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Who Are Some Famous Baroque Sculptors?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 23, 2024
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Some famous baroque sculptors are Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Franz Xaver Messerschmidt, and Nicolas Coustou. Bernini gained fame for his detailed depictions of figures in marble, often of characters from mythology. He produced a large volume of sculpture work as commissions for popes and kings over his lifetime. Messerschmidt did not work under the same royal and papal patronage, and he became well-known for sculpting busts of whimsical and expressive character faces that sometimes shocked the sensibilities of onlookers. Coustou became one of the famous baroque sculptors for his pieces that were commissioned specifically to adorn some of the most elaborate churches of the baroque era.

Bernini's talent was recognized at a young age, as his early sculpture gained the attention of the Vatican and earned him his first patron by the time he was 22 years old. Some of his famous works for the Catholic church included a decorative piece called Blessed Soul, as well as a bust of Pope Paul V. Bernini began his career in art with subject matter that reflected the prominence of religious faith among many baroque sculptors of his day. He later branched out into creating secular sculptures that gave the impressions of movement and a captured moment in the given character's story.

Messerschmidt was a unique among baroque sculptors because he aimed to sculpt the idiosyncrasies of the human face and its varied expressions. His work notably departed from that of other baroque sculptors who depicted mythical figures with idealized poses and heroic stoicism. This artist's sculpted busts were carved with a great amount of detail that realistically showed features such as forehead wrinkles and skin textures. His characters' faces could be laughing, grimacing, or even appearing to make fun of the onlookers. Some viewers of the baroque era considered Messerschmidt's work offensive because it ran contrary to the reserved demeanor preferred during this time period.

Coustou was the son of a French woodcarver who cited the works of artists, such as Michelangelo, as his sources of inspiration. One of his most noted accomplishments was his depiction of Jesus' resurrection titled Descent from the Cross that can still be viewed in the famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. A portion of Coustou's work was unfortunately destroyed during the French Revolution, although his surviving sculptures are often considered some of the best examples of the baroque style.

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