Baroque Rome: Bernini's Legacy
|The "motherly embrace" of St. Peter's Square is one of Bernini's many masterpieces.|
A Renaissance man in Counter-Reformation times, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) almost personally invented the Baroque style, transforming the city of Rome. When you roam through Rome, you will see Bernini's work, guaranteed.
Bernini was a child prodigy in his father's sculpting studio (Pietro Bernini, 1562-1629), growing up among Europe's rich and powerful. His flamboyant personality endeared him to his cultured employers — the popes in Rome, Louis XIV in France, and Charles I in England. He was extremely prolific, working fast and utilizing an army of assistants.
Despite the fleshiness and sensuality of his works, Bernini was a religious man, seeing his creativity as an extension of God's. In stark contrast to the Protestant world's sobriety, Bernini shamelessly embraced pagan myths and nude goddesses, declaring them all part of the "catholic" — that is, universal — Church.
Bernini, a master of multimedia, was a...
- Sculptor (Borghese Gallery and St. Teresa in Ecstasy)
- Architect (elements of St. Peter's and the Church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale)
- Painter (Borghese Gallery)
- Interior decorator (the baldacchino canopy and many other decorative flairs in St. Peter's)
- Civic engineer (he laid out St. Peter's Square, and he designed and renovated Rome's fountains in Piazza Navona, Piazza Barberini, Piazza di Spagna, and more).
Even works done by other artists a century later (such as the Trevi Fountain) can be traced indirectly to Bernini, the man who invented Baroque — the "look" of Rome for the next two centuries.