Thursday, March 11, 2004

Charity with Four Putti

Treasures from the Vatican

Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Circa 1627-28
Terra cotta; traces of gilt
Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The greatest artistic achievement featured in the Vatican exhibition, "Charity" is one of the first studies Bernini did for the tomb of Pope Urban VIII in Saint Peter's Basilica. Bernini continually modified his design over the course of 20 years, finally creating a triangular pattern with the Pope as central character and the personification of the two virtues he was best known for, Justice and Charity, on either side on the bottom.

Originally in the collection of Cardinal Flavio Chigi and given to the Vatican in 1923, "Charity" was covered with a blackish tint applied after the style in the 19th century, which was removed. Bernini's thumb print can be see on the back of the statue.

The statue depicts Charity as a woman nursing a child in her arms while a second child pulls on the drapes of her dress and two puttis (cherubic infants) embrace in the foreground.

Marilyn Bauer

Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes, through April 18 at Cincinnati Museum Center. 287-7001 and (800) 733-2077; We will highlight one object from this exhibition on the A&E page through April 15; find more stories at Cin cinnati.Com. Keyword: Vatican

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