Bernini's Beloved A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini Sarah McPhee

Publication date:
12 Jun 2012
Yale University Press
280 pages: 254 x 178mm
75 color + 50 b-w illus.
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With lips slightly parted and eyes fixed on a point in the distance, a breathtaking marble portrait of Costanza Piccolomini appears alive. Carved by Gianlorenzo Bernini in 1636-37 for his own pleasure, the portrait of Costanza is one of his most captivating works, but until now little has been known about its subject. For centuries Costanza was identified only as Bernini's mistress, who later incited his rage by betraying him for his brother. Author Sarah McPhee corrects and expands this story in her remarkable biography of a sculpture and its subject. "Bernini's Beloved" sets the bust and Costanza's own life - her childhood and noble name, her marriage, affair, fall from grace, and recovery - against the backdrop of Baroque Rome.

Beautifully illustrated and written, this fascinating story expands our understanding of the woman whose intelligence and passion served as inspiration for Bernini's celebrated sculpture, and who courageously forged a life for herself in the decades following its creation.

Sarah McPhee is professor of art and architectural history at Emory University, and author of Bernini and the Bell Towers: Architecture and Politics at the Vatican (Yale).

"Enthralling... McPhee's book is rich in historical detail, and truly an original contribution that will be welcomed by scholars, students, and general readers."--Elizabeth Cropper, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art

"McPhee…builds up a detailed portrait of Costanza’s life against the backdrop of Baroque Rome, offering along the way a fresh perspective on Bernini’s life and work." Apollo Magazine

"Stunningly imaginative and detailed…. Bernini’s Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini by Sarah McPhee is a radical reappraisal of one of the most celebrated works of Baroque art… She brilliantly evokes the world of 17th-century Rome, where vengeance is powdered with marble dust. Not just for art lovers: the book will be a joy to anyone interested in Italian history.” Lisa Hilton, History Today

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