Synopses & Reviews
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 1636and#8211;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 lifeand#8212;her childhood and noble name, her marriage, affair, fall from grace, and recoveryand#8212;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.
"This splendidly illustrated and erudite study tells the life story of Costanza Piccolomini (d. 1560), the wife of baroque sculptor Matteo Bonarelli, mistress of Gianlorenzo Bernini, and the subject of one of Bernini's most well-known and lifelike sculpture of a private subject. While the details of Bernini's relationship with Piccolomini are uncertain, he created his famous bust 'while passionately in love with her,' an affair which culminated in shocking violence against both Piccolomini and Bernini's own brother. Art historian McPhee (Bernini and the Bell Towers) describes Piccolomini's extraordinary life and character: a highly determined woman who learned to read and write; survived sexual assault, detention, and arrest; and successfully ran her husband's sculpture studio after being widowed at the age of 40. McPhee beautifully interweaves personal history, art history, and the cultural history of baroque Rome to spotlight Piccolomini's biography and to demonstrate why the power of her image and her story is worth investigating. A highly impressive work of scholarship and a tour de force of interest to art historians, scholars of the baroque with a particular interest in women's history, and accessible to general readers, the book also includes extensive appendixes of primary sources in Italian and new archival research. Color and b&w illus. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
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).