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Terracotta statue of a kneeling, winged figure with hands pressed together

A tan figure kneels on a low, wide platform. They have long curly hair, large wings that extend from head height down to their hips, and a voluminous garment with long, full sleeves that pools on the platform around them. They hold their hands in front of their chest, palms pressed together. The figure is sculpted in a somewhat subtle and vague style, without detailed facial features. The sculptor’s lines are visible in the clay.

Gallery Text

Below the Surface

The X-radiograph of "Kneeling Angel" reveals that Bernini modeled the sculpture principally from one piece of solid clay. This method is a hallmark of Bernini’s "bozzetti," or sketch models, and distinguished the artist from his contemporaries, who often hollowed their "bozzetti" to prevent damage during firing. Many of the models in this room were produced using solid clay.

To prepare his clay, Bernini applied the “wedging” technique to consolidate the material and drive out trapped air. Like kneading bread dough, wedging forms a column of clay and aligns any remaining trapped air into a linear pattern, which can be seen in the X-radiograph in what looks like wood grain. That the grain pattern here is continuous from bottom to top is evidence that Bernini used a single and solid piece of clay. To model the wings, arms, hair, and drapery, he removed and added small pieces of clay.

[image of x-radiograph]

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Italian (Naples, Italy 1598 - 1680 Rome, Italy)
Kneeling Angel
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, Italy, Lazio, Rome
Persistent Link


Level 2, Room 2520, European Art, 17th century
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Physical Descriptions

29.1 x 18.3 x 17.4 cm (11 7/16 x 7 3/16 x 6 7/8 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Bartolomeo Cavaceppi. Ferri inventory 1799
Giovanni Piancastelli, Rome, Italy, Sold to Mrs. Edward D. Brandegee, 1905. Piancastelli was the curator of the Galleria Borghese.
Mrs. Edward D. (Mary B.) Brandegee, 1905, Sold to Fogg Art Museum, 1937.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing and Friends of the Fogg Art Museum Funds
Accession Year
Object Number
European and American Art

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Publication History

  • Richard Norton, Bernini and Other Studies in the History of Art, The Macmillan Company (New York, NY, 1914), p. 48 no. 13, pl. XXa
  • Leonard Opdycke, "A Group of Models for Berninesque Sculptures", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, March 1938), vol. VII, no. 2, p. 29
  • "Bernini Bozzetti for America: Sketches by the Baroque Genius for the Fogg Art Museum", Art News, Art News (New York, NY, June 4, 1938), vol. XXXVI, pp. 11-12
  • Rudolf Wittkower, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the sculptor of the Roman Baroque [1st ed.], Phaidon Press (London, England, 1955), p. 240, no. 78
  • Irving Lavin, "The Bozzetti of Gianlorenzo Bernini" (PhD diss., Harvard University, 1955), Unpublished, pp. 192, 194 ff.
  • S. Lane Faison, Jr., A Guide to the Art Museums of New England, Harcourt, Brace and Co. (New York, 1958), p. 116, fig. 10
  • Luigi Grassi, Gianlorenzo Bernini, Edizioni dell'Ateneo (Rome, Italy, 1962), p. 140
  • Irving Lavin, "Calculated Spontaneity: Bernini and the Terracotta Sketch", Apollo (May 1978), vol. CVII, no. 195, pp. 398-405, p. 403 fig. 8; p. 404
  • Franco Borsi, Bernini Architetto, Electa (Milan, Italy, 1980), p. 346
  • Irving Lavin, Drawings by Gianlorenzo Bernini, from the Museum der Bildenden Kunste, Leipzig, exh. cat., Princeton University Art Museum (Princeton, NJ, 1981), p. 323 fn. 2
  • Rudolf Wittkower, Bernini: The Sculptor of the Roman Baroque, Electa (Milan, Italy, 1990), p. 297-298
  • Maria Giulia Barberini and Carlo Gasparri, "I bozzetti ed i modelli dei secoli XVI-XVIII della collezione di Bartolomeo Cavaceppi", exh. cat., Fratelli Palombi Editori (Rome, Italy, 1994), no. 33, p. 124, repr. as fig. 103
  • Laura Falaschi, "Il Ciborio del Santissimo Sacramento in San Pietro in Vaticano Secondo, i designi e i progetti di Gian Lorenzo Bernini da Urbano VIII Barberini a Clemente X Altiers", L'ultimo Bernini 1665-1680 : nuovi argomenti, documenti e immagini, ed. Valentino Martinelli, Quasar (Rome, Italy, 1996), no. 22, p. 102; repr. in b/w p. 119 as fig 26; p. 81
  • James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp.174-175
  • Andrea Bacchi, ed., Sculture del '600 a Roma, Longanesi & Co. (Milan, Italy, 1996), pl. 189
  • Charles Avery, Bernini, Genius of the Baroque, Thames & Hudson (London, England, 1997), pl. 362
  • Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997
  • Mark S. Weil, "Bernini Drawings and Bozzetti for the Ponte Sant' Angelo: A New Look", Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Henry Lie, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, Spring 1999), vol. VI, no. 3, 144-150
  • Colette Czapski Hemingway, "Borghini, Félibien, and Five Angels for the Altar of the Blessed Sacrament", Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Henry Lie, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, Spring 1999), vol. VI, no. 3, 151-161, figs. 163, 169, 184, 186
  • Eugene F. Farrell, Henry Lie, and Suzanne M. M. Young, "Clay Analysis", Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Henry Lie, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, Spring 1999), VI, 3, 39-47, pp. 42-43
  • Nancy Lloyd, "Fingerprints", Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Henry Lie, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, Spring 1999), VI, No. 3, 119-124
  • Tony Sigel, "The Clay Modeling Techniques of Gian Lorenzo Bernini", Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin, ed. Ivan Gaskell and Henry Lie, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, Spring 1999), VI, 3, 48-72
  • Maurizio Fagiolo dell'Arco, Berniniana: Novità sul regista del Barocco, Skira (Milan, 2002), pp. 70-71 and repr. p.XLIV as fig. 54
  • C. D. Dickerson III, Tony Sigel, Ian Wardropper, Andrea Bacchi, Tomaso Montanari, and Stephen E. Ostrow, Bernini Sculpting in Clay, exh. cat. (New York, 2012)
  • Sophie Lynford and Kate Smith, "Introducing the Art + Science Pathway", Index Magazine, Harvard Art Museums (May 27, 2022),, accessed July 22, 2022
  • Nina Pasquini, "Model Masterpieces: Bernini's Terracotta Sketches", Harvard Magazine (May-June 2024), vol. 126, no. 5, p. 72

Exhibition History

  • The Italian and English Renaissance, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Cambridge, 03/02/1958 - 03/20/1958
  • In Memoriam: Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 08/01/1980 - 10/15/1980
  • Drawings by Gianlorenzo Bernini from the Museum der Bildenden Kunste Leipzig, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 08/19/1982 - 10/10/1982
  • Gian Lorenzo Bernini: Sketches in Clay, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/28/1998 - 06/30/2008
  • Bernini: Sculpting in Clay, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 10/03/2012 - 01/06/2013; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 02/03/2013 - 05/05/2013
  • 32Q: 2520 Winter Garden, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

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Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at