Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius

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Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius is a sculpture by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini created circa 1618-19. Housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, the sculpture depicts a scene from the Aeneid, where the hero Aeneas leads his family from burning Troy.<ref name="archive">Template:Cite web</ref>


This was the Bernini's first commission from Cardinal Scipione Borghese. It probably started around 1618 and finished the succeeding year. It was one of a number of sculptures that would end up in the Villa Borghese, now the Galleria Borghese.


Bernini's inspiration for the work was the Aeneid, an epic Latin poem which told the life of Aeneas, a Trojan who left his home city and eventually ended up in Italy, where he was a progenitor of Rome. The precise scene depicts the moment that Aeneas carries his father, the elderly Anchises, and his son Ascancius from Troy, after it has been sacked by the Greek army.<ref name="Hibbard, idem">Hibbard, idem</ref> In his hand, Anchises carries a vessel with his ancestors' ashes, on the top of which are two tiny statue of Di Penates, Roman household gods.

Artistic Influences

Bernini has only just passed twenty when the work was completed. Therefore it is not unusual to see that the style of execution still owed much to other artists - his own style would become more apparent with the other pieces commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese. The influence of his father Pietro Bernini was evident in the rather lumpy handling of the figures. Elements of the sixteenth-century sculptor Giambologna occur, particular in how Bernini attempted to construct a sense of movement upwards from the boy Ascansius to his grandfather Anchises. The figure of Aeneas may be modelled on Michelangelo's sculpture of Risen Christ.<ref name="Hibbard, idem"/>

Two painted influences are also cited. Firstly, the painting by Federico Barocci of the same topic, which was also in Cardinal Borghese's collection. But the more famous influence is from Raphael's fresco in the Vatican, Fire in the Borgo, which depicts the identical scene, showing Aeneas carrying his father with his son beside them.<ref name="Hibbard, idem"/>

Critical Reception

The sculpture was for a considerable time considered to be by Bernini's father Pietro. Even when later evidence revealed the statue was by Gianlorenzo Bernini, critical reception of the sculpture was mixed - Hibbard recognised the artistry in the contrast between Aeneas' firm skin and the sagging skin of the older Anchises, but also noted the statue as "cramped and tentative". Others have seen in the sculpture, as with the other sculptures for Cardinal Borghese, the evolution from earlier Mannerist sculptures.<ref name="Hibbard, idem"/> Ann Sutherland Harris contrasts Bernini's work with Giambologna's Rape of the Sabine Woman. Giambologna's pyramdical composition invited viewers to walk around it, seeing different character expressions and indeed the shape and texture of their bodies from different positions; Bernini's sculpture, on the other hand, allowed the viewer to see the expression of the three characters from a single viewpoint - with much less of the story being evident when looked at from different angles.







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