Bust of Costanza Bonarelli
The Museo del Bargello, in Florence, is home to a remarkable bust (1637) of Costanza Bonarelli by that great master of the Baroque, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680).
Costanza was the wife of Matteo Bonarelli, a sculptor from Lucca, who joined Bernini's workshop around 1636. Costanza didn't exactly live up to her name, for she soon began an affair with her husband's boss, who became 'fieramente inamorato' ('wildly in love') with her.
When it came to light that Costanza was also seeing Bernini's younger brother Luigi, all hell broke loose. Bernini tried to kill Luigi, first with a crowbar and then with a sword, but he managed to escape to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, where he sought sanctuary.
Bernini then turned his attention to his faithless mistress, sending a servant to her house to seek revenge. Finding Costanza in bed, the servant slashed her face with a razor, thereby fulfilling his master's orders.
And how did this sorry tale end? Well, the servant was arrested, tried and sent to prison. Costanza was also sent to prison, on charges of adultery and fornication. Luigi was exiled to Bologna for his own safety, while Bernini was fined 3,000 scudi, a huge sum of money. The fine was later waived by Pope Urban VIII (r. 1623-44), on the understanding that his favourite artist would marry, which Bernini duly did in May 1639.