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Visual & Performing Arts
English (U.S.)
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Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa: Counter-Reformation (Essay Sample)


Does Bernini's The Ecstasy of St. Teresa embody the ideals of the Counter-Reformation?


Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa


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Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa

The Counter-Reformation emerged as an art style that was aimed at responding to the Protestant Reformation (Call, 1997). It was initiated by the Council of Trent in 1545 and progressed to around 1648. Counter-reformation was a stricter artistic approach to the Catholic Biblical art. The art style was focused on highlighting the theological differences that emerged between the Catholic and Protestant followers. In this context, Counter-Reformation addressed the mysteries of the Catholic faith, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints. Through this approach, the Council of Trent headed by the Pope hoped to revitalize the Catholic people across Europe and mitigate the impact of the Protestant revolt (Call, 1997). One of the greatest art pieces developed during this period was The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa that is a marble ensemble by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) (Bossy, 1970). The art was a deliberate attempt by the Catholics to convey the spiritual aspects of their faith based on the description of the visions and raptures of St. Teresa. Bernini’s work depicts the religious ecstasy she described. Resultantly, the art piece gained substantial criticism centered on whether Teresa, as depicted by Bernini, is experiencing an intense state of divinity, joy or physical orgasm.

According to Call (1997), Bernini was required to cause a significant amount of amazement in the art piece to make it useful for the church, which drove propaganda against the reformers. Notably, the author alludes that if Teresa’s story was told incorrectly, it would have put the principles of the Counter-Reformation in jeopardy. Teresa’s visions and raptures had led to a stir among the people, which increased the risks for Bernini if the outcome compromised the Counter-Reformation aspects. Call (1997) adds that the protestants engaged actively in monitoring the art developed under the church, which was another call for perfection because they would have the weapon to counter the Catholic church. The Counter-Reformation art was centered on strict policies enacted by the church and the artists had to follow them. Fundamentally, the reformers focused on developing art that would distinguish the one and true Church from the Protestant groups. In this light, the Counter-reformation art focussed on distinctive aspects that hi

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