From 1618 to 1624, Bernini worked for the Scipione Borghese, producing four, life-sized sculptures. While they are all on display at the Borghese Gallery, Bernini’s David steals the show. Indeed, David was the hero and liberator of the Jewish state. But he also composed the Old Testament Psalms, making him poets and artists’ “patron saint.” Therefore, this masterpiece of David grimacing as he kills Goliath is actually Bernini’s self-portrait! You can admire it in the photo.
David’s theatrical expression is exactly what we expect from Roma Barocca. And it’s no surprise really, if you know the story behind the artwork. Cardinal Maffeo Barberini is said to have held a mirror for Bernini as he sculpted. That way, he could easily try out different expressions. But in 1624, Bernini abruptly stopped work on the David. Why? Maffeo Barberini had just been elected Pope Urbanus VIII. And he had named Bernini Head Architect of the Church of Saint Peter’s. Bernini now had more important things to think about!