Chair of St. Peter, 1658

  • Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Italian, 1598-1680


  • Overall: 23 × 11 1/2 × 11 inches (58.4 × 29.2 × 27.9 cm)

Founders Society Purchase, Ralph Harman Booth Bequest Fund



European Sculpture and Dec Arts

This is the only surviving sculptural sketch for the Chair of Saint Peter, the focal point of the apse of Saint Peter’s basilica in Rome. Bernini designed a magnificent gilded bronze throne as a shrine to encase the most venerated relic in the Vatican, the chair from which, by tradition, Saint Peter himself had preached. The reliefs on this model refer to the most significant moments in the life of Saint Peter: on the back is Jesus’s charge to Peter, “Feed my Sheep”; on the left side, the giving of the keys to Peter; on the right, the washing of the disciples’ feet; and, below the seat, the miraculous draft of fishes. In April 1658 Bernini brought this terracotta model to his patron, Pope Alexander VII. The project represents the crowning achievement of Bernini’s career.

by 1658, Pope Alexander VII (Vatican City). Don Flavio Chigi (1631–1693) (Rome, Italy)

Cardinal Conte Mattei (Rome, Italy)

by descent to his brother, Conte Mattei della Pergola (Rome and Pergola, Italy). Alexander C. de Frey (1882–1951) (Lucerne, Switzerland)

1951, purchased from Frey's estate by (Dr. Paul Drey, Paul Drey Gallery) (New York, New York, USA)

1952-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

Battaglia, Roberto. La Cattedra Berniniana di San Pietro. Rome, 1943, pp. 244-249 (pls. 43 and 44). Grigault, P.L. "Two Bosetti by Gian Lorenzo Bernini." Bulletin of the DIA 32, 3 (1952-1953): pp. 65-68 (ill.). Comstock, H. "Sketches by Bernini." Connoisseur 131 (1953): p. 137. Grigaut, P.L. "A Bozzetto for St. Peter's Cathedral." The Art Quarterly 16 (1953): pp. 124-130 (ill.). Art in Italy, 1600-1700. Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1965, no. 25, pp. 43-44 (ill.). Wittkower, R. Gian Lorenzo Bernini. London, 1966, no. 61 (3), p. 236. [as an important Bozzetto] Kauffmann, Hans. Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini: Die figürlichen Kompositionen. Berlin, 1970, pp. 263, 267, pl. 142 (ill.). DIA Handbook. 1971, p. 107. Wittkower, R. Sculpture: Processes and Principles. London, 1977, pp. 178-179. Rossacher, K. Taube oder Transfiguration in Zentrum der Glorie des petersdomes. Romische historiche Mitteilungen XXII, 1980. Ostrow in Lavin et al. 1981, p.183, nos. 13, 15, 25. Mezzatesta, 1982, no.7 (figs. 35-37). Raggio, O. “Bernini and the Collection of Cardinal Flavio Chigi.” Apollo 117 (1983): pgs. 368, 371, no. 14. Family Art Game. DIA Advertising Supplement, Detroit News. April 14, 1985, p. 4 (ill.). 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, p. 142- 143 (ill.). Darr, A. "A Valentiner Legacy: Italian Sculpture in Detroit." Apollo 124 (December 1986): p. 481 (fig. 11). Rossacher, K. "Der Aufruf der Seligen zum Elysium als Konzept von Neu-St.-Peter.” Pantheon 44 (1986): pp 61-71 (fig 14). Henshaw, Julia P., ed. A Visitor's Guide: Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 1995, p. 186. O'Grody, J. “Bernini's St. Ambrose for the Cathedra Petri: a Model and Metamorphosis of a Figure.” Gaskell & Lie. 1999, pp. 138, 142, 143, no. 15, 25 (fig. 148). Farrell, E.F., H. Lie, & S.M.M Young. “Clay Analysis.” Gaskell & Lie. 1999, pp. 44-45. Darr, A.P., P. Barnet, A. Bostrom, with contributions by C. Avery... [et. al.], Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Detroit Institute of Arts. London,, 2002, 2 vols., II, cat. 137, pp. 31-34. Bonn, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland "Barock im Vatikan: Kunst und Kultur im Rom der Päpste II 1572-1676." 2005-06, p. 163, cat. no. 81 [exh. org. by A. Nesselrath et al; not in the exhibition] Baroque1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence. Victoria & Albert Museum. London, 2009, cat. 84, pp. 236, 341 (repro.). (fig. 4.42). [exh. org. by M. Snodin and N. Llewellyn] Gaskell, I. & H. Lie, eds. “Sketches in Clay for Projects by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Theoretical, Technical and Case Studies.” Harvard University Art Museums Bulletin (spring 1999): pgs. 44, 45, 47, 135, 138, 139, 143, 177. Dickerson III, C. D., Anthony Sigel, and Ian Wardropper, eds. Bernini: Sculpting in Clay. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2012, pp. 78, 244–248 (ill.), 252, 311, 380, 384–385, cat. 27. Rogan, Clare I. “Representing the Seat of Papal Authority: A Rediscovered Drawing for the Chair of St. Peter by the Workshop of Gian Lorenzo Bernini,” Bulletin of the DIA 94, no. 1 (2020): pp. 40-53, pp. 41-42; 45-47; 50 (fig. 3).

Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, Chair of St. Peter, 1658, terracotta. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Ralph Harman Booth Bequest Fund, 52.220.