Bad Boys – Bust of Constanza

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Bad Boys
The Men Who Saw Art and Chose To Change It

Curated by Gabrielle Fenaroli
Bernini, Bust of Constanza, 1636

There is the child inside of me that sees the unbuttoned shirt, tousled hair and lustful eyes and suddenly I want to turn away. Not because I can not appreciate Bernini's talent and skill, but simply because it feels as though I have walked in on a private moment. A lover getting dressed, or undressed for that matter. A part of me wants to say," Oh.. sorry I didn't know you were in here," But, the art historian part of me can not look away because I am drawn to Constanza Bonarelli just as much as Bernini is in 1636. She is the epitome of womanly power through sex appeal. Constanza makes Bernini's blood boil, she makes him abandon all he knows in order to be with her.

What strikes me the most about the bust is nothing stylistic or aesthetic about it, rather the subject as a whole. I was under the impression that a prerequisite for having a bust made was that you had to be a famous, powerful, fat old man. Bernini shakes his head and waves a finger and says,"Oh no, no, no." He creates beauty that he gets to experience first-hand between the sheets of his lover's bed. He gives the viewer the opportunity to see Constanza in a light that no one except those most involved with her would get to see.

However, as most stories go involving love and painting there is no happy ending. Bernini does not put a ring on it, because well there is already one there. Constanza is married to Bernini's assistant, who he is working with in 1636. Of course, that does not stop a lustful artist The problem occurs when his younger brother Luigi takes notice of Constanza as well. Bernini feels utterly betrayed and becomes enraged as he proceeds to nearly beat his brother to death... Oh did I forget to mention all of this takes place in St. Peter's? And as for Constanza, Bernini feels as though if he can not have her then no one can. He orders one of his servants to slash her face. The real kicker comes when the punishment when the punishments are given out: Bernini gets ordered to marry another woman. His brother, Luigi, gets banished to Bologna and ordered never to return to Rome again. Lastly, Constanza get sentenced to prison for "fornication."  Ah, justice at its finest.

Although part of me now thinks Bernini is a bit of sleaze, I can't discount his work on the bust. He opened the flood gates to artistic lust and sexual tension. He created a space for the artist to create work that truly should be for private eyes only. He makes busts an outlet for capturing the true identity of a person, not just the facade they show to the outside world.

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