The Ecstasy (The Bitcoin Angel)
A thundering church organ and choir resonate inside the Cornaro Chapel in Rome arousing Bernini’s great 17th century Baroque masterpiece, The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Saint Teresa slowly opens her eyes trying desperately to hold onto the most exquisite dream but as she lifts her head, the angel who had come to her in her dream is now standing over her with a golden arrow in his hand.
Without warning, the angel lunges with the arrow piercing it deep into her chest, releasing an excruciatingly sweet pain as Teresa’s head falls back with eyes closed in rapture. She opens her eyes momentarily, surprised to see bitcoin spill out from her as the arrow is withdrawn; however, Teresa is even more aware of the knowing smile appearing on the angel’s face and the intense heat radiating from her beating heart. The temporal being of St Teresa wishes this moment will never end but her spirit understands that there will be consequences.
View the animation with audio at the SuperRare marketplace here.
Demo video of the augmented reality feature below. The oil painting was created with this video July 2018 for my CryptoDisruption exhibition. I’ve since changed the AR experience to the original 1/1 NFT animation with music.
Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582) described the scene in her autobiography, “In the angel’s hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times … and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease.”
Bernini used this masterful and undeniably erotic artwork as a springboard to a new and higher type of spiritual awakening. The work became a melding of sensual and spiritual pleasure, the heavenly and the earthly coming together. The piercing of Teresa’s heart becomes a point of contact between earth and heaven, matter and spirit. These uniquely powerful combinations are what I focussed on when creating the original painting, the accompanying AR video and now with this NFT animation.
This painting was inspired by the 2017 crypto bull run and the euphoria that was sweeping across the world as bitcoin quickly surged towards $20,000. I searched for a powerful image that could be reinterpreted to convey the high emotion and insatiableness of some crypto companies, ICOs, ‘influencers’ and over leveraged investors driving this delirium whilst heralding it under the guise of self-sovereignty, morality, and a Utopian prosperity. People’s lives were changing dramatically. Literally overnight, ‘dreams’ were coming true, money was being made faster (and lost faster) than could be imagined. There seemed to be no limit to the heights and greed that could be achieved.
In search for a symbol, I turned towards the highly ornate and extravagant Baroque period renowned for its ostentatious displays of wealth by the monarchs and decided on one of the greatest masterpieces of the 17th century, Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. This symbol would be reworked and reimagined with oil paint, video and animation in an attempt to convey the original message of connection with a ‘higher power’, the search for the divine, but to also carry with it a message of caution and the need for responsibility. I aimed to capture that moment which Bernini first created – when the angel and St Teresa act out a scene of both pleasure and pain simultaneously, the ecstasy and the agony, but this time in front of a shining, golden bitcoin.
The Bitcoin Angel represents dreams, hope, and the desire to improve oneself, but it also acts as a warning to the greedy, self-absorbed and negligent that without caution and integrity, those ‘dreams’ can very quickly transform into something entirely different.