Bust of King Charles I (Bernini)
The Bust of Charles I was a sculptural bust produced by the Italian artist Gianlorenzo Bernini which according to one historian, "set the visual conventions for centuries … [establishing itself as] the official portrait of secular absolutism.". The sculpture was of the then king Charles I of England, who had commissioned the work himself, writing to Bernini that the artist's name was "exalted above those of all men of talent who have exercised your profession.". Bernini did not travel to London to undertake the work; rather he made use of a painted triple portrait of Charles I (i.e. a view of Charles from three points) created especially by the Flemish artist Anthony Van Dyck for Bernini. Despite not meeting Charles I face-to-face, Bernini's bust was considered a success at the time, and the English king rewarded Bernini with jewellery worth over 4,000 Roman scudi (a figure over 60 times the average yearly salary of a worker in Rome).
The portrait of Charles I no longer exists; it was most likely destroyed in the Palace of Whitehall fire of 1698. Numerous copies of the image exist in other forms (e.g. engravings, bronze sculptures).
For a while in 19th and early 20th centuries, there was a belief in England and elsewhere that Bernini had also created a bust of Oliver Cromwell, the victor over Charles I in the English Civil War. However, the attribution was refuted in 1922.
- Mormando, Franco. Bernini: His Life and His Rome, p132
- Mormando, p130
- Mormando, p131
- Wittkower, Rudolf. Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque. London: Phaidon Press, 1997, p258
- The Burlington Magazine - Volume 40 - Page 119