Bernini, Statues and Intuition
The beauty of nature
is... natural and we enjoy it without having to rely on to logic. A waterfall
that colors its own rainbow in a sunny forest is beautiful by itself and all
its charm is 'owned' by anyone who wants to appreciate it. The beauty of the
arts, on the other hand, has patterns and rules that make it less spontaneous.
For this reason there are 'connoisseurs'. A painting's signature or the proof
of its authenticity increase its price but adds nothing to its beauty. The fame
of the artist is critical for the work to be acquired by collectors and
museums. Although beauty should be beyond comparison and analysis, reality is
Recently, for the
second time in my life, I had the immense aesthetic pleasure of wandering
around the Piazza Navona in Rome, a magnificent focal point of sculptures,
piles and buildings. Its great attraction is the Fountain of the Four Rivers, a
spectacular work by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), the
creator of Baroque art in sculpture. The four statues of this masterly work
represent the four major rivers of the world (Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de
la Plata) at the time of the construction (1659).
Visitors do not get
tired of walking around the fountain and there are no words to convey the awe
inspired by this man-made inspiring scenery. In the first visit, my ignorance
was unaware of who Bernini was and, for all purposes, any explanation,
including the reference to the four rivers, becomes unnecessary.
The visibility of
the Fountain in a famous square makes it of public domain and any calculation
of its monetary value lacks any sense. What happens with the works that need
authentication to estimate their price? Here analysis and intuition come into
The Introduction to "Blink: Intuitive Intelligence", the excellent book by Malcolm
Gladwell, shows with a real-life case the importance of intuition in the recognition of art . In 1983, the Canadian author relates, someone offered to the
Getty Museum in Los Angeles a 6th century BC Greek statue of the variety known
as kouros. After fourteen months of tests and examinations, the Museum’s
experts and record trackers endorsed the legitimacy of the statue and
authorized its acquisition. Towards the end of 1986, the statue was exhibited
with much fanfare.
The kouros was
false. Other art connoisseurs, when looking at it for the first time, felt
immediately what one of them called 'intuitive repulsion'. These unsuspicious
experts could not explain in rational terms what was the abnormal 'something'
in the work. "It was 'fresh'," said one. "I felt like as though
there was a glass between me and the statue," said another. "It
didn't look right", said a third. Those initial moments, where only
intuition plays, is what Malcolm Gladwell calls 'intuitive blink'. The
following verifications with other Greek experts proved them right.
From my side, on the
opposite bank of rejection, it is 'intuitive wonder' what I experienced in
front of the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Something similar must feel the
thousands of people who visit the Piazza Navona, even if they are unfamiliar
with the century of Bernini or the geographical location of the Four Rivers.
Last March, the same
Getty Museum received a new call, this time from someone offering a bust of
Pope Paulo V, sculpted in 1621, by the same Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the trail of
which had been lost in a chain of private collections. Timothy Potts, the big
boss of the Getty, not the same person of the previous story, when he received
the phone call, flew immediately to London to acquire such treasure.
"Bernini was the master of the ‘speaking likeness'. He found a way of
breathing life into marble," he said.
As I guess it goes
for 99.9% of the transactions of art that the Getty completes (the 1983 statue
is in the remaining 0.1%), the bust of Paulo V was authentic. Through both
knowledge and intuition, Mr. Potts knew what he was getting. On June 18, the bust
was placed on display, with a fanfare similar to that displayed at the
exhibition of the kouros twenty nine years ago.
Author of 'Inner Harmony through Mindfulness Meditation'
Atlanta, July 23, 2015
Note 1: Please subscribe to the English posts of
this website by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the word
“Suscribe’ as subject. Please write ‘unsuscribe’ if you want to be removed from
the distribution list.
Note 2: Enter this link (<-- please click
here) to write a comment about this article or this text is not scrolling
properly in your phone. Thanks.