In the mid 1600s two artists appeared on the Roman art scene, each possessing a particular genius attune to the Baroque movement that would eventually sweep Europe. During this three-hour tour of Rome's Quirinale neighborhood, we will look closely at Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, their respective architectural styles, and their buildings that shaped the city's aesthetic by reflecting the aims and priorities of the Counter Reformation.
Our walk begins on Via del Quirinale, where two masterworks by Bernini and Borromini stand nearly side by side: Bernini's Sant'Andrea al Quirinale and Borromini's stunning San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Both churches exemplify fundamental ideas of the Baroque, and our discussion here will include an in-depth introduction to this period and the artistic ideas that fueled it. We will also consider the political and religious motives of Early Modern Rome, including the development of the Reformation and Counter Reformation, and how the latter informed a very specific artistic program. Our docent, a trained art historian, will help us explore some of the finer points of the Baroque style.
As we continue on to Santa Maria della Vittoria to view Bernini's magnificent Ecstasy of St. Teresa, we will focus on the biographies of the two artists, whose lives contrasted as much as their art. While Bernini ran a successful workshop, was politically connected, and churned out a staggering array of works for multiple popes and powerful Roman families, Borromini was more solitary and tortured, eventually committing suicide after building only a few extraordinary structures.
Our walk ends at the Palazzo Barberini, built for the extravagant Pope Urban VIII. Although Bernini and Borromini each contributed to the palace's architecture, the real treasure is found inside on the ceiling of the main salon where Pietro da Cortona painted his masterful fresco of Divine Providence. Meant to glorify the pope and the Barberini family, Cortona's use of illusionism exemplifies the dramatic and theatrical nature of the Baroque aesthetic. Viewing this ceiling, as well as other works in the museum's collection (including two early works by Caravaggio), will help us contextualize the work of Bernini and Borromini. At the conclusion of our time together, we will have a stronger grasp of the key principles of art and architecture during the Baroque era, as well as this style's wide influence in Rome and beyond.