BERNERO, Giovanni Battista
(b. 1736, Cavallerleone, d. 1796, Torino)


Italian sculptor. A royal subsidy provided by Charles-Emanuel III of Savoy, King of Sardinia, enabled him to attend the school of Claudio Francesco Beaumont in Turin. Bernero showed an early preference for papier-mâché as a medium, producing papier-mâché works for popular devotional dramas. In 1765 a second royal stipend supported a four-year continuation of his studies in Rome. There he trained with Ignazio Collino, acquiring skill in working more durable materials, such as marble and stone. Collino's classicizing influence was not strong enough, however, to counteract Bernero's apparent preference for Baroque effects, as is demonstrated in his dramatically swooning marble Magdalene (1770; Duomo di Casale), a typically highly charged composition.

In 1770, a pivotal year, Bernero joined the Confraternity of the Company of St Luke in Turin and began to receive commissions from royal and religious patrons in Turin and other cities in Piedmont. From c. 1770 to 1772 he was occupied with a stucco relief for Carignano Cathedral. The scene, located in a lunette behind the main altar, is a good example of the descriptive pictorialism for which Bernero was noted. Life-size high-relief figures of St Remigius and St John the Baptist are surveyed from above by God, surrounded by angels and angelic heads. The low-relief background of city walls and towers heightens the narrative power of the representation.

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