David and Bernini’s mirror
Legend has it that Gian Lorenzo Bernini was uncertain about the marble profile he would sculpt for his “David”. It was a terrible conundrum for the 25-year-old sculptor at the beginning of his stellar career in Rome, who only a few years later would be known as the “new Michelangelo”, the most important artist at the Pope’s service.
The “David” was destined to the aristocratic home of Paul V’s nephew, cardinal Scipione Borghese, Bernini’s most important patron. An extraordinary art collector, Cardinal Borghese managed to have in his house – now known as Galleria Borghese – not only the “David” but also many other works by the Neapolitan artist, including “Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius”, “The Rape of Proserpine” and “Apollo and Daphne”.
Bernini was unable to imagine the face of the young man who heroically killed the giant Goliath during the war between Israel and the Philistines… until one day, as he paced nervously around the house, he caught in a mirror a glimpse of his own face, focused and determined.
And so he finally could see “David”.