Ecstasy of Saint Teresa


In his depiction of the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, Bernini fuses baroque expressivenes with counter-reformist mysticism in an extremely suggestive manner. There has always been criticism from the Church about too much eroticism.

At the same time, Bernini did not stray from what Saint Teresa herself described in her autobiography. The artist showed more than just the saint’s vision.

Bernini chose to illustrate the moment when the angel’s arrow stabs her in the heart. This is when she feels pain and pleasure simultaneously. Angel’s clothes are still fluttering, as if he has just landed. Saint Teresa is in ecstasy, her mouth is slightly open, eyes closed and she is writhing with pleasure. Golden rays behind the figures represent the divine light which frames the whole scene.

The Cornaro Chapel (1647-1652) was ordered by Cardinal Federico Cornaro of Venice for his tomb. On the right, cardinals from the Cornaro family observe the scene from a balcony, as if they were in a theatre.

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