Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada exhibition reveals the brilliance of Bernini

Ottawa - August 7, 2008

A master of his craft, Bernini’s virtuosity as a sculptor rendered the impossible in marble and stone

Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture
November 28, 2008 to March 8, 2009

On November 28, 2008, the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) will unveil Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture, the first ever comprehensive exhibition of portrait busts by one of the greatest sculptors of all time, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. On view until March 8, 2009, 50 works of the utmost rarity will be displayed, many of which have never appeared outside Italy.

The NGC will be the sole Canadian venue for this exhibition. It will feature some of Bernini’s most celebrated sculptures created in marble, bronze and porphyry (magmatic rock), together with his portrait drawings. Portrait busts by other significant sculptors of 17th century Rome, such as Francesco Mochi, François Duquesnoy, Giuliano Finelli, and Alessandro Algardi, all of whom were influenced by this extraordinary artist, will also be featured. 

The exhibition characterizes the exuberance of the Baroque period and displays the genius of Bernini and others in his sphere. It also explores the remarkable artistic innovation of that time and gives a rare glimpse into the inter-relationships and variations of style among these artists.

“Visitors will have an historic opportunity to see Bernini’s patrons who were among the most influential figures of the 16th and early 17th centuries, captured in marble and stone by an artist whose unparalleled talent revolutionized the field of sculpture,” said National Gallery of Canada director, Pierre Théberge. “They will also be astonished by the extraordinary life-like qualities of Bernini’s works, all of which are testaments to his superlative observational and artistic skills.”

The Gallery’s own bust of the Barberini pope Urban VIII will be a focal point of the exhibition. This will be richly complemented by significant loans from some of the most prestigious arts institutions in Europe and North America. These include the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica di Palazzo Barberini, the Museo e Galleria Borghese, and the Museo di Roma and the Vatican in Rome; the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence; the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, Windsor; the Musée du Louvre in Paris;  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles; the Skulptursammlung and the Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin as well as the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen. Loans have also been made by several private collections from around the world.

Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture is co-organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Educational Activities

Educational activities will be scheduled throughout the exhibition. For more information, visit www.gallery.ca, call 1.800.990.1985 or 1.800.319.ARTS in October.


A 336 page catalogue produced by the National Gallery of Canada and the J. Paul Getty Museum accompanies this exhibition. Published in English and French, its 155 colour plates and 114 black and white illustrations reveal the remarkable innovation of Bernini and his contemporaries and the artistic richness of the Baroque period. Edited by Andrea Bacci, Catherine Hess and Jennifer Montagu, it also contains contributions by the editors as well as Julian Brooks, Ann-Lise Demars, David Franklin, Jennifer Montagu, Stephen F. Ostrow and Jon L. Seydl. Available at a cost of $45.95 in soft cover and $70.00 in hardcover, it will be on sale as of this fall at the National Gallery of Canada Bookstore or at the NGC’s online store

Admission and NGC hours

Tickets for Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture are on sale at $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and full-time students, $7 for youths aged 12 to 19 years, and $30 for families (two adults and three children). Admission is free of charge for children under 12 and for Friends of the Gallery. Tickets include admission to the NGC Collection.

Tickets are available by telephone at 613-998-8888 or1-888-541-8888 and at www.shopngc.ca.

From October 1, 2008 until April 30 the Gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm; Thursday until 8 pm. Closed Mondays.  

About the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art in the world. In addition, it has pre-eminent collections of Inuit, Western and European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, American and Asian Art as well as drawings and photography. Created in 1880, it is among the oldest of Canada’s national, cultural institutions. As part of its mandate to make Canadian art accessible across the country, the NGC has one of the largest touring exhibition programs in North America. For more information, visit www.gallery.ca.

About the J. Paul Getty Trust

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations:  the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

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For more information and to set an up interview with guest curator, Catherine Hess, please contact:

Josée-Britanie Mallet
Senior Media and Public Relations Officer
National Gallery of Canada

Claire Schofield
Manager, Communications and Public Relations
National Gallery of Canada