Gian Lorenzo Bernini, 1598 – 1680) was an Italian artist and a prominent architect, who worked principally in Rome. He was the leading sculptor of his time, credited with creating the Baroque style of sculpture. In addition, he painted, wrote plays and designed metalwork and stage sets.
Bernini was born in Naples (1598) to sculptor, Pietro Bernini, originally from Florence, and Angelica Galante. Bernini did not marry until 1639, at the age of forty-one, when he wed a twenty-two-year-old Roman, Caterina Tezio, in an arranged marriage. She bore him eleven children, including his youngest son, Domenico Bernini, who became his first biographer.
In 1606, at the age of eight, Gian accompanied his father to Rome, where Pietro was involved in several projects. There, Gian’s skill was soon noticed by the painter, Annibale Carracci and by Pope Paul V, and he soon gained the important patronage of Cardinal Scipione Borghese, the pope’s nephew. His first works were inspired by antique classical sculpture. Under the patronage of Cardinal Borghese, young Bernini rapidly rose to prominence as a sculptor. Among the early works created for the cardinal were decorative pieces for the garden of the Villa Borghese, such as The Goat Amalthea with the Infant Jupiter and a Faun, and several allegorical busts, including the Damned Soul and Blessed Soul. By the time he was 22, he was considered talented enough to have been given a commission for a papal portrait, the Bust of Pope Paul V.
Bernini’s reputation was solidly established by four works, executed between 1619 and 1625, all now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome—Aeneas, Anchises, and Ascanius (1619), The Rape of Proserpina (1621–22), Apollo and Daphne (1622–25), and David (1623–24). Adapting the classical grandeur of Renaissance sculpture and the technology of the Mannerist period, Bernini forged a new conception for religious and historical sculpture.
Unlike those done by his predecessors, these sculptures focused on specific points of tension in the stories they were trying to tell—Aeneas and family fleeing Troy; the instant that Pluto grasps Persephone; the moment Apollo sees his beloved Daphne begin the transformation into a tree. Bernini’s David is the most obvious example of this. Unlike Michelangelo’s David—and versions by other Renaissance artists—which shows the subject in his triumph after the battle with Goliath, Bernini illustrates David during his combat with the giant, as he twists his body to catapult towards Goliath. To emphasise these moments, Bernini designed the sculptures with a specific viewpoint in mind. Their original placements within the Villa Borghese were against walls, so that the visitors’ first view was to gauge the state of mind of the characters and, therefore, understand the larger story at work, for example, Daphne’s wide open mouth in fear; David biting his lip in determined concentration or Proserpina desperately struggling to free herself. As well as psychological realism, they show a greater concern for representing physical details. The tousled hair of Pluto, the fleshiness of Proserpina or the forest of leaves beginning to envelop Daphne all demonstrate Bernini’s exactitude in depicting complex real world situations in marble form.
During his long career, Bernini received numerous important commissions, many of which were associated with the papacy. Under Pope Urban VIII, the artist’s opportunities increased. He was not just producing sculpture for private residences, but also for the city. His appointments included, curator of the papal art collection, director of the papal foundry at Castel Sant’Angelo and commissioner of the fountains of Piazza Navona. Such positions gave Bernini the opportunity to demonstrate his skills throughout the city. Perhaps most significantly, he was appointed Chief Architect of St Peter’s, in 1629. From then on, Bernini’s work and artistic vision would be placed at the symbolic heart of Rome.
St. Peter’s, Baldacchino was the centrepiece of this. Designed as a massive spiralling bronze canopy over the tomb of St. Peter, Bernini’s four-pillared creation reached nearly 100 feet. As well as the Baldacchino, Bernini’s rearrangement of the basilica left space for massive statues created by Bernini. Bernini also began work on the tomb for Urban VIII, a full 16 years before Urban’s death. Bernini also gained royal commissions from outside Rome, such as Cardinal Richelieu of France, Francesco I d’Este of Modena, Charles I of England and Henrietta Maria. But it was the commission for the Cornaro Chapel that fully demonstrated how Bernini’s innovative skills continued to grow. The chapel showcased his ability to integrate sculpture and architecture and create what scholars have called a ‘unified work of art’. Bernini was able to portray the swooning Teresa, the quietly smiling angel delicately gripping the arrow that pierced her and, also to the side, portraits of the astonished Cornaro family – the Venetian family that had commissioned the piece. It was an artistic accomplishment that showed the forms Bernini employed, such as, hidden lighting, differently painted sculptures, thin golden beams, recessive spaces and over 20 diverse types of marble to create the final artwork.
Pope Alexander VII (1655–67) commissioned large-scale architectural changes in Rome, connecting new and existing buildings by opening up streets and piazzas. It is no coincidence that Bernini’s career showed a greater focus on designing buildings during this time, as there were far greater opportunities. Bernini’s most notable creation during this period was the piazza leading to St Peter’s. Previously a broad, unstructured space, Bernini created two massive semi-circular colonnades, each row of which was formed of four white columns. This resulted in an oval shape that formed a spectacular, inclusive arena within which any gathering group of citizens, pilgrims or visitors could witness the appearance of the pope – either as he appeared on the loggia, on the facade of St Peter’s or on balconies on the neighboring Vatican palaces. Often likened to two arms reaching out from the church to embrace the waiting crowd, Bernini’s creation extended the symbolic greatness of the Vatican area, creating an architectural success.
Typical Roman food has its roots in the past and reflects the old traditions in most of its offerings. It is based on fresh vegetables (the king is definitely the artichoke, whether deep-fried, simmered in olive oil with garlic and mint or “alla giudia”), inexpensive cuts of meat (the so-called “quinto quarto,” meaning mainly innards, cooked with herbs and hot chilli pepper). It also consists of deep-fried appetizers (such as salted cod and filled zucchini blossoms) and sharp “pecorino cheese” (made from sheep’s milk from the nearby countryside), a very important ingredient in many recipes. Not to mention the pasta, of course, a staple for every Roman. From “carbonara” to spaghetti “ajo e ojo” (so simple with its mix of olive oil, garlic and chili pepper), from rigatoni “con pajata” to a hearty, fragrant soup such as “pasta e ceci.”
Authentic recipe source: http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/about/
Trippa alla Romana
4 main-course servings
- 3 lb raw beef honeycomb tripe (not partially cooked)
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery ribs, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 2/3 cup dry white wine
- 1 (32-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice, with juice reserved
- 2 cups cold water
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Garnish: Pecorino Romano and chopped mint
Trim any fat from the tripe, then rinse tripe under cold water. Soak tripe in a large bowl of fresh cold water 1 hour, then rinse again.
Put tripe in an 8-quart pot of cold water and bring to a boil, then drain and rinse. Bring tripe to a boil again in the pot filled with fresh cold water, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, turning tripe occasionally and adding more hot water to the pot, if necessary, to keep tripe covered, until very tender, about 4 hours (tripe will have a pungent aroma while simmering). Drain in a colander and cool completely.
While the tripe is cooking, heat olive oil in a 6 to 8 quart heavy pot over moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook onion, carrots, celery and garlic, stirring frequently, until softened, about 8 minutes. Add salt, pepper and wine and boil, stirring, 1 minute. Pour juice from the tomatoes into sauce, then chop the tomatoes and add to the sauce with the 2 cups cold water and mint. Simmer sauce, uncovered, 30 minutes.
Trim any remaining fat from the tripe and cut tripe into 2 inch by 1/2 inch strips. Add to the sauce and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tripe is a little bit more tender but still slightly chewy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. Serve tripe sprinkled with finely grated Pecorino Romano and additional chopped fresh mint.
Coda alla Vaccinara (Roman Oxtail Stew)
Ingredients for 4 people:
- 1 kg (about 2.5 pounds) cows tail
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove of garlic
- 150 grams (1/3 pound) pork cheeks, pancetta or bacon
- Extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
- 1 kg (2.5 pounds) chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 4 cloves
- Pine nuts (to taste)
- Raisins (to taste)
- Unsweetened cocoa (to taste)
- Salt and pepper
- Hot water
Wash and dry the tail and cut into large pieces (or rocchi as they are called in Roman dialect). Brown the pieces of the tail with the chopped bacon and oil, then add chopped onions, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper. Add the dry white wine and cook for about 15 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook the meat for at least 3 hours on a low heat always making sure that the pieces are covered with sauce and until meat almost falls off the bone. If it becomes dry, add water.
When the stew is almost done cooking, chop and blanch the celery for a minute or two in boiling water. Then sauté the celery with a bit of the sauce that the tail cooked in, a handful of pine nuts, raisins and a couple of tablespoons of cocoa. Simmer the sauce for a few minutes. Once cooked, add the celery sauce to the main dish. Heat and serve.
Pomodori Ripieni di Riso con Patate (Rice stuffed tomatoes with potatoes)
Ingredients (makes 14 medium-sized tomatoes)
- 14 Ripe tomatoes
- 20 tablespoons carnaroli or other risotto rice
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon pesto
- Basil leaves
- Potatoes (at least 1 per tomato)
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Cut off the top of the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds and pulp and place them in a mixing bowl. Set aside the pulp.
Place the empty tomatoes (with their tops) in a large baking pan that you will be using for this recipe.
Mix the tomato pulp with the oil, garlic, salt, basil and pesto. Set aside one cup of this mixture (which you will be using with the potatoes at the end). Add rice to the remaining mixture.
Sprinkle some salt into the tomatoes. Fill the tomatoes with the rice mixture. Replace tomato lids.
Dice the potatoes into ½ inch cubes. Pour the tomato mixture, which you set aside earlier, over the potatoes, stir and add some salt. Add the potatoes to the baking pan with the tomatoes.
Sprinkle with more salt over the top of the tomatoes and drizzle some oil all over.
Bake for at least 1 hour, until the potatoes and the top of the tomatoes are brown.
- 1 3/4 sticks (196 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 ¼ cups (196 grams) blanched whole almonds
- 6 ounces (168 grams) fine-quality bittersweet chocolate
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
- Powdered sugar to garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Butter and flour a 10-inch spring form pan.
In a small pan, melt the butter and let cool completely.
In a food processor, finely grind together the almonds and chocolate.
Separate the eggs, putting the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer and the whites in another large bowl.
Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until very thick and pale; then add the almond chocolate mixture and the butter and beat together.
In another bowl, with cleaned beaters, beat the egg whites with a pinch salt until they form stiff peaks. Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into the almond chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining whites gently but thoroughly and spread the batter evenly in the pan.
Bake the torta for 50 minutes, or until it begins to pull away from side of the pan and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool the cake completely before releasing the sides of the pan. Dust the cake with powdered sugar and serve. Serves 8–10.
- Barcaccia fountain in Piazza di Spagna restored (thehistoryblog.com)