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A Celebrated Rivalry: Bernini and Borromini in the Making of Baroque Rome

Instructor: Prof. Paolo Alei [see profile]
Disciplines: Art History, Architecture

This course analyzes the masterpieces of Roman Baroque art and architecture from the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 18th century. While analyzing urbanism, architecture, sculpture, and painting by some of the major artists of the period (Caravaggio, Bernini, Borromini, Cortona), the course considers the artistic trends that characterize the patterns of patronage in Counter-Reformation and Baroque Rome.

Special attention will be given not only to the literary sources that shaped art theory, practice, and criticism, but also to important issues such as propaganda, the viewer’s emotional engagement, and the artist’s social status. The unity of the visual arts, rhetorical effects, artistic rivalry, scenic urbanism, the relation between art and poetry, the use of classical and “bizarre” vocabulary, the concept of the pastoral, the representation of ecstasy, and the idealization of death will be some of the themes explored in this course. Each art work, building or urban plan will be studied as a document to understand broader concepts related to politics, religion, music, science, theater, and philosophy.


  • a paper (8-10 pages)
  • a midterm exam
  • a final exam