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Bernini: His Life and His Rome Hardcover – November 15, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"By adopting the manner of a lecturer—teasingly mentioning things to come, employing the first-person plural as a teacher, roping students into his intellectual questing, throwing in some slang now and then, and without neglecting scholarship (this is a history of papal Rome as much as a biography)—Mormando gives us a succulent reading experience. Quanto e dolce."

(Booklist starred review)

"Mormando provides enough salacious details of the scandal-ridden life of baroque artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini to keep readers turning pages in this engaging, well-researched biography. . . .  Mormando’s extensive research and documentation not only will satisfy scholars and students of art history, especially baroque aficionados, but this biography will also appeal to general readers" (Library Journal)

"Gian Lorenzo Bernini was one artist whose life was every bit as dramatic, sensual, and emotional as his art. Franco Mormando's sympathetic, intimate biography moves as fast as its hyperactive subject, taking us on a whirlwind ride through the glittering courts of papal Rome and the Paris of the Sun King, Louis XIV. From its shocking beginning to its perfect ending, the book is sheer unmitigated delight."
(Ingrid Rowland, author of Giordano Bruno)

"There are a few artists to whom the label 'faultless' applies, and the top of that list is Bernini, architect, showman and sculptor. Franco Mormando's book shows him in full as a man for the first time, and he is as pleasing, as sweet, as interestingly ambiguous as his amazing oeuvre. This is a wonderful book to have at last."

(John Crowley, author of Aegypt and Little, Big)

“Franco Mormando’s fascinating book is a welcome addition to the Bernini literature. It is both a biography of the artist and a portrait of Roman Baroque culture. Though written for a general audience, it reveals an impressive command of the specialist scholarship—in art history, literature, and history. Mormando wears his learning lightly, writing with animation, carefully pacing his anecdotes, and making the whole as entertaining as it is informative.”

(Pamela Jones, University of Massachusetts, Boston)

"Such a publishing landmark by a lauded historian of the period is an event."

(The�Tablet (UK))

About the Author

Franco Mormando is associate professor of Italian at Boston College and the author of several books.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226538524
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226538525
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #676,926 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read every major book [and more minor ones!] written about Bernini, the supreme artist, maestro, and impresario of Baroque Rome; without question, Mormando's has set a new standard for artistic biography and cultural history. It is as engaging, sweeping, all-embracing, and sparkling with captivating details as befits its subject. Bravissimo!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About me: I'm not an artist or an art historian or anything fancy like that: I'm just an avid traveler and Rome is one of my favorite places in the world. OK, my MOST favorite place in the world. Trip after trip, I've noticed certain statues or works of art more than others... certain ones just struck me more or made me stare at them a little bit longer. Or when I get home i realize that I have more pictures of certain things than others. A few trips ago I realized that every sculpture I was drawn to had 1 artist in common: Bernini. And people would say, "Oh, that's a Bernini" -- and the name sounded familiar but I didn't know anything about him. On last year's trip to Italy I made a point of seeking out these Berninis and found myself even more interested in them, so when I returned home I started poking around for a biography. Some things looked too scholarly and highbrow, but the descriptions of this particular book made it sound like it was accessible to the regular person who just wanted to know a little something more: and that was me.

I just finished the book and I'm so happy I read it. I came at this from the standpoint of "I love this man's art so much, and it's so brilliant, that I just want to know more about the person and his life and the events that shaped him." Basically, I wanted to learn where the genius came from.

This book doesn't read like a DaVinci Code: the info itself is a little bit dry, but plugged into a narrative that is basically the story arc of Bernini's life, it has a continuity to it that makes it easy to read (vs being textbook-like). It's a biography and is constructed from many different sources.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I did not let the severity of one amateur reviewer stop me from buying this, as it turns out, excellent book, which I urge Amazon customers to buy, especially at the steeply discounted price, and especially after recommended by Dr. Charles Scribner, himself an authority on Bernini. As the learned and award-winning author, Franco Mormando, makes clear, there is no other English language biography of Bernini in existence. Pioneering, then, but also intellectually honest for openly admitting to the want of direct evidence for writing a biography, professor Mormando marshals (what he has often found on his own) such facts as remain and, as important, discovers by his own archival, museum, and library research the context for coming closer to an elusive subject. The style that articulates the sculptor in his native landscape and cityscape is fine, as free from jargon as from any ideological bent or post-modern fashion, and the stylist wears his hard-won learning lightly. English speakers are woefully ignorant of Italian culture in general and of the genius Bernini in particular. Restored to a rich and evocative Baroque Rome, Bernini in the hands of Mormando is the kind of book to appeal to and excite interest in just such an audience. Read this book as I am, over a bel espresso made by my Gaggia. You have a lot in store for you in pleasure and profit, and you can continue on with Carvaggio, Raphael, Michelangelo, Marino, Bembo, Petrarca, to name just a handful of Italian geniuses of universal significance and influence. What a gift of passion, intelligence, and erudition Franco Mormando has given us.
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Who would dare to contradict Mr. Scribner himself?! Like other reviewers, I came to this book as a lover of Bernini and his Rome, curious to learn more about the artist and his work. The book is unfortunately almost utterly silent on Bernini's works -- that is to say, there is no thoughtful reflection on those works, no effort to illuminate them. Our author speeds through the period of Bernini's youth with shockingly little to say about the products of the period. But this haste is not vindicated by much in the way of insight to later works. Contrasted with, say, Graham-Dixon's Caravaggio, which offers sustained, detailed, and insightful interpretations of most of Caravaggio's works, tying them to his background, contemporary situation, and the tradition within which he was working, Mormando seems utterly uninterested in Bernini's actual work. In as much as these are the events of an artist's life that matter, the book is a failure.

Now let me twist the knife. Even if one cared as much about the small, often petty politics of Bernini's immediate situation (for Mormando is utterly predictable on the larger political currents of counter-reformation Rome), this book would disappoint. For Mr. Mormando's discussion is punctuated by trite moralizing, and banal generalizations about sexual mores and honor codes etc.. Finally, sin of sins, he is a rather poor, I would even say, utterly mediocre writer. So the book is a toilsome for anyone with much esprit or taste.
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