The Ecstasy of St Teresa of Avila, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and the Cardinal Federico Corner

For a cardinal of the Holy Roman Church to die in Rome and have a funeral chapel built in the city was a very common event. However, it was not so obvious to come across an artist of  genius and such formal perfection  in his  works like Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 

This was the fortune of the Venetian cardinal Federico Corner in 1647, whose Roman funeral chapel is constantly admired by visitors, although he remains mostly in the shadows, almost invisible, as everyone’s gaze goes to Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s marble group of the Ecstasy of St. Teresa of Avila.  Yet from the small box in the Cornaro Chapel, where he is sculpted together with the other religious and family members, Cardinal Federico Corner seems to talk with the other statues and admires Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa himself and the visitors in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, the church built by Carlo Maderno, where his tomb is located.

Bernini , Santa Teresa D’Avila

Who was Federico Corner?

Federico Corner was born in 1579 in Venice, he belonged to the Corner di San Polo branch, which means he was very rich. He graduated from the University of Padua, in 1602 and became a Cardinal in 1626. In 1599 he founded the Accademia dei Ricovrati – Accademia Galileiana in Padua.                                                                          He was the son of the Doge Giovanni Corner I, and at his death he left an extraordinary legacy. In 1647 he commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to build his funeral chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. He was an extraordinary patron of the arts and man of culture.

All that glitters is not gold and Federico Corner was accused in his lifetime by an ugly satirical poem of avarice, pride and homosexuality. For a religious man, this seems at least inappropriate, but satirical (anonymous) poems were quite common and spared no one, not even the famous person, and were aimed above all at the powerful in anonymous form.                                                                                                                       It is a little bit like what happens today in anonymous form in social media.

Here are some information and ‘numbers’ regarding the family:

Federico Corner was a great collector, who really loved art, he had a collection of about eight hundred paintings and sculptures and even in a city like Venice where private collecting was very common, this was an extraordinary collection.

The Corner family had four doges, eight cardinals and a queen in their family, and in a Republic, being related to a queen was really uncommon.

Their palace in San Polo, Corner Mocenigo was sold by the last Corner and belong now to the Guardia di Finanza, it held an extraordinary collection of artworks, including many paintings by Giambattista Tiepolo.

The beautiful palace Corner Mocenigo was open to the public, after a long restoration in 2019, on the occasion of the exhibition dedicated to Doge Francesco Morosini: Francesco Morosini at war in Candia and Morea.                        In the future, I will show you it, when it will be possible to do it again, and I will tell you about the Corner tombs in the Venetian churches, which are less well known than the Corner chapel in Rome, but which have beautiful works, including some by the sculptor Giuseppe Torretti.

The Guardia di Finanza is promoting and opening its artistic heritage to the public. Did you know that there is a Historical Museum of the Guardia di Finanza?

If you cannot be in Venice, you can visit them here and on my socials.

Fiorella Pagotto

If you desire to visit the Palace Corner or the Venetian palaces this is the link to my guided tours

This is the website of the Historical Museum of Guardia di Finanza