The Artist and the Eternal City

Pegasus. Aug. 2021. 256p. ISBN 9781643137407. $27.95. HIST
Rome famously wasn’t built in a day, but 17th-century sculptor, city planner, and polymath Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) did his best to remake it in a lifetime. Former ITV broadcaster Grossman has written an absorbing, if too brief, examination of Bernini and his relationship with Rome, a relationship that allowed Bernini to leave his mark on nearly every corner of the resurgent city. In an age when an artist’s fortunes were apt to change overnight with the death of one pope and the election of another, Bernini managed to secure the favor and patronage of 10 successive pontiffs, a stroke of luck that gave him the means to realize even his most grandiose projects. Grossman focuses on Bernini’s papal relationships (most importantly with the energetic and equally ambitious Pope Alexander VII) and the development of one of his more curious creations: the Elephant and Obelisk statue in the Piazza della Minerva. The text is richly supplemented by maps, illustrations, and photographs of Bernini’s work and concludes with a guided walking tour of Rome’s 13 obelisks, several of which have ties to Bernini.
VERDICT Some prior familiarity with Bernini and baroque Rome is helpful here. Still, many readers fond of European art and history will find this short volume worthwhile.
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