Friday, February 24, 2012

My Favorite Artworks at Basilica Sancti Petri (Papal Basilica of Saint Peter)

After some internal debate, I decided to include some major cathedrals I've visited in this My Favorite Museum Collection Series, though they usually don't hold as many important and/or iconic artworks in history, they still have much artistic values, and some boast very important works, such as the Pietà by Michelangelo Buonarroti in Basilica Sancti Petri (Papal Basilica of Saint Peter).

The image here is not an overwrought melodramatic gesture, rather a sad resignation.  The very young Mary lowering her covered head, as if nodding to the command higher up.  Her face was sweet, delicate and not a day older than the Annunciation.  The body of Jesus was pathetic yet elegant, devoid of the insistent signs of mutilation so rampant in the medieval time.  The interaction between the Virgin Mary and Jesus was tender, intimate and also theatrical.  Mary, holding Jesus on her lap, as if presenting Jesus as offering for the world and to the world.  This was a completely humanistic approach and it was a truly Renaissance product, yet its pyramidal composition was an obvious connection to the classical period, so was the restraint.  The sculpturing of this marble statue was truly masterly - facial expressions true, body molding correct and draperies wonderfully realistic.  This is a drama of sublimity.

Michelangelo's Pietà 
Source: Wikipedia, Author
Stanislav Traykov

There were many wonderful statues in countless niches in the basilica but none commanded attention as the baldacchino designed by the great sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

The altar with Bernini's baldacchino
Author Ricardo André Frantz (User:Tetraktys)

A baldachin, or baldaquin is a canopy of state over an altar or throne.  Bernini's baldacchino was massive and imposing.  The elaborate twisted pillars and the crown of it were of black and gold colors - rich, deep and sumptuous, in perfect harmony of the earthly splendor the Catholic church had adopted, which naturally would have caused awe and inevitably, feeling of great excess.

However, I'm not here to evaluate the social impact of this piece - rather, I see it as a masterpiece of decorative or architectural art.

It achieved its goal to inspire and awe perfectly.  Its imposing size ensured that it would not be lost in the cavernous apse of Saint Peter's, rather, it became the centerpiece of it.

In great contrast to the smooth and economic surface of Michelangelo's Pietà, with great classical restraint, here its shapes and details were ever-more elaborate, full of endless variations, full of grace notes.

If Pietà invoked the music of Haydn, then this baldacchino invoked the music of Bellini or even Rossini.  This is an artwork created by a virtuosic artist to celebrate a flamboyant era.  The pillars of Baroque.

My Favorite Museum Collection Series

>> My Favorite Museum Collection Series 14: My Favorite Artworks in San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains), Roma
<< My Favorite Museum Collection Series 12: My Favorite Sculptures at Museo Nazionale Romano, Roma

List of My Favorite Artworks in the Museums I've Visited

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