The rivalry between the brilliant seventeenth-century Italian architects Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini is the stuff of legend. Enormously talented and ambitious artists, they met as contemporaries in the building yards of St. Peter's in Rome, became the greatest architects of their era by designing some of the most beautiful buildings in the world, and ended their lives as bitter enemies. Engrossing and impeccably researched, full of dramatic tension and breathtaking insight, The Genius in the Design is the remarkable tale of how two extraordinary visionaries schemed and maneuvered to get the better of each other and, in the process, created the spectacular Roman cityscape of today.
This is a delectable appetizer to two masters of the Italian baroque, Francesco Borromini, technically a Swiss whose face graced the previous 100 Swiss Francs note (the current 10 Swiss Francs note pictures another architect appropriated by another country), and Gianlorenzo Bernini.In order to sell more book, the book is set up as a collision of two minds. The author only partially succeeds as Bernini was primarily a sculptor and Borromini an architect-engineer. Bernini is one of the last artist-architects who designed buildings without a proper education. As the number of his structural mishaps shows the evolution of a distinct profession of architect was a sound practice. Borromini, while trained as a stone mason, was an architect foremost, a specialist of constrained spaces and corrector of botched attempts of other architects. Their collision was often a controversial if fruitful collaboration.I wish the author had expanded the dirty parts. Bernini had a long affair with the wife of one of his employees. She also was involved with Bernini's brother. The raging betrayed betrayer Bernini nearly killed his brother. Not to be outdone in villainy, the brother later on sodomized a boy in the Vatican. Borromini meanwhile ordered a thiefing youth beaten, which the youth did not survive. Both Bernini and Borromini were absolved for their crimes by a lenient pope.This book is a good introduction, although one could easily switch to the heavily quoted individual biographies by Anthony Blunt (Borromini, even in the paperback edition not included in the bibliography) and Charles Avery (Bernini, concentrating on sculpture; this lavishly illustrated work is highly recommended).read more
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Sometimes plodding but often entertaining, this dual biography of two Italian Baroque artists popularizes a tale familiar to art historians. Raised in a wealthy family with connections to politicians and cultural players, Bernini (1598-1680) was 12 when he was commissioned to do his first major piece-and he soon learned how to win the hearts and pocketbooks of rich patrons on his own. Borromini (1599-1667) lacked such connections, but climbed the guild's ladder, eventually becoming chief assistant to Carlo Maderno, the chief architect of St. Peter's. When Maderno died in 1629, Borromini was shocked that Bernini was named chief. Morrissey (A Weekend at Blenheim) finely renders the intense rivalry between these two artists, giving a reasonable if fact-heavy look at 17th-century Roman life in the process. Borromini elected to work for Bernini, but tensions soon led to a break; Bernini went on to complete the Scala Regia and the Cathedra Petri; Borromini found fewer and fewer commissions and eventually killed himself. The book doesn't do justice to the varying levels of ambition, engagement and achievement Morrissey finds in these figures, but it does an adequate job sketching their contours. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved