The Baroque Period is known for its decadent theatricality, with European artists continuing the classical trends of the Renaissance and shaping them into dramatic paintings and sculptures. Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s work is particularly revered by art historians. Yet, the work of his lesser known apprentice, Giuliano Finelli, are just as breathtaking. Finelli was born in 1601 in Torrano di Carrara, Italy and received formal training in sculpting in Naples. Moving to Rome in 1622, the budding artist’s prowess with carving live figures attracted the renowned Bernini, and he chose Finelli as his assistant.
Under Bernini’s tutelage, Finelli grew his artistic ability and his political connections. Since Bernini was often commissioned by Pope Urban VIII, the most powerful political figure in Italy during the period, Finelli was able to work on incredibly significant pieces. One of these sculptures was a bust of Pope Urban VIII’s niece, Maria Duglioli Barberini, who had died in 1621 from labor complications.
Finelli’s attention to detail translated well in bringing her visage back to life in the bust that was commissioned around 1626. The sculptor was so precise in carving the details of her dress that the insertion lace surrounding the bust’s ruff is deceptively realistic—one would think it’s actually made of textile, when in reality it’s all marble. Even the minute string which binds the beads of the figure’s necklace is visible.
Unfortunately, Bernini could not share the spotlight with Finelli and refused to allow his assistant the chance to present the commission to the Pope in Rome. Finelli’s other contributions to Bernini’s work were also overshadowed by the artist’s popularity, and so he broke from Bernini’s workshop in 1629. His skill in portraying the most minute of details in all his commissions makes his work distinguishable from Bernini’s and beautiful to behold.