Franco Mormando: “Bernini: His Life and His Rome”

We are pleased to inform you that Dr. Franco Mormando, Professor of Italian and Chair of the Romance Languages Department at Boston College, has graciously offered to give us a lecture on the life and work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680), sculptor, architect, painter, and playwright. Bernini was the last of the great universal artistic geniuses of early modern Italy. Franco’s presentation will be based on his recent book, Bernini: His Life and His Rome (the first English-language biography of the artist) and will be held at the Tiffany-decorated Ayer Mansion in Boston’s Back Bay.

Sculptor, architect, painter, playwright, and scenographer, Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) was the last of the great universal artistic geniuses of early modern Italy, placed by both contemporaries and posterity in the same exalted company as Leonardo, Raphael, and Michelangelo. And his artistic vision remains palpably present today, through the countless statues, fountains, and buildings that transformed Rome into the Baroque theater that continues to enthrall tourists today.

It is perhaps not surprising that this artist who defined the Baroque should have a personal life that itself was, well, baroque. As Franco Mormando’s dazzling biography reveals, Bernini was a man driven by many passions, possessed of an explosive temper and a hearty sex drive, and he lived a life as dramatic as any of his creations. Drawing on archival sources, letters, diaries, and—with a suitable skepticism—a hagiographic account written by Bernini’s son (who portrays his father as a paragon of virtue and piety), Mormando leads us through Bernini’s many feuds and love affairs, scandals and sins. He sets Bernini’s raucous life against a vivid backdrop of Baroque Rome, bustling and wealthy, and peopled by churchmen and bureaucrats, popes and politicians, schemes and secrets.

The result is a seductively readable biography, stuffed with stories and teeming with life—as wild and unforgettable as Bernini’s art. No one who has been bewitched by the Baroque should miss it.

Franco Mormando is professor of Italian at Boston College. Educated at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Gregorian University of Rome, he specializes in the cultural history of Renaissance and Baroque Rome, especially the intersection of art, religion, and popular culture. His previous publication for the University of Chicago Press, The Preachers Demons: Bernardino of Siena and the Social Underworld of Early Renaissance Italy(1999) was awarded the Howard R. Marraro Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in Italian History. In 2005 he was inducted as “Cavaliere” (Knight) in the honorary Ordine della stella della solidarietà italiana, by the president of the Italian Republic in recognition of his achievements in the promotion of Italian language and culture.

  • January 11, 2016