The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is one of the greatest sculptures in the era of Baroque art. The sculpture was carved by Bernini and is located in the Cornaro Chapel of the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Intended to convey aspects of the Catholic faith, the carving is also regarded as one of the most significant examples of the Counter-Reformation style.

The work depicts a “religious ecstasy” episode in the life of Teresa of Avila (1515-1582), a cloistered Spanish nun, as described in her biography “The Life of Teresa of Jesus”. Notwithstanding its status as important religious art, critics disagree on whether Teresa is having a physical orgasm or an intense state of divine joy. In fact, some people expressed outrage that the sculptor debased a holy experience by portraying it a sexual way. Professor Robert Harbison, however, has doubted the notion that the sculptor intended any such thing. He believes that the sculptor used the erotic character as a springboard to a higher and new type of spiritual awakening.

The sculpture of Saint Teresa consists of two figures, both sculpted in white marble. Teresa is depicted lying on a cloud and childlike angel standing near her, holding a spear pointed at Teresa’s heart. The sculpture shows the Saint’s intense sense of spiritual desire to serve Christ.

References

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/ecstasy-of-saint-teresa.htm

https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/monarchy-enlightenment/baroque-art1/baroque-italy/a/bernini-ecstasy-of-saint-teresa

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