Sunday, June 24, 2012
The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa in the Cornaro Chapel of the Santa Maria della Vittoria, in Rome, is a sculptural masterpiece of the High Roman Baroque. The white marble sculpture still alarms critics with its breathtaking depiction of Saint Teresa's religious ecstasy, noting the obvious sensuousness of the work and suggesting it was more orgasmic than divine. Like many masterpieces, this sculpture graces a rather modest church, and as it happened to be only a few blocks from our hotel warranted a trip to visit. Up close, it is unbelievable, and whatever his intentions Bernini has captured the heat and passion of life in this cold white marble.
The flesh is supple and giving as it surrenders to the hands gripping the body. In our strangely schizophrenic age, where we profess religious beliefs yet use sex to sell deodorant and beer on television on a regular basis, where we're supposedly so morally upright yet find the most mind-numbing pornography just a few keystrokes away, just another consumer service, few images of our sneakily eroticized world can capture the thrill and desire and abandon in Bernini's work. He reveled in the body and sensuous forms--in church, no less--and somehow snuck it past the censors.