Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni

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Bernini, Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni, 1674

One of his last sculptures and large pieces of art, Bernini started work on Death of the Blessed Ludovica Albertoni at age 71. The work was commissioned by Carinal Albertoni, who had Bernini sculpt a relative of his on her deathbed. Ludavica died in 1533 from a fever. In Bernini's piece she lies looking up towards the cherubs gazing down on her. A painting of the holy family sits above her. The framework and cherubs, done by Bernini as he collaborated with the painter, illustrates the holiness awaiting Ludavica's spirit.

Her deathbed at the bottom of this magnificent piece shows the real mortal pains of death on Earth matched with the spiritual ecstasy of rising to heaven. We see the look of pleasure on her face and with her body language as Bernini gives her the emotion of longing to be without suffering.

This emotion we see in the earlier, defiant works of Bernini, most specifically St. Teresa in Ecstasy, but there are some differences and more maturity that I notice in this later piece. First of all, what I believe is most important, unlike the St. Teresa staged platformed and farther away in the Cornaro Chapel, The Ludovica is not blocked up, and the viewer and walk right up to it and feel her death and the emotion of the scene in full. Second, this sculpture radiates with femininity and sexuality of spiritual exultation, making the earlier piece 'forcefully masculine' and less intimate.

The flow of the marble from the bed to her clothing shows the growth and "almost magical powers" Bernini has acquired over the years - his drapery and detail unify the work.  Down the the detail work on the pillow, Bernini strikes again, even in his 70s, to create a phenomenal piece of art.

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