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The Genius in the Design: Bernini, Borromini, and the Rivalry That Transformed Rome

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  197 ratings  ·  23 reviews
The rivalry between the brilliant seventeenth-century Italian architects Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini is the stuff of legend. Possessed of enormous talent and ambition, these two artists -- one trained as a sculptor, the other as a stonecutter -- met as contemporaries in the building yards of St. Peter's in Rome and ended their lives as bitter enemies. Over ...more
Published March 1st 2005 by William Morrow (first published January 1st 2005)
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Jo Walton
I'm not doing well with finding a biography of Bernini. This doesn't even try to be that -- this is an account of the rivalry between Bernini and Borromini, with descriptions of their major work. I enjoyed it, but I'd have enjoyed it more if Morrisey and I had been more in agreement about the work of Bernini's I've seen.

Borromini is an interesting character -- he has the Conal Cearnach problem "the second greatest warrior in all of Ireland", only in his case the second greatest architect in Rom
Doing my usual obsessive reading about a city before I visit (months in advance - I'll be going to Rome in March), I thought this would be a gas. I'm interested in Baroque architecture/sculpture and the outsized personalities who made it - but give me a break . . . . this book was way too detail oriented about every single church these guys built. Some juicy stuff about Borromini's involvement in a worker's death; Bernini's uncle (or was it brother?) Luigi sodomizing a little boy while he was su ...more
Camille Coons
Being the architecture fanatic that I am, I LOVED this book. It carried me to post-Renaissance Rome and made me wish I was in Italy, admiring all of the beautiful, intricate, and well-thought out buildings created by the architectural geniuses of Borromini and Bernini. The only downside to this book was the lack of photographs, architectural floor plans, sections, etc.-essentially all of the visuals-that seem necessary when describing breathtaking buildings. Otherwise, I loved this book.
This non-fiction book read as easily and gracefully as a fiction story. It puts you right into 17th century Rome and hooks you right from the beginning. If you have any interest in the artists or the time period, it's a fascinating read.
Michael Springer
A masterpiece in story telling dealing with the culture of Rome and the rivalry between Bernini and Borromini. Should re-read this one.
Most know Bernini from his exquisite sculptures or his design of the Colonnade and interior of St. Peters in Rome. Most do not know about his contemporary Borromini. The later was a very difficult personality but a very good architect. He had the misfortune to live at the time and in the shadow of Bernini. One place were their talents as individuals are on show is the Piazza Navona. The Pamphili Palace interior on the southeast end of the ellipse as well and the imposing Sant'Agnes in Agony Chur ...more
Vicki Kondelik
The Genius in the Design by Jake Morrissey tells the fascinating story of the rivalry between two brilliant architects in 17th century Rome: Gianlorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini. Bernini was a sculptor, painter, playwright, and stage designer as well as an architect. A child prodigy, he created his first major sculpture at the age of twelve. Borromini was trained by his distant relative, Carlo Maderno, chief architect of St. Peter’s in Rome. When Maderno died, Borromini expected that he w ...more
Frank Stein
In this book Morrisey manages to capture the high stakes of artistic competition in 17th century Rome, a time when popes like Urban VIII and Alexander VI believed that their greatest legacy to the church would be their artistic patronage and were willing to bankrupt the Papacy to prove it. They and their rich families showered successful artists with enough money and commissions to make them among the richest men in the city, while those artists who lost out in their panel-judged competitions (t ...more
David Eppenstein
When I was 18 I entered college to study architecture. Like almost all my classmates I revered the great modern architects, Sullivan, Wright, Mies, and Le Corbusier. Unlike my classmates I was also fascinated by history and this fascination and my love of architecture led to a journey of discovery. During that journey I developed a fondness for the symmetry, stability, and rhythms of Renaissance architecture. Then I found Borromini and Bernini and the sensuality and dynamism of their forms and I ...more
I think this book advertises itself inaccurately. It repeatedly claims to be the story of Bernini's and Borromini's rivalry, but it really just dissects and reviews individual pieces of sculpture and architecture. After reading half of the book (in which I heavily relied on my old art history book for images and further information on the artists and their work), I still haven't learned anything about their relationship. This book assumes you have an architect's vocabulary, and will not teach yo ...more
This book is definitely outside my normal sphere of selections. However, I learned a lot about a topic that grabbed my curiosity during my recent trip to Rome. I think if the author had put a timeline in the book, it would have been very helpful. It was a bit lackluster on emotional expressiveness, but I think he stuck to the facts that are verifiable and no doubt, he knows a lot about architecture. I believe the personal and philosophical story about life, work, theology, and value is buried in ...more
I really liked this book. About two of the most amazing artists from the baroque period, Bernini and Borromini. I had to read next to a computer/ipad to look up the buildings as they were talked about and their work is amazing. Great for anyone into architecture and of course, the eternal city. Yes I have go back to visit my new list of buildings by these two! I have loved Berninis' sculptures, but some of his buildings are also incerdible. Borromini I wasn't familiar with at all, but Frank Gehr ...more
Potential readers should be forewarned that this book is not about architecture or about Rome, but chronicles the parallel lives of the two Renaissance artists of the title who lived and worked in that great city. The result is entertaining but not greatly enlightening (in terms of architectural or urban history). And even though I was familiar with many of the sculptures and buildings mentioned, I still Googled them for images because the eBook has no graphics.
Matthew Festger
Excellent book. Looking at these two masters simultaneously helps to better understand each as an individual, providing points of similarity and contrast.

It wouldn't be surprising to me to learn if Ayn Rand used these two men as a basis for the characters in The Fountainhead (though many have pointed to Wright being the basis of Roarks character). Borromini and Roark share similar personality traits, while the same can be said for Bernini and Keating.
I fluctuated between being slightly bored and fascinated with this book. (And I was only bored because I'm an art historian that is familiar with the basic history of 17th century Rome. I don't think that the general public would find Morrissey's details boring or unnecessary.) I think that this is a great book for popular history readers, and also contains interesting information.
Wow! While reading this book, I kind of faded in and out of interest, probably due to reading it on the bus, in the sun, or in bed, and my attention wandered too much to really get into it. But when I did, which is mostly the last half, it was GREAT, full of surprising bits of character, humor, and emotion. I wish there were more pictures though.
Ottorino Belluzzi
If you want to savour Rome, you have to learn first how to read the baroque.
If you want to learn how to read the baroque, you have to learn first about Bernini and Borromini.
If you want to learn about Bernini and Borromini, this is the book.
Luxuriant, enjoyable, enlightening - just perfect.
Nifty history of one Rome's great periods of architecture and sculpture. I remember being wowed by Bernini's marbles in Rome and this book brings his personality to life along with that of his rival Borromini.
the book is interesting and I did learn alot about the period. I did find the book jumped back and forth between Popes, their families, and the artists. It was a little confusing at times.
Xavier Hernandez
Great. For those who know or want to know Rome, a must. For those who are interested in the italian barroque, indispensable. For those who love reading good books, what to ir!
Ro Cepellos
Feb 05, 2013 Ro Cepellos marked it as to-read
Shelves: purgatory
It may be because I have not been able to immerse myself fully in this book, it seems to be slow-going. Intriguing, but slow-going.
Excellent book on the two greatest artists in Rome history. A must read for anyone who enjoys visiting churches.
Mar 17, 2010 Lauren is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
reading during lunch :)
Lisa Cirincione
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Nov 28, 2015
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