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 the 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 portaits 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. The style and orientation of the figure are certainly innovative with regard to 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 contemporaneous 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, despite the fact that his expression appears to have changed. While his face, now thinner, shows signs of ageing, 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  also the white shirt collar dark outer clothes are rendered with just a few brushstrokes, giving the art work a sketch-like appearance, as in other two portraits. It is clear that the artist has focused on the face, avoiding any details that could distract him or the observer.

Gift

The present portrait was part of a gift made in 1911 by Baron Messinger. The fact that Baron Messinger’s collection boasted, together with another self-portrait of Bernini, a number of 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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As architect and city planner, he designed secular buildings, churches, chapels, and public squares, as well as massive works combining both architecture and sculpture, especially elaborate public fountains and funerary monuments and a whole series of temporary structures (in stucco and wood) for funerals and festivals.