SANDST E I N Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Pope Alexander VII (born Fabio Chigi) changed the face of baroque Rome forever. From the early years of their amicable relationship comes an intimate work of art, long considered lost but now rediscovered in the Skulpturensammlung in Dresden: a shockingly realistic human skull of white marble, made by Bernini for Alexander VII in 1655. This book explores this major discovery, placing it within its broader historical context and providing new insights into the Chigi family’s art collection, the acquisition of part of this collection by Augustus the Strong, the influence of Bernini on the Dresden-based sculptor Balthasar Permoser, and much more. The chapter on the plague in Rome – which Alexander VII tried to combat through such tools as compulsory quarantines, masks and the closing down of much of public life – relates that historic epidemic to our battle today against Covid-19. These historical parallels help us to under- stand better the ever-pressing sense of mortality during the lifetime of sculptor and Pope, which led to the creation of Bernini’s remarkable Death’s Head .