The Ecstasy of Santa Teresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria
San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane
Sant’Andrea al Quirinale
Bernini’s Elephant at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva
The Fountain of the Four Rivers and Sant’Agnese in Agone at Piazza Navona
Complete survey of Bernini and Borromini’s personalities and careers
BERNINI, BORROMINI & THE EXUBERANCE OF ROMAN BAROQUE
Bernini, Borromini: they worked together at the creation of the colossal ‘baldachin’ in St Peter’s Basilica, that can be considered the milestone of the Baroque style. Again, they were initially together for the construction of Palazzo Barberini, but their antithetic characters and the reciprocal diffidence brought to their separation. The rivalry between the two great minds of the Roman baroque became almost legendary.
Neapolitan by birth, Roman by adoption, son of a prominent sculptor, child prodigy, much admired since the very beginning, Bernini served eight popesand innumerable cardinals. Affable, brilliant, intense worker, man of great faith, excellent sculptor, architect, painter, stage designer, he changed forever the Roman skyline and is universally recognized as the last great Italian geniusafter Leonardo and Michelangelo. Died at 82 surrounded by fame and success and mourned by all Europe.
Born in a rocky village in Northern Lombardy, son of an architect – Borromini at the age of ten was sent to Milan to study masonry. At 20 went to Rome where he started his apprenticeship under Carlo Maderno. His first independent work, San Carlino’s Church electrified Rome. Suffered of depression and melancholia, never felt his work recognized. Introvert, intellectual, hyperactive, always suffered the competition with Bernini. Committed suicide at 67 during a period of serious mental disorder.
Our Bernini, Borromini itinerary starts ideally at Piazza Barberini. Gian Lorenzo Bernini, at the service of Pope Urban VIII (Barberini) conceived the celebrated Triton’s Fountain (1642-43). It was a great novelty, as so far public fountains in the city of Rome had been simple basins for the reception of public water. He got inspired by free-standing monumental fountains of private villas’ gardens.
Nearby is the huge Palazzo Barberini, where Bernini and Borromini briefly worked together. But Borromini at a certain moment left…
Our Bernini, Borromini tour proceeds to the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, to admire one of Bernini’s most appreciated masterpieces: the ‘tableau vivant’ with the Ecstasy of Santa Teresa, for the Cornaro Family Chapel (1647-1652), that will serve as introduction to the peculiarities of Baroque style, with an accent on Bernini’s fundamental experience as a stage designer.
Not far is Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, a small but unforgettable building, an innovative, bizarre, architectural jewel that gained him international and perpetual fame. It was his first independent commission (1634) and he jumped at the project with great energy. Consecrated in 1646, this iconic masterpiece of Baroque architecture condensates Borromini’s ideas: curving lines, undulatory rhythms, sophisticated play of light and shadow, geometric shapes, complex ornamentation.
Few steps away Bernini’s Sant’Andrea al Quirinale (1670) is perhaps less ‘hallucinatory’ with respect to San Carlino, but still, very innovative. We’re welcomed by a most unusual façade, that breaks away with all the rules of Classicism. While entering the small church, we’re immediately enveloped by the curving marbles and by the elliptical dome over your head. Comparison between the two jewel-like churches will be at the center of our speech, while you’ll be surprised by the emotions these genial constructions are still able to convey some 350 years later.
Our Bernini, Borromini walk goes on, passing briefly by Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, to greet Bernini’s Famous Elephant (or Chick) gracing the center of this delightful little square.
We end, in glory, at Piazza Navona, where the great two minds of the Roman Baroque stand in front of each other: two of the Rivers of Bernini’s fabulous Fountain seem to react (badly) to the hovering Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone, where Borromini worked in team with the Rinaldi architects. Your guide will tell you all the famous anecdotes and help you to discern them from historical reality.
Piazza Navona, with its fantastic Baroque scenery will be the perfect spot where to draw our final conclusions about the importance, role, career, artistic legacy of our two ‘heroes’.
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