Neptune by Bernini

Neptune is a bronze sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, located in the Borghese Gallery in Rome. Its height is 52 cm, and you can find it in Room IV.


Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) is considered the foremost celebrated and influential sculptor of 17th century Europe. His inventive designs and unrivaled expertise in carving marble secured the support of successive popes and prelates and moved Rome to the forefront of the aesthetic world. The display bronze figure of Neptune is almost certainly cast from a model the artist created as he attempted to conclude the composition of a marble fountain commissioned within the early 1620s by Cardinal Alessandro Peretti di Montalto.

Bernini first trained within his father’s workshop, Pietro Bernini (1562-1629), who was himself a successful sculptor. Gianlorenzo was a colossal talent and is said by his biographers to be carving in marble by age eight.

By 10 years of age he had already sculpted a group of Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Satyr. His position as the new creative virtuoso of the age was cemented in the years 1618-24 when he carved four marbles for Cardinal Scipione Borghese: Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius leaving Troy, Pluto and Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne, and David (all nowadays in the Galleria Borghese, Rome)

The mental effect of these groups, alongside the compositional advancement and specialized brilliance, left him in a virtually unrivaled position. In partnership with his great patron, the Barberini pope, Urban VIII, he would go on to convert the fabric and interior beautification of St. Peter’s basilica.


At the same time that Bernini was executing the marbles specified above for Scipione Borghese, he was asked by Cardinal di Montalto to complete a fountain in marble to be put above a large basin of water formal gardens of the Villa Montalto in Rome. This was executed between March 1622 and February 1623 and depicted Neptune bending significantly with drapery swirling out behind him in corkscrew folds. He holds a trident in both hands as if to strike, and he stands astride a seashell with the figure of Triton between his legs, blowing into a conch shell from which real water would spout forth. The marble fountain remained at the villa until 1786 before being acquired by the English art dealer Thomas Jenkins.


This is a duplicate on a smaller scale of the marble group with Neptune and a Triton that Cardinal Alessandro Peretti commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to execute in c. 1622 for the fishpond of the Villa Negroni-Montalto.

Within the present design, the Tritone has been replaced by a dolphin, which, it has been proposed, could mean this is an earlier work by the marble group, in reality, show up to be exact copies of the initial

Here, the sculptor could substitute the dolphin for the Triton since the last mentioned, which is no longer vital in the small bronze within the original served to support Neptune. Belonging to the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica in Rome, this design has been on loan to the Galleria Borghese since 1945.

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Author: Gian Lorenzo Bernini


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.

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