b. 1612 Siena, Italy, d. 1676 Rome
painter; printmaker; draftsman
Having ability and a powerful patron from his hometown of Siena helped Bernardino Mei to rise from obscurity as a provincial artist to fame and fortune in the important city of Rome. Fabio Chigi, from a powerful Sienese family, actively supported the Sienese painter. After becoming Pope Alexander VII in 1655, Chigi summoned Mei to Rome in 1657. There Mei joined the Accademia di San Luca and regularly painted religious pictures and other subjects for the pope and his nephew, Cardinal Flavio Chigi. Inspired by contemporary Roman painting and Gian Lorenzo Bernini's sculpture, Mei had found his mature style by the 1650s. Complex rhythms and forms, whirling movement, and great expressive power marked these later works--a departure from the style he learned in Siena. But Mei's characteristic silvery light still reflected the influence of Baroque artist Raffaelle Vanni, with whom Mei may have studied in Siena. Mei's earlier style derived from Sienese art of the 1500s and from the descriptive realism of engravers. His last style, beginning around 1660, betrayed awareness of the new classicism of Carlo Maratti and the late Baroque style in his lighter palette and more monumental and sculptural forms.
Italian, about 1655