Sculpture Journal

Senza sostanza di corpo? Bernini and the problem of the sculptor’s drawing

Sculpture Journal (2015), 24, (1), 23–36.


What use could a two-dimensional drawing have for a sculptor? This article explores the question from the perspective of Bernini’s use of drawings as part of his preparatory process for sculptural works. After a brief review of the place of disegno in Renaissance and Baroque art theory, the argument explores how modern scholarship has handled the role played by drawing in relation to sculpture of the early modern period, with particular attention to Bernini. The article then introduces a novel approach to this topic by turning to recent studies of embodiment and embodied knowledge. After suggesting how such work might be applied in general terms to the embodied knowledge encoded in a drawing, the article concludes by drawing attention to Bernini’s habit of adopting the attitudes of the figures that he wished to represent. In such a way, it is argued, certain sculptors’ drawings can be understood as exercises in embodied posture.

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Author details

van Gastel, Joris