Simon Schama's Power of Art


Season 1, Episode 2 of 8

The Ecstasy of St Theresa (1652) - Gian Lorenzo Bernini, boy wonder, then adult prodigy - sculptor, architect, composer, as well as a dashing Cavalier, and the personal friend of Pope Urban VIII. His sculptures have the breath of life flowing through them; in his hands stone seems to move and ripple. Then, in the late 1640s, Bernini's star falls; cracks appear in the bell-tower he has built for St. Peter's. Bernini needs a miracle to restore his fortune. So he makes one: The Ecstasy of St Theresa. His marble saint levitates and quivers, hovering on the border between mystery and indecency. Devotees flock to see this holy peepshow, flesh dissolving into spirit, a mystery exuding pain and pleasure, carnal consummation and disembodied bliss. No wonder people watch.

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