Autoritratto (1635-1638)

Bernini, Gian Lorenzo (1598-1680)

Autoritratto (Self-Portrait)
Oil on canvas, 46 x 32 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid

Bernini‘s Self-portrait that has been kept in the Museo del Prado since 1929, since it was published in 1908 by D’Achiardi, critics had no doubts about its attribution to Bernini. In recent times (2003 and 2007) this attribution has been questioned, considering it the work of a follower or workshop. It is possible that the arguments used by some scholars are typical of judgments that are somewhat elusive, such as the supposed lack of strength and quality, always “excellent” in Bernini‘s self-portraits, compared to the one in the Prado Museum. It is also added, to remove it from Bernini‘s authorship, that there is no correspondence between the fast and energetic execution and the face with little incisiveness, “little talker”, as if it were a hasty copy of a disciple. Although one might think that a copy is never hasty or fast, and even less so if it is the work of a disciple or, more generally, of the workshop, quite the opposite. Perhaps, in this case, one could think of a sketch prior to the works Self-portrait (1630) from the Uffizi and the Self-portrait from the Galleria Borghese, especially in relation to the latter. Unfinished, a thousand details remained to be defined, some of them typical of the preparation of a painting when color and shape, the final expression, are still pending. Critics of Bernini‘s authorship have pointed out in the Prado‘s self-portrait the unhappy definition of his eyes, his deaf gaze. Although this characterization is old and typical of a nineteenth-century formalism, it is still significant if it could be considered a sketch to be defined. What’s more, these critics are forced to acknowledge that the face is Bernini‘s – which is obvious – that the technique is very similar to many of his other works of that period and that it is close, in chronological terms, to the two other self-portraits cited. Quite possibly it is closer to the self-portrait of the Galleria Borghese than to that of the Uffizi and is in the antipodes of the so-called Melancholic Self-portrait (ca. 1630, private collection). If, on the other hand, one looks at other historians, Bernini‘s hand is unquestionable, understanding it as a sketch prior to a more finished painting, which I believe cannot be other than the Self-portrait of the Galleria Borghese. That the Chigi family, according to the appreciation of Maurizio Fagiolo and Francesco Petrucci, kept this painting can only be an indication that it was a work of the master, without neglecting to point out that some collaborator or disciple had intervened in the sketch, although Such a procedure is very strange. On the other hand, the sketchy character and the plastic agility of the brushstroke not only have to do with its condition as a preparatory study —possibly for the aforementioned portrait in the Galleria Borghese—, but also confirm the neo-Venetianism of Roman painting in those years. (Text taken from Rodríguez Ruiz, D. in: Bernini, Roma y la Monarquía Hispánica. Museo Nacional del Prado, 2014, p. 86).