Behind the mask
Social satire in Bernini’s caricatures and comedies
in Changing satire
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This chapter explores elements of satire in the practice of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, focusing on his theatrical work and drawn caricatures. While Bernini is certainly most known today as a sculptor and architect, his playful involvement of his audiences in the theatre recalls the notion of art as a mirror of its audience, a speculum vitae humanae. A similar claim can be made about his caricatures that, according to contemporary accounts, were often executed in front of others. These practices allow Bernini to straddle boundaries between media and genres, but also to deliberately explore roles and masks, as well as create audience expectations and use them to his own advantage. Such metamorphic qualities are crucial to Bernini as a man of the theatre, but they pervade his other work in significant ways. ‘Satire’ therefore becomes less of a genre and more of a cultivated attitude that cleverly plays on the audience’s ideas and preconceptions.

Changing satire

Transformations and continuities in Europe, 1600–1830

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