The Dangerous Liaisons of Bernini

May 26, 2013

Love triangles and promiscuity seldom flourished so exquisitely than at the Papal Court in Rome up to about 3-400 years ago. As some “The Borgias” fans might’ve already noticed, Vatican city was quite a den of lavish sins back in the days of Michelangelo and didn’t stop being one until long after Bernini’s days, which is why the following episode of his life should not come as a surprise.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the preeminent protege of the Popes Urban VIII and Alexander VII, like all reputed artists, had some apprentices to do his less important commissions in exchange for advice and guidance. And these anonymous apprentices, emphasizing one in particular, had wives. Female presences to whose charms the great sculptor could not frequently resist.

One such ravishing woman by law reserved for a single husband, was Constanza Piccolomini Bonarelli, spouse of Matteo Bonarelli and licentious lover of Bernini.

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So much was he enamored with her that, to fully convey his passionate sentiments, Gian Lorenzo produces the above bust, a Constanza he could caress in marble, the immortal, unwithering variant of his beloved. It was the zenith of their affection.

And soon they’d reach their nadir… one terrible way too.

Since Constanza was unfaithful to her hubby, cheating came natural to her and not long after her storming affair with Bernini commenced, she found herself involved with a second paramour, none other than Gian Lorenzo’s younger brother, Luigi.

Alas, a naturally suspicious Bernini soon felt her betrayal and thought a most basic scheme to catch the two in flagrant delicto: he simply announced his going to the countryside to tend to some business, insidiously expecting the couple to make a wrong move… which didn’t let itself waited.

Luigi, unconscious of any danger, immediately visited a lonely Constanza yearning for consolation to be “welcomed” by a furious Bernini who almost beat him to death.

Amusingly (or tragically, depending on your point of view), this telenovela-like story didn’t stop here, but to continue it and learn the climax of the whole affair, I recommend the following documentary:

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4 Responses to “The Dangerous Liaisons of Bernini”


  1. It is said, that the greatest intellects/creativity, show the highest level of sexuality; this is not the mundane, but a passionate driving force, which is the act of creation itself. As a class, writers, painters, and devotees of the Arts are unnique unto themselves.

    Thanks for the info.

  2. aubrey Says:

    Thank you for such lush storytelling – about characters that were thankfully once very much alive! There is much grace and decadence in history – so much more than many people realize.


    • This is the key to understanding and concomitently relishing history: comming to actually realise those character were human beings like you and me. That makes learning about the French Revolution and how Marat was murdered in a bathtub a bit like gossiping Michael Jackson’s death.


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