Bust of Pope Clement X Altieri
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
Bernini was renowned for both his extraordinary ability to convey the personality and status of the person he portrayed – which contributed to his leading role in the European Baroque – and for his remarkable entrepreneurship. In charge of a thriving atelier, which brought artists from every part of Italy to papal Rome, he was able to satisfy the many requests for commissions from European reigning monarchs and popes alike. As a skillful manager of his own fame, he managed to remain devoted to his art while always meeting the needs of the Roman curia, sometimes with the help of the many talented artists working in his atelier. When he was commissioned to create the portrait of the reigning pope, Clement X, by his powerful nephew, Cardinal Paluzzo Paluzzi Altieri degli Albertoni, he produced both the sculpture that the collector wanted for himself and two other versions, for a church dining hall and for the purchaser’s famous library. On the Pope’s death, in 1667, the artist probably interrupted the production of the bust, which he later resumed when he decided to donate it to Cardinal Paluzzi. When Bernini died, the sculpture was sent to Palazzo Altieri, as he had stipulated in his will. This beautiful marble, therefore, was worked on by Bernini himself and completed by a talented assistant, who may have been his son Paolo Valentino, who had worked side by side with his brilliant father.