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Draping Michelangelo: Francesco Mochi, Gianlorenzo Bernini, and the Birth of Baroque Sculpture

Estelle Lingo, Andrew W. Mellon Professor, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art. The Tuscan sculptor Francesco Mochi (1580-1654) has long been viewed as an early innovator of the baroque style whose career was eclipsed by his brilliant younger contemporary Gianlorenzo Bernini. But for his 17th-century biographer, what distinguished Mochi’s sculpture was his determination to adhere to “the Florentine manner.” Estelle Lingo’s new book, Mochi’s Edge and Bernini’s Baroque, argues that the religious and political climate of the later 16th century posed specific challenges for the medium of sculpture, particularly as it had been practiced by Florentine sculptors, most famously Michelangelo. In this lecture held on April 29, 2018, Lingo explores how Mochi’s distinctive sculptural style emerged directly from his attempt to carry forward this 16th-century Florentine tradition and to adapt it to the exigencies of a new era. Mochi’s ambitious undertaking produced some of the century’s most breathtaking and technically sophisticated sculptures, but its inherent tensions also offer new ways of understanding the formation and rise to dominance of Bernini’s mature sculptural style.