Bernini’s Beloved: Sarah McPhee

★★★★½

 A Portrait of Costanza Piccolomini

Now here is a love story with a sting in the tail for Valentine’s Day. Written with novelistic verve by Sarah McPhee, a professor at Emory University, it is an example of how art history can be brought to scintillating, pulsing life when done well. McPhee’s point of departure is a striking marble bust of a woman, carved by Bernini in 1637 and traditionally believed to record the features of a woman named Costanza with whom he was passionately in love. Her husband was one of Bernini’s assistants.

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