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Humanities West April 26,27 San Francisco


Distinguished Member
May 10, 2005
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For Art and Culture mavens:


2012-2013 Season at Marines' Memorial Theatre, Union Square

Bernini's Rome: Art and Architecture of the Baroque
April 26 and 27, 2013
Marines' Memorial Theatre, San Francisco

Enjoying the patronage of Popes and the wealth of the resurgent Counter-Reformation Church, Bernini used his immense talents as an architect, painter, and especially as a sculptor to help define the unique visual style of the Baroque Age. In seventeenth-century Rome, designed by far-sighted urban planners in the shape of a star, Bernini and his collaborators and rivals restored a monumental grandeur to the Eternal City that survives to this day.

This program is presented with support from the Italian Cultural Institute
and the Leonardo da Vinci Society.

2013 is the Year of Italian Culture in San Francisco.

> Learn more about this program's presenters

> Download the Bernini brochure (pdf document)

Friday, April 26, 2013, 7:30 to 10 pm

Bernini's Rome.
Theodore Rabb (History, Princeton)

No city has had as many Golden Ages as Rome. The decades when it was transformed by Bernini and his contemporaries became at least Rome’s third experience of an astonishing outburst of creativity. During these years its people transformed the physical appearance of the city, as well as the esthetics of European art and architecture; they confronted new ways of exploring nature; and they struggled to make their way as the greatest powers of the day vied for control of the volatile city. The lecture sets the scene for the closer look at some of the achievements of the time that will occupy the rest of the program. Putting in context the leading figures in the church, in politics, in the arts, and in the world of ideas, it also suggests how people made a living, and how the nature of patronage and authority helped shape this Golden Age.

20-Minute Intermission

Performance: Performance: Music of Girolamo Frescobaldi (harpsichord), and Giulio Caccini. Corey Jamason (harpsichord), with lutenist Richard Savino and soprano Céline Ricci. Introduced by Kip Cranna.

Saturday, April 27, 2013, 10 am to noon and 1:30 to 4 pm


Bernini and Borromini: Architecture, Patronage and Power in Baroque Rome.
Max Grossman (Art History, University of Texas, El Paso)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini, the two most celebrated architects of seventeenth-century Rome, promoted completely different architectural visions at a time when the Catholic Church was struggling to redefine and reassert itself in the face of the Protestant threat. Bernini, the charming courtier and eminent sculptor, embraced a refined and purified classicism that he first employed in the facade of Santa Bibiana and later culminated in his monumental colonnades for St. Peter’s Square. Borromini, the irascible and melancholic scholar-architect, developed a highly idiosyncratic style that relied upon advanced geometrical calculations and radical experimentation. His first independent commission, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, and subsequent projects, especially Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, represented an iconoclastic alternative to Bernini’s minimalist Renaissance-inspired designs. In spite of their early collaboration, the two men became locked in a bitter competition for the patronage of popes and cardinals that spanned their careers.

20-Minute Intermission

Theatrical Sculptor: Bernini’s Appeal to the Senses.
Deborah Loft (Art History, College of Marin)

Bernini’s range as an artist was all-inclusive. He seems to have drawn no lines between his work as a theatrical designer, architect, sculptor, and (when time permitted), painter. More than any sculptor before him, he presented his marble works in settings which made use of the surrounding spaces (whether created by him, or the actual street-spaces of Rome) in a way that communicated with the space of the viewer. While his stage designs survive only in vivid descriptions, a parallel love of illusionism informs his sculptural works, with their mixed materials, and balance of classical idealism and emotional and fleshly realism. He also went beyond previous sculpture in finding ways to invest a static medium with the effect of dramatic motion. As a devout Catholic, he used these means to inspire devotion in others. The fortunate synchronicity of his talents with Counter-Reformation-era patronage provided the support for his ambitious projects.

Lunch Break. Program resumes at 1:30 pm.

From Rome to Paris: Bernini and the Renaissance of Empire in the Age of Louis XIV. Thomas Dandelet (History, UC Berkeley)

This presentation focuses on Bernini as a central protagonist of the Imperial Renaissance in France. More specifically, it will look at Bernini's close relationship with the court of Louis XIV and the role he played in forging the imperial image of the Sun King. As the French monarchy increasingly cast itself as the successor to ancient Rome, it looked to the Rome of its own day for artistic inspiration and models. Bernini was central to this project as the French king brought him to Paris with the hope of putting him to work on his many projects. While many of the Roman artist’s ideas and projects for Louis XIV were never realized or co-opted by French artists, they nonetheless exercised a major influence on his imperial imagery and architecture.


Let Them Eat Obelisks: Kircher, Bernini, and the Egyptian Monuments of Papal Rome
Daniel Stolzenberg (History, UC Davis)

Bernini’s obelisks in Piazza Navona and in front of Santa Maria sopra Minerva are among the landmark features of Baroque Rome. This lecture reconstructs the fascination with Egypt in the Eternal City and Bernini’s relationship to one of the most interesting and flamboyant figures of mid-seventeenth century Rome: the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher (1602-80). Kircher’s claims to have probed the mysteries of nature, collected the world in his museum, and unlocked the secrets of the hieroglyphs–and his many other efforts at creating learned spectacle in the city–help us to understand how the inhabitants of Bernini’s Rome understood the meaning of these famous public sculptures and more generally the culture of Rome in the age of Bernini.

Panel Discussion with all presenters

4 pm. Conclusion

Related Events

Humanities West Book Discussion led by Lynn Harris
March 27, 2013. 5:30 pm
Join us to discuss Bernini: His Life & His Rome, by Franco Mormando.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680) was the last of the great universal Italian artistic geniuses - sculptor, architect, painter, playwright and scenographer. His artistic vision is still seen in the statues, fountains and buildings that transformed Rome into a Baroque paradise. Mormando leads us through Bernini's many feuds and love affairs, scandals and sins, set against a vivid backdrop of popes and politicians, schemes and secrets.

Commonwealth Club of California
RSVP: 415.597.6700 or commonwealthclub.org
Club members Free, non-members $5

Fireside Chat with George Hammond
April 23, 2013. 6:30 pm
Orinda Library

Gian Lorenzo Bernini — Michelangelo of the Baroque
with Michael Stehr (Sistine Chapel Decorative Art)
Wednesday, April 24, 2013. 6 pm
Gian Lorenzo Bernini used his immense talents as an architect, painter and sculptor to define the unique visual style of the Baroque Age. Bernini, and his collaborators and rivals, accomplished their makeover of Rome by successfully pursuing the patronage of Popes, who dipped into the wealth of the resurgent Counter-Reformation Church to restore the monumental grandeur
of the Eternal City.

Commonwealth Club of California
RSVP: 415.597.6700 or commonwealthclub.org
Sponsored by the Leonardo daVinci Society
Commonwealth Club members $12, public $20

Humanities West Book Discussion led by Lynn Harris
May 8, 2013. 5.30 pm
Join us to discuss Egyptian Oedipus: Athanasius Kircher, by Daniel Stolzenberg.
Long before the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, the 17th century Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher embarked on his famously quixotic effort to unlock the secrets of antiquity by cracking the code of Egyptian hieroglyphs.

Commonwealth Club of California
RSVP: 415.597.6700 or commonwealthclub.org
Club members Free, non-members $5
> Return to the Current Season page

> Download the new season brochure (pdf document)

> Download helpful information about the Marines' Memorial Theatre (pdf document)

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