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

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9780060525330: The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome

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 an extraordinary tale of how these two men plotted, schemed, and intrigued to get the better of each other. Full of dramatic tension and great insight into personalities, acclaimed writer Jake Morrissey's engrossing and impeccably researched 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, a fascinating narrative of beauty and tragedy marked at turns by personal animosity and astonishing artistic achievement.

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About the Author:

Jake Morrissey has studied and written about architecture for twenty years. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, and dozens of other publications and books. He is the author of the novel A Weekend at Blenheim and lives near New York City.

From Publishers Weekly:

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.)
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