Gian Lorenzo Bernini (also spelled Gianlorenzo or Giovanni Lorenzo) (Naples, 7 December 1598 – Rome, 28 November 1680) was an Italian artist and a prominent architect who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his age, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. In addition, he painted, wrote plays, and designed metalwork and stage sets.
A student of classical sculpture, Bernini possessed the ability to capture, in marble, the essence of a narrative moment with a dramatic naturalistic realism which was almost shocking. This ensured that he effectively became the successor of Michelangelo, far outshining other sculptors of his generation, including his rival, Alessandro Algardi. His talent extended beyond the confines of his sculpture to consideration of the setting in which it would be situated; his ability to synthesise sculpture, painting and architecture into a coherent conceptual and visual whole has been termed by the art historian Irving Lavin the "unity of the visual arts". A deeply religious man, working in Counter Reformation Rome, Bernini used light as an important metaphorical device in the perception of his religious settings, often using hidden light sources that could intensify the focus of religious worship, or enhance the dramatic moment of a sculptural narrative.
Bernini was also a leading figure in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture along with his contemporaries, the architect, Francesco Borromini and the painter and architect, Pietro da Cortona. Early in their careers they had all worked at the same time at the Palazzo Barberini, initially under Carlo Maderno and on his death, under Bernini. Later on, however, they were in competition for commissions and fierce rivalries developed, particularly between Bernini and Borromini. Despite the arguably greater architectural inventiveness of Borromini and Cortona, Bernini's artistic pre-eminence, particularly during the reigns of popes Urban VIII (1623–1644) and Alexander VII (1655–1665), meant he was able to secure the most important commission in the Rome of his day, St. Peter's Basilica. His design of the Piazza San Pietro in front of the Basilica is one of his most innovative and successful architectural designs.