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Tilting backwards on a perilous pile of rocks, a marine god wrestles with the dolphin perched on his shoulders. Quick, curving lines and rough shading fill the drawing with vibrant movement: the dolphin in particular seethes with energy. Gian Lorenzo Bernini swiftly outlined the shapes of the rock formations as well those of the marine god and dolphin. Using some blunt tool, perhaps even his thumb or finger, he softly smudged the lines to create the shadows that form the contorted pose of the god's muscular torso. Between 1652 and 1653, Bernini sent studies for fountains to Duke Francesco I d'Este for his palace. Other craftsmen transferred this particular design into a terracotta model, and then local, less accomplished workers produced a more static stucco fountain for the central niche of the palace.

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