bernini: don’t let the sun king go down on him

Bernini’s six months at the French court. A total failure. The artist who believed his gifts came from god would inevitably clash with a king who considered himself crowned by god. A collision of two forms of divine right as well as teo forms of chauvinism…

Meanwhile, Bernini’s Louvre design, a huge facade with his trade-mark of the concave-convex flow, detached columns on the outer and courtyard fronts, and a cornice crowned by a balustrade, was running into interference. Bernini complained that Jean Baptiste Colbert was obsessed by minutiae. There was little common ground between the visionary Italian and the practical Frenchman. Bernini wanted to express grandeur in stone, while Colbert badgered him with details about plumbing and sewage. To be asked such things, Bernini lamented, was like a king granting audiences to paupers and widows begging for pennies.

—Designs: Louvre East Façade, Le Vau, 1664
Curved form – reference to French crown. Bernini, first project, 1664.
Bernini, final project, 1665
Bernini designed three projects which involved remodeling or encasing the entire Cour Carrée. He came to Paris June 1665 to present his third design.
Pavillions: central entry and corner sections project from rest of the façade.—Read More:

The storm broke during a work session with Charles Perrault, one of Colbert’s assistants. Perrault told Bernini that his design did not leave enough room for the kitchens. Bernini penciled in a few changes. Perrault complained that he had a notebook full of unanswered queries about Bernini’s work. He said that he and many others wanted to know why the est facade would be lower than the east. Bernini, whose temper was at the breaking point, explained it was for reasons of general harmony. And in any case, he blustered, when it came to craftsmanship, he would accept criticism only from someone more capable than himself, not from someone like Perrault, who was not worhty to clean the soles of his shoes.

—The plan of the Barberini palace was exported to France when Bernini was summoned to Paris in 1665 to submit designs for the enlargement of the Louvre.
His first proposal comprised two grand salons, one above the other, giving their shape to the central oval from which, on the exterior, two concave wings project. This scheme, derived in spirit from Borromini, was not approved. In his next design, Bernini envisaged a massive block with slightly protruding corner-stones set on a base hewn to resemble a reef emerging from the sea, in complete contrast to the austere lines of the building itself. Work began on this project in 1665, immediately after Bernini’s return to Rome, but soon came to a stop. A commission formed by Charles Le Brun (1619-90), Louis Le Vau (1612-70), and Claude Perrault (1613-1688) successfully argued for the adoption of classicism as the canonical French artistic style, in preference to copying Italian taste.—Read More:

“A man like me to be treated thus,” shouted Bernini. “I’ll complain to the king- I am leaving tomorrow, and I don’t know what keeps me from taking a hammer to my bust after so much contempt has been shown me.”

Bernini left Paris without thanking either Colbert or the king. France had not suited him. He did not travel well. He didn’t like the weather. His art was linked to the physical and intellectual climate of Rome and the papacy.

Shortly after Bernini’s brusque departure the Louvre facade design was awarded to Claude Perrault, the architect brother of the courtier who had goaded Bernini into losing his temper. Perrault’s design was sober, elegant, and traditionally French in its motifs. It was ample evidence that the artistic formalism sponsored by the French court could not have assimilated the lushness and extravagance of a Bernini in any large scale project.

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>