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Bust - Thomas Baker (1606-1658)
  • Thomas Baker (1606-1658)
    Bernini, Gian Lorenzo, born 1598 - died 1680
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Thomas Baker (1606-1658)

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Rome (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1638 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bernini, Gian Lorenzo, born 1598 - died 1680 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Museum number:

    A.63:1, 2-1921

  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition []

The portrait bust was an ancient Roman sculptural type that was revived and developed in the 15th century, with the growing interest in the representation of the individual. Such images ranged from intimate realism to idealised portraits, and often carried political significance. In 17th-century Rome, numerous busts were produced of popes, prelates and other members of the elite. They were usually intended for public display or propaganda. A description of Gianlorenzo Bernini's working method survives from his visit to France in 1665. He made numerous drawings of his sitters in action so as to get to know their movements and expressions. Working from memory, he then carved the Carrara marble block using chisels and drills. Bernini prided himself on being able to give marble the appearance of flesh. In this bust, the tool marks are particularly visible in the hair and the intricate lace. The bust was apparently completed by an assistant after Bernini was ordered to stop work. Bernini was the leading sculptor in Rome. He worked primarily for the papal court and other heads of state, attaining an outstanding reputation and high status. This bust is unusual because, unlike the majority of contemporary sculpted portraits, it was a private commission from a comparatively modest member of society.

Physical description

Bust, marble. A young man with a small moustache and beard, his long curling hair tied with a bow of ribbon on the left shoulder; over his cloak and doublet he wears a linen collar with a broad edging of Venetian needle-point lace. The fingers of his gloved left hand emerge from his cloak. The round base stands on a square of black marble which rests on a painted pedestal of wood and composition decorated with garlands.

Place of Origin

Rome (made)


ca. 1638 (made)


Bernini, Gian Lorenzo, born 1598 - died 1680 (maker)

Materials and Techniques



Height: 82.5 cm, Width: 70 cm estimated, Depth: 36 cm estimated, Height: 134.5 cm pedestal

Object history note

Carved in Rome by Gian Lorenzo Bernini (born in Naples, Italy 1598, died in Rome, 1680)

Descriptive line

Portrait bust of Thomas Baker (1606-1658), Gianlorenzo Bernini, Rome, ca. 1638

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. London, 1932. p. 158.
Pope-Hennessy, John, assisted by Lightbrown, R.W., Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: HMSO, 1964, Vol. II, cat. no. 638, pp. 600-603, fig. no. 632.
Wittkower, Rudolf. Gian Lorenzo Bernini: the Sculptor of the Roman Baroque. Oxford, 1981. pp. 12, 13, 32, 208. cat. no. 40.
Fagiolo dell'Arco, Maurizio, Fagiolo dell'Arco, Marcello. Bernini: una introduzione al gran teatro del barocco. Rome, 1967. p. 209. cat. no. 81.
Review of Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Art Bulletin. vol. L. 1968. p. 103.
Bourdon-Machuel, Marion. François du Quesnoy, 1597-1643. Paris: Athena, 2005. p.82.
Bacchi, Andrea. Scultura del '600 a Rome. Milano: Longanesi, 1996. ills. no. 147. p.787.
Avery, Charles. Bernini Genius of the Baroque. London, 1997. pp. 228-230, 274. illus. 332.
Montagu, J., 'Bernini and Others', The Sculpture Journal. III. 1999. pp. 103-104. fig. 1.
Wittkower, Rudolf. Sculpture. Processes and Principles. London, 1977. fig. 14. p. 187.
Lightbown, R. W., 'Bernini's bust of English patrons', in Art the Ape of Nature. New York, 1981. pp. 453-468.
N.A.C.F, 18th Annual Report, 1921.
Medlam, Sarah and Lesley Ellis Miller, ed., Princely Treasures European Masterpieces 1600-1800 form the Victoria and Albert Museum, ( London, 2011), pp. 156-157.
Medlam, S. and Ellis Miller, L. (eds.) Princely Treasures: European Masterpieces 1600-1800 from the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publishing, 2011.
Bacchi, Andrea, Catherine Hess and Jennifer Montagu (eds.), Bernini and the Birth of Baroque Portrait Sculpture, Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008.
Weston-Lewis, Aidan (ed.), Effigies & Ecstasies: Roman Baroque Sculpture and Design in the age of Bernini, Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 1998.
Age of Charles I: painting in england 1620-1649, London, Tate Gallery, 1972

Labels and date

British Galleries:
Thomas Baker (1606-1658) is believed to have been the Englishman who delivered van Dyck's famous triple portrait of Charles I to Bernini in Rome so that the sculptor could carve a bust of the king. While there Baker commissioned this portrait of himself. As the bust of Charles was an important diplomatic gift, the Pope ordered Bernini to stop work on Baker's bust since this would deflect him from his task. [27/03/2003]






Sculpture; Portraits


Sculpture Collection

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