BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)

Martyrdom of St Lawrence

Marble, 66 x 108 cm
Contini Bonacossi Collection, Florence

Gianlorenzo Bernini inherited from his father a formidable prowess in marble carving. from the outset, he challenged both the conventions and limitations of his chosen medium, pushing marble carving in new directions. His Martyrdom of St Lawrence displays an astonishing precosity and enunciates many of the preoccupations of his later career. The saint is shown suffering martyrdom on the gridiron, an image frequently depicted in painting, but never before in sculpture. The Martyrdom of St Lawrence has been called a 'sculptural painting', and it is not difficult to see why: fire and smoke were among the most difficult effects for an artist to represent, yet Bernini conveys the impression of glowing coals and wood, white hot in a marble fire.