Italian Baroque Art Bernini vs. Borromini Thesis

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Italian Baroque Art (Bernini vs. Borromini)

The present paper has the purpose of analyzing two grand masters of the Italian baroque art, that is Bernini and Borromini. The main thesis to be demonstrated is that their styles and techniques can be observed in two important pieces of art and that by comparing them we are actually comparing the two representatives of Baroque Art. These two works of art are The Fountain of the four rivers, Fontana dei Quattro fiumi- build by Bernini and Borromini's St. Agnese in Agone. In addition, the Baldacchin at St. Peters will also be analyzed.

First and foremost it must be mentioned that Bernini created his works in a period characterized by a strong creative verve, marked by the revolutionary visions of Caravaggio and Rubens. Studies claim that he was influenced by the Greek sculptures, as well as by Michelangelo's latest period.

His classical sculpture studies also show in his works. Besides from being a sculptor he was also an architect. His works have a strong narrative dimension and his capacity to capture essential moments and communicate them to the viewer in a highly expressive manner is considered to be one of the main elements at the basis of his genius. It must be mentioned that besides sculpture, Bernini also painted and wrote plays. Therefore, it can be stated that his vision of a work of art was rather complex.

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The striking realism of his works is also based on the fact that he knew how to properly use both architecture and painting principles in order to make sure the final result would be nothing else but perfect. His showed his skills in creating both religious art, monuments, but also secular buildings, palaces or elements which played an important part in various urban settings.

TOPIC: Thesis on Italian Baroque Art Bernini vs. Borromini Assignment

Among these public works we can mention the fountains, including the Fontana dei Quattro fiumi which is set in Piazza Navona in Rome. The fountain was ordered by pope Innocenzo the 10th in 1651. The work was both of public use, since it provided water in the area, but since it was ordered directly by the pope, it could also be considered to be a papal monument with a religious dimension.

Besides this, the majesty and the beauty of the fountain was supposed to remind the people about the power, the generosity and the greatness of the pope and the religious power and authority within the state. In other words, besides the aesthetic dimension, the fountain had a strong political dimension to it.

It is safe to say that all the elements had a symbolic valence. The four rivers that were represented in the sculpture are the Ganges, the Nile, the Danube and Rio della Plata. All of them are incarnated in human appearances, which are in fact the gods of the mentioned rivers. The gods were realized by the collaborators of the artist, namely: Raggi, Poussin, Baratta and Fancelli.

The gods (the rivers) stood as symbols of the continents where they can be found and had various connotations regarding their power and their relation to Rome. On top of the fountain there was a hen pigeon made out of bronze. On the one hand the pigeon symbolized peace and the divine (it is a symbol usually associated with the holy spirit). At the same time, taking into consideration the strength of the papal church at that time the pigeon represented a direct connection between the church and peace in the world. On the other hand, the pigeon was a symbol of the family who had desired the construction of the monument, that is the Pamphili family.

The water comes out of a rock placed at the centre of the fountain. At the bottom there is a horse, a lion and a palm tree. On top of the fountain there is an Egyptian obelisk. The Ganges river, representing Asia is personified by a strong adult man, wearing a beard. The statue's beauty is remarkable. The Nile river is represented by a strong powerful man who keeps his head covered with a piece of cloth in a manner which prevents the viewer from seeing his face.

Metaphorically this is a reference to the fact that during those times the origin of the river was still unknown to the Europeans. In addition, it could be stated that the covered head stands as a symbol for human ignorance in general. Rio della Plata is represented by a back man with coins on the ledge. Symbolically he represents the fact that the Americas were a fountain of riches. The Nile is believed to have been created inspired by a sketch of Michelangelo representing Moses. I

t can be stated that the fountain, reuniting all the continents is a symbolical representation of the world. Since it is dominated by a papal sign, one could read a further metatext. Since the fountain is dominated by papal signs, the main idea communicated by the artist is that the church is ruling over the world. Besides from being a religious argument, this can be considered a political one regarding the triumph of papacy.

It is argued that the Fountain of the Four Rivers demonstrates the skills of Bernini especially from a technical point-of-view. For a while people believed that the foundations would fall under the weight of the obelisk, but that did not happen allowing for the artist's engineering abilities to be recognized. The obelisk had been brought form the Circus of Romulus and it is believed to be an element build in order to honour a triad of Roman emperors including Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Besides the papal sign, the peace representing dove and the four river gods, there are seven animals populating the fountain. These are the horse, the lion, the alligator, the dolphin, the snake, the armadillo. Obviously the animals are connected with the continents and just like the gods, can be considered symbols of the continents through their characteristics.

It is important to underline the fact that going around the fountain the viewer will constantly discover something new, this allowing for a beautiful an interesting contemplation experience ( a reaction which the artist had in mind when conceiving the monument). The statues are partially hidden by the central rock, therefore you never know what you are going to get when moving to the left or to the right.

The surprise element is another factor which supports the opinion according to which the Fontana dei Quattro fiumi can be considered as the most relevant work ever to have been done by Bernini. Its metaphorical and allegorical meaning are further elements which ca be considered relevant in this direction.

The importance of the fountain must also be judged taking into account the period in which it was conceived and constructed. The jubilee that took place in 1650 implied a huge number of people passing by in that area. Therefore, the fountain was an ideal means of communication.

The obelisk is the symbol of the sun which can be associated with reason, but also with the truth. since the dove is on top of it, there is a natural connection to be made between the two elements and the only conclusion that one can draw is that the church, through its divine dimension is in possession of the absolute truth. And this is the reason why the church rules over the four continents.

The rocks and the caves are also metaphors. The caves stand for darkness and if we are to interpret them from a religious point-of-view, we could state that they are a symbol of sin. The rocks on the other hand come to be the symbol of the church. The rocks being upon the caves, the message that must be understood is that the church has surpassed the sinful stage. In other words the church is a means through which people can escape sin.

Since the fountain is the place where the four rivers have their origin, it could be stated that the fountain stands for a sort of earthly paradise. In addition, since the religious connotation is so strong, the rivers could stand for the diffusion of faith throughout the world. While it has been argued that the hidden head of the Nile stands either for ignorance, either for the fact that the origin of the river was still unknown, it can also be argued that the veil is a metaphor for the mysteries hidden by the Egyptian science and philosophy, mysteries which the Europeans have not yet been able to understand.

"The Nile's head remains half veiled (although Pedro Pais had discovered the river's source in 1618) to emphasize the mystery of the Egyptians' ancient wisdom. The Rio della Plata is represented as a bearded man with a circlet on his thigh, enlightened by apostolic revelation, with a dragon-like armadillo, the Guarani "tatu" at its feet. The Danube is old, like Europe. The Gange River statue stands with a rudder in its hand. In between… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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