The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, by Gion Lorenzo Bernini, is located at the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria Della Vittoria, Rome. Your initial reaction to this sculpture is awe; it’s visually breath-taking. Saint Teresa and an angel are the two dominant figures. Directly above the saint and angel, Bernini uses natural light to suggest heaven. “St Teresa and the angel are shown as if suspended on a cloud above the altar, the whole scene within the niche being illuminated from heaven by a concealed window (Gion Lorenzo Bernini, 2010)”. The sculptures were created with white marble, which glistens and glows perfectly when sunlight is applied. Yet after some time, when the initial beauty of The Ecstasy of St. Teresa fades, we begin to wonder what this is truly about.
Saint Teresa and the angel are suspended in a very dramatic, personal religious experience. The angel is holding a golden arrow, which is directed towards St. Teresa’s heart. She is also gently grabbing on St. Teresa’s heavily draped attire, and seems to be smiling at her, in a pleasurable way. “Teresa describes an angel carrying a fire-tipped spear with which he pierces her heart repeatedly, an act that sends her into a state of spiritual rapture. “The pain,” she writes, “was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one’s soul then content with anything but God (Sullivan, 1997)”. Many people who view The Ecstasy of Teresa, often think that Teresa’s expression is a sexual one. From the excerpt above you can see that St. Teresa herself is describing an orgasm, without even realizing it. The touch from God or the angel was her utter peak physically and emotionally, and that is how she familiarized herself with sensuality.
As viewers and critics of all the art we see, we have to internalize what we see and find out what it means to us. The Ecstasy of St. Teresa is deeply private, and after...
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