Sculpture Journal

On the original meanings of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Anima beata and Anima dannata: Nymph and Satyr?

Sculpture Journal (2015), 24, (1), 37–53.


The marble heads known as the Anima beata and the Anima dannata, a pair of masterpieces created by Bernini in his youth, still pose many questions relating to their origin, dating and meaning. This article presents new documentary evidence from the inventory of assets of their first known owner, an important Spanish cleric residing in Rome, don Fernando de Botinete y Acevedo. The inventory, compiled in 1632, offers a fascinating alternative interpretation of these sculptures as a Nymph and a Satyr, rather than as Christian souls. This document suggests two possible circumstances: on the one hand it might be argued that both sculptures were originally conceived as mythological representations; or, on the other, that these works were created by Bernini without clear identifying attributes in order to produce a deliberate iconographic ambiguity.

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Author details

Cueto, David García