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


Black and white chalks on buff paper, 413 x 271 mm
Royal Library, Windsor

When in 1665 Bernini visited France for five months at the invitation of Louis XIV, his guide, the civil servant and collector Paul Fréart de Chantelou, kept a diary of the visit and on 6 June he recorded Bernini's appearance: "Cavalier Bernini is a man of medium height but well-proportioned and rather thin. His temperament is all fire. His face resembles an eagle's, particularly the eyes. He has thick eyebrows and a lofty forehead, slightly sunk in the middle and raised over the eyes. He is rather bald, but what hair he has is white and frizzy. He himself says he is sixty-five. He is very vigorous for his age and walks as firmly as if he were only thirty or forty. I consider his character to be one of the finest formed by nature, for without having studied he has nearly all the advantages with which learning can endow a man... He is an excellent talker with a quite individual talent for expressing things with word, look and gesture."

The present drawing is a self-portrait of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, facing three-quarters to the right. It is usually dated to around 1665, on no particular evidence other than Chantelou's description of that year, but it could well be several years later, given Bernini's robust health.