The tomb of Alexander VII is a sculptural monument designed and partially executed by the Italian artist Gianlorenzo Bernini. It is in the basilica of St Peter's in the Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...
Early sketches by Bernini for the work indicate that the tomb was to be placed in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, as was the wish of Alexander's papal successor, Clement IX. However, a little after Clement's death, the more prestigious location of St. Peter's became the preferred spot.
There are six significant figures in the monument. At the apex is Alexander himself in prayer. To the viewer's left is the figure of Charity
suckling a baby, and behind Charity is the character of Justice
(obscured in many photographs taken from ground level). To the viewer's right there is Truth
and then behind that is the half-figure Prudence
. Perhaps most dramatically, below Alexander, is the figure of Death
(in gilt bronze rather than marble), clutching a sandglass and being overwhelmed by the billowing drapery.
Work begun on the monument in 1671, six years after the death of Alexander VII, and was completed in 1678. A team of artists under Bernini's supervision undertook the project, working on all its aspects such as the many figures, the billowing marble drapery, the coat of arms.
Once Bernini himself had completed the designs for the tomb (for which he received payment in October 1672), its physical creation began. The art historian Rudolf Wittkower identifies four types of artist required to the create the monument: a stonemason who would do preliminary work breaking down blocks of marble, expert sculptors executing the more precise carving, some smoothing work done on the remaining rough parts of the stone by apprentice sculptors, and then a specialist lustratore
who did final polishing to give the sculptures added lustre. Bernini himself probably worked on Alexander's portrait.