While Bernini's architectural designs show the application of the principle of bi-lateral symmetry, in figural painting and sculpture he conceived symmetry rather as a starting point of dynamic movement, which he also associated with his theatrical activity. He was accustomed to reckon with how a mise-en-scène would be seen by the audience, and transferring this approach to his other artistic undertakings he usually defined the laterality of configuration according to the viewer's subjective experience of left and right. In the present study a series of Bernini's portrait scupltures, medals and paintings and scuptural compositions are analysed from this viewpoint.
The sculptural rendering of loose folds of clothing was part of the classical legacy, which was a salient characteristic of Bernini's figural sculpture. The expressive potential of non-figural drapes was an innovation which has seldom received adequate attention. At first sight the evocative dynamism of such independent draperies carved in marble may seem like a sort of Abstract Expressionism avant la lettre but Bernini employed the effect as a “Symbolic Form” in Ernst Cassirer's famous definition, a concrete object communicating an intelligible meaning.