BERNINI, Gian Lorenzo
(b. 1598, Napoli, d. 1680, Roma)
The Ecstasy of Saint Therese1647-52
Marble, height 350 cm
Cappella Cornaro, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome
Bernini tackles a theme, as old as the tradition of images: the female principal transmuted by the action of the male principal. The two figures are situated in space with a subtle displacement of their bodies. Almost indescribable is the gesture of the angel-satyr, shown as he draws the dart from the female body, caught in momentary abeyance before it falls back. The figures are brought to life before our eyes. The centre of gravity of the complex mass of marble is shifting: the saint is sinking down (her symbolic foot emerging), and the young satyr moves into the forefront. The focal point of the whole is in that flame-tipped arrow so vividly described by St Teresa of Ávila in her spiritual autobiography.