Sculpted at the height of their affair, the bust depicting Costanza Piccolomini Bonarelli, 1637-1638 is observed as not only Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s most personal work, but one that daringly broke with the traditions of 17th century art. Portrait busts at the time concentrated on formal silhouettes, with representations of powerful women conventional. But in this instance, with Costanza’s luscious hair, wide eyes, cheeks full and peachy, and her chemise falling open, this is a deeply intimate portrait. As Sarah McPhee describes the subject in her book, Bernini’s Beloved: A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini: “She is fiery, she is youthful, she is matronly; she is intelligent, composed. She is individual.” It is the introduction of the dynamic movement and energy of human forms, that saw Neapolitan-born Bernini carve out a different creative journey than his predecessors, thus becoming the architect of the Baroque style of sculpture.
However, Bernini was a highly original thinker, and still very much associated himself with classic traditions. It was his ability to adapt the classical grandeur of Renaissance sculpture and the dynamic energy of the Mannerist period – to forge a style externalizing emotional expressionism. Learning from his father Pietro – a prominent Mannerist sculpture, he inherited a template of style. On a no less historical scale – it is exactly what Vincenzo Attolini Junior (founder of Stile Latino) was bequeathed. He is the grandson of Vincenzo Attolini Senior who is credited with the game-changing invention of what today we’d recognise as trademark Neapolitan tailoring while employed at Gennaro ‘Bebè’ Rubinacci’s British-inspired London House in the 1930s.