Not many people may know about the fact that the Civic Museum in Termini Imerese hosts a work made by the father of Baroque Art: Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The masterpiece is the “draft” of a major work exhibited at the cathedral of Siena and this is a source of pride for Termini and its museum.
Despite its mysterious origins, it seems like the draft may have come to Termini Imerese through the traffics of the commercial harbor, which in the 600s reached the peak of their intense activity. The small statuette represents a miniature prototype of the St. Jerome’s statue, made around 1663 and exhibited at the chapel Chigi, inside the Cathedral of Siena. It is a draft that served as a study tool for the artist to define the characters he would later want to give to the final version; in the dynamism of the figure of the Saint and in the articulated drapery, we can fully grasp the characteristics of Baroque art.
In the final work, which is preserved in the Cathedral of Siena, Jerome is caught in the gesture of embracing the cross of Jesus. The artist works the marble in order to obtain different material effects: from the smooth parts of the face rough and scraped with a flowing and electric beard, and the sunken chest, to those of the drapery broken by folds, in which the chisel sinks deep.
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As said before, how the draft came to our city is not clear, but according to the poor information available, it seems that it was purchased by a Sicilian nobleman of the time and later donated to the Civic Museum and is now included among the ten works of excellence of his property. In recent years the statuette has been borrowed several times for exhibitions held in the most important museums of Baroque art in our island and in the entire Italian nation; starting from the exhibition held a few years ago at Palazzo Abatellis, entitled “Palermo and the age of Serpotta”. Then the statuette played a prominent role in an exhibition at Palazzo Barberini in Rome, an architectural masterpiece by Bernini himself.