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

Daniel and the Lion

Cappella Chigi, Santa Maria del Popolo, Rome

Gian Lorenzo Bernini began to work in the Chigi Chapel in 1652 for Fabio Chigi, the cardinal-priest of the basilica. His patron was elected pope under the name of Alexander VII in 1655, giving a fresh impetus for the reconstruction of the family funerary chapel. At the time the two niches at the sides of the main altar were still empty while the other two on the left and right of the entrance were filled with the statues of Lorenzetto created after Raphael's design: Jonah and the Whale and Elijah.

Bernini created two new statues depicting the prophets Daniel (on the left of the altar) and Habakkuk (on the right), and these sculptures formed a larger composition facing each other diagonally across the space of the chapel. Bernini created a spatial relationship that enlivened the entire chapel, turning its classical form to a new religious use.

The sculpture of Daniel shows the characteristic elongation of the body which is typical of Bernini's so-called late style. The young prophet is kneeling, and his right foot is licked by the tame lion. Daniel is praying fervently, he reaches out to the right from the niche while his head turns up to God, the father depicted on the mosaic of the dome. The drapery is flowing in angular folds from the shoulders and across his loin.