Bernini’s signature impressed in clay

Dear Patrons and Friends,


The Vatican Museums are full of secrets and stories seldom told. Today we will highlight a few clay art pieces, once simple models meant for a temporary purpose, destined to be destroyed, that are now timeless masterpieces.

We will also continue to follow Monsignor Hogan and his meditations on our collective journey towards Easter.

Let’s find out more!


Bernini’s rare clay cast models


The Vatican Pinacoteca is home to extremely rare clay cast models made by Bernini and Algardi, two protagonist sculptors of the 17th century. The materials are extremely delicate, and Bernini used these models before casting the definitive bronze works in Saint Peter’s Basilica. It is possible to see Bernini’s fingerprints in the clay, which is an exciting find!

The surviving models on display in the Vatican Pinacoteca include four angels and the heads of two Doctors of the Church – Saint Athanasius and Saint John Chrysostom.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a leading sculptor of Baroque Rome, is the author of important works commissioned by Pope Alexander VII: the colonnade of Saint Peter’s Square and the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Models usually anticipate the final design and effect of the finished bronze sculpture. Generally, the last stage in this operation destroys the model, hence the visible missing pieces and fissures.

The Chair of Saint Peter in Rome's most important Basilica.
A highly symbolic monument designed as a reliquary to enshrine the wooden chair that, according to tradition, Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome, used.

This model angel has cracks in the outer clay layer, which reveal a tightly braided bundle of vine branches and other vegetable fibers, probably coming from the many vineyards that populated the area around the Vatican hill in the 17th century.

Recently, a ten-year restoration on these models took place within a transparent structure and before the eyes of the Museums’ visitors. Patrons of the Arts New York Chapter strongly supported this restoration. Lee Romanelli, a beloved New York Chapter Patron, had a passion for the various phases of this long restoration journey. Watch the video below to see the magic of this restoration project.

with Monsignor Terrence Hogan


Our journey through Lent continues with the words of Monsignor Hogan, our North American Chapters Chaplain. This video will deepen your experience of this holy season.