The Genius in the Design by Jake Morrissey tells the fascinating story of the rivalry between two brilliant architects in 17th century Rome: Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini. Bernini was a sculptor, painter, playwright, and stage designer as well as an architect. A child prodigy, he created his first major sculpture at the age of twelve. Borromini was trained by his distant relative, Carlo Maderno, chief architect of St. Peter’s in Rome. When Maderno died, Borromini expected that he would replace him as chief architect, but the position was given to Bernini instead. Although the two men worked together for a while, Borromini always resented Bernini, and over the years a fierce hatred grew between the two men, as Bernini was given commission after commission by wealthy patrons, while Borromini’s work was appreciated by only a few.
The two men could not have been more different. Bernini was handsome, charming, and very successful with women, and knew how to please influential patrons, including Pope Urban VIII (the pope who put Galileo on trial). Borromini was extremely difficult, paranoid about people taking credit for his work, and ended up alienating most of the patrons who could have advanced his career. During a brief period under Urban VIII’s successor, Innocent X, Borromini’s work was in favor. But this did not last long; the next pope favored Bernini, and eventually Borromini received fewer and fewer commissions, which led to a tragic end.
Bernini and Borromini created many of the masterpieces of Baroque architecture in Rome, including St. Peter’s piazza and bell towers, the Palazzo Barberini, and the Fountain of the Four Winds. Morrissey gives detailed descriptions of their works, so even if you don’t know a lot about architecture, you can picture the buildings. And this book will make you want to go to Rome to see them for yourself.
The Genius in the Design is available from the Art, Architecture and Engineering Book Collection and the Fine Arts Library.