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The Genius in the Design: Bernini,…

The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That…

by Jake Morrissey

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I couldn't finish this. I was hoping it would be as engaging as Brunelleschi's Dome, by Ross King, but it seemed to drag, and I finally decided to abandon it. I thought perhaps Bernini and Borromini were intrinsically less interesting than Brunelleschi (apparently not, according to the other review). There was nothing wrong with the book (other than the nagging sense that the "rivalry" of the title was rather contrived) or the writer's style, which is why I kept it on my tbr pile for nearly two years, but I found I was always picking up something more interesting. ( )
  muumi | Dec 19, 2009 |
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). ( )
1 vote jcbrunner | Nov 7, 2007 |
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"The rivalry between the brilliant seventeenth-century Italian architects Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini is the stuff of legend. Possessed of enormous talent and ambition, these two artists - one trained as a sculptor, the other as a stonecutter - met as contemporaries in the building yards of St. Peter's in Rome and ended their lives as bitter enemies. Over the course of their careers they became the most celebrated architects of their era, designing some of the most beautiful buildings in the world and transforming the city of Rome." "The Genius in the Design is a tale of how these two men plotted, schemed, and intrigued to get the better of each other. Jake Morrissey's account also shows that this legendary rivalry defined the Baroque style that immediately succeeded the Renaissance and created the spectacular Roman cityscape of today." "Almost exactly the same age - Bernini was born at the end of 1598, Borromini nine months later - they were as alike and as different as any two men could be, each a potent combination of passion and enterprise, energy and imperfection. Bernini was a precocious talent who as a youth caught the attention of Pope Paul V and became Rome's most celebrated artist, whose patrons included the wealthiest families in Europe. The city's greatest sculptor - the creator of such masterpieces as Apollo and Daphne and the Ecstasy of St. Teresa - Bernini would also have been Rome's preeminent architect had it not been for Francesco Borromini, the one man whose talent and virtuosity rivaled his own. In contrast to Bernini's easy grace, Borromini was an introvert with a fiery temper who bristled when anyone interfered with his vision; his temperament alienated him from prospective patrons and precipitated his tragic end." "Like Mozart and Salieri, these two masters were inextricably linked, their dazzling work prodding the other to greater achievement while taking merciless advantage of each other's missteps. The Genius in the Design is their story."--BOOK JACKET. Also includes information on Pope Alexander VII, Filippo Baldinucci, Barberini family, Borghese family, Christianity symbols, Fountains of the Four Rivers, Pope Innocent X, Jesuits, Carlo Maderno, Michelangelo, Oratorio di Saint Filippo Neri, Cardinal Camillo Pamphili, Pamphili family, Piazza Navona, Carlo Rainaldi, Girolamo Rainaldi, Roman Catholic Church, St. Peter's, St. Peter's basilica, St. Peter's Square, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, San Giovanni in Laterano, Sant'Agnese in Agone, Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, Cardinal Virgilio Spada, Trinitarii Scalzi del Riscatto di Spagna (Discalced, Barefoot Trinitarians), Pope Urban VII, Vatican, Vatican Palace, etc.… (more)

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