A woman with hair still messy from sleep, shirt still unbuttoned from a night of passion, pronounces the first words of the day.

She is Costanza Bonarelli, lover of Gian Lorenzo Bernini and wife of one of the master artist’s students. In 1630s Rome the sculptor was in the prime of his production, and this work is part of the series “speaking likenesses”: he portrays his subjects with lips parted, caught mid-sentence, creating a natural, spontaneous effect. Likewise, he created his Bust of Costanza Bonarelli as part of the series.

A love triangle

Costanza’s story is one of a love triangle and profound jealousy that ends with the woman betraying Gian Lorenzo with his brother, Luigi Bernini, and the artist ordering to disfigure her as punishment. The Bust of Costanza Bonarelli is thus the only one that captures the likeness of a common person, with whom the maestro was so in love that he chose to sculpt in precious Carrara marble. 

Image courtesy of sailko via Wikimedia Commons