I have always considered this to be the greatest work of art in London. Neptune, the god of the seas, is summoning up a terrible deluge, to flood the earth in anger. He raises his trident to strike the ground, and below him Triton blows on his conch shell sounding the alarm to the four corners of the world. Bernini takes us to the climax of the scene, a terrifying drama which we can see in three dimensions. Carved when he was just 24, the child prodigy had already astonished Europe with his precocious talents for invention and dynamism with a chisel in hand and a block of white marble.
Find it: the sculpture is in the galleries downstairs on the left as you walk into the V&A. Free entry. vam.ac.uk
Words by Milo Dickinson, Old Master Sculpture specialist, Christie’s. The Iris Letter March 2017.