(b. 1562, Sesto Fiorentino, d. 1629, Roma)


Italian Mannerist sculptor, father of Gian Lorenzo. He enjoyed a peripatetic career in Florence and Naples before moving to Rome in 1605, where he produced a number of sculptures of uneven quality and a decidedly archaic flavour. He knew the works of Giambologna at first hand and collaborated with one of Giambologna's pupil, Giovanni Caccini; this knowledge he passed on to his more gifted son. Pietro's technical expertise was quickly recognized in Rome, for he received prominent commissions in Santa Maria Maggiore, the most memorable being the handsome relief of the Assumption of the Virgin for the sacristy.

He subsequently worked on the tomb of Clement VIII in the Pauline Chapel at Santa Maria Maggiore, and in the Barberini Chapel at Sant'Andrea della Valle. His commissions thus brought him into contact with the foremost ecclesiastical patrons who were to play a crucial role in the early career of his son.

Pietro Bernini had talent and phenomenal technical ability, and in some works, such as the Faun Teased by Cupids in the Metropolitan Museum in New York, a strong overlap with the first independent works of his son is apparent. But despite his considerable gifts he lacked panache; as his contemporary, Giovanni Baglione put it, 'had he had greater compositional ability, he would have been a remarkable artist'.