Santi Andrea e Tommaso (before 1627)

Bernini, Gian Lorenzo (1598-1680)

Santi Andrea e Tommaso (Saints Andrew and Thomas)
before 1627
Oil on canvas, 61.5 × 78.1 cm
National GalleryLondon

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was one of the most successful sculptors and architects of seventeenth-century Rome. This image of Saints Andrew and Thomas is an early work and one of the few paintings he made. Saint Andrew, a fisherman, is identified by the fish and the book (probably a reference to the Acts of Andrew, an apocryphal text written by him). Saint Thomas, a carpenter, is identified by the set square clasped in his right hand.

The two saints, both apostles, were friends and contemporaries, but Bernini was not trying to depict a particular discussion that they were known to have had. Instead he has created a contrast between age and youth, teacher and student. Andrew, balding and grey-haired, points to a passage in his book and turns to explain it to the youthful, animated Thomas, who looks on intensely as understanding begins to dawn on his face. A painting by Andrea Sacchi, Bernini’s contemporary, also depicts two saints and has a similar format and dimensions; it is also in the National Gallery’s collection. (NG)