Jonathan Keates

Baroque Star

An Elephant in Rome: Bernini, the Pope and the Making of the Eternal City

By

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Certain artists contrive not simply to be their own era’s perfect imagemakers but to embody its essence within their private lives. Such a one was Gian Lorenzo Bernini. To the crisis-ridden Italy of the 17th century, with its wars, famines, plagues and rebellions, his sculpture, in works like Apollo and Daphne or The Ecstasy of St Teresa, proposed an alternative world of rapture and exaltation. As Rome’s chief architect under six popes, he effectively re-created the city’s imperial grandeur in the swirl of St Peter’s great colonnades, the fantastic baldachino within the basilica itself and the Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona.

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