, giving the artwork a sketch-like appearance, as in the other two portraits. But, again, the artist has focused on the face, avoiding details that could distract him or the observer.

Gift

The present portrait was part of a gift made in 1911 by Baron Otto Messinger. Baron Messinger’s collection boasted, together with another self-portrait of Bernini, several portraits of the Chigi suggests that the remarkable group of works owned by the Messinger had previously belonged to the Chigi family.

Borghese Gallery in Rome,

Author: Gian Lorenzo Bernini

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Gian Lorenzo Bernini, as architect and city planner, designed secular buildings, churches, chapels, and public squares, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, incredibly elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments, and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals.