Two Busts of Cardinal Scipione Borghese are marble portrait sculptures created by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1632. Both versions of the portrait are located in the Borghese Gallery in Rome.
Two Busts of Cardinal Scipione Borghese are made of carrara marble. There are numerous portraits of the cardinal, including a painting by Ottavio Leoni and one attributed to Lavinia Fontana, while the bust created by Giuliano Finelli is a prototype of Bernini’s work. In the first decade of the cardinalate, Scipione Borghese sought to promote a princelike public image by creating new residences, constructing a collection of artworks and becoming a patron of men of letters.
The date of the bust is confirmed by an archive of 23 September 1632 connected to a payment of five hundred scudi. The cardinal was fifty-six by that moment
The movement of the head to the left, the half-open mouth and the alert gaze create, in Scipione Borghese’s physiognomy, the sense of wonder that was an intristic part of Baroque aesthetics. Bernini created this sculpture only a few days after he had finished another Bust of Scipione Borghese, also displayed in Galleria Borghese.
Bernini’s biographer, Filippo Baldinucci, stated that, when the artist had finished the first bust, he noticed a crack in the block of marble, which was visible on the portrait’s forehead, as it is still today. Thus, Bernini decided to replicate his work, secretly executing the second version. The new bust was made only in three days. Both busts were purchased by the Italian state during the first sale of the artworks of Borghese family in 1892, and were reunited in the collection in 1908.
There is also a bronze version, created from the terracotta bozzetti (preparatory works) by Bernini. It is in a private collection in New York. Moreover, there is a drawing of Scipione Borghese, done in red chalk and graphite, in the Morgan Library in New York. In addition, there is a caricature of the cardinal made by Bernini in the Vatican Library in the Vatican City State.
- The busts are a quarter long, showing Scipione Borghese in his mantle and birette, depending on his position as Cardinal of the Roman Church
- The movement and liveliness of the sitter is one of the most important features of the bust
- After Bernini completed the first version, the “allustratori” polished the bust when they found a significant fracture of marble on his forehead, mutilated his face
- It took only three days to create the second version of the bust
- According to Domenico Bernini, Cardinal Borghese saw the unpolished version and was so impressed that he asked him to complete the bust and show it to Uncle Pope Paul V
- The first version is often considered a superior version
- There is also a bronze version, created from the terracotta bozzetti (preparatory works) by Bernini
- The date of the bust is confirmed by an archive of 23 September 1632 connected to a payment of five hundred scudi
- The busts are made of carrara marble
- Both busts were purchased by the Italian state during the first sale of the artworks of Borghese family in 1892