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COURSE NAME: "Special Topics in Early Modern Art: Bernini and Borromini"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session I 2020

INSTRUCTOR: Laura Foster
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: Remote Learning
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: One previous course in Art History or permission of the instructor

Specialized courses offered periodically on specific aspects of the art of the early modern world. Courses are normally research-led topics on an area of current academic concern.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini dominated architectural design in 17th-century Rome and much has been made of their personal and professional rivalry. This course goes beyond the controversy of their personal conflict and instead focuses on their distinctive approaches to design and the creation of meaning in architecture. Through close examination of key projects like the Church of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, S. Andrea al Quirinale, Piazza Navona and St. Peter’s Basilica, the course explores how Borromini and Bernini transformed architecture in Rome and created new paths in design that would be followed by generations of architects. Proceeding roughly according to chronology, the course will follow the career of Bernini and Borromini from their early years in Rome, one as a sculptor and the other as assistant stone carver. The close relationship with critical patrons will be explored, as the artists developed different methods to treating the classical vocabulary of architecture. The particular motifs that made their architecture so distinctive will be examined through an analysis of the historical sources they used and recombined in their works. The course will also look critically at the historiography of Bernini and Borromini to see how biographical information about the two—often anecdotal—has affected our interpretation of their works. The bi-weekly class meetings will be divided between a short period of lecture and in-depth discussion of texts and individual works, presented by the students. Conditions permitting, there will be site visits to central works under discussion.. 


•ability to describe and analyze works of architecture from a formal perspective, including plans and elevations.


•in-depth knowledge of the major architectural works of Borromini and Bernini


•a general understanding of the 17th-century context of architecture in Rome


•familiarity with the most important scholarly works on the topic through the production of annotated bibliographies

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
The Life of BerniniFilippo BaldinucciState University PressnoneN6923.B5 B33 
Bernini's Biographies: Critical EssaysDelbeke, Maarten, Evonne Anita Levy, and Steven F Ostrow, edsState University Press9780271029023  
The Rome of Alexander VII, 1665-1667Richard KrautheimerPrinceton University Press9780691002774  
Bernini and the Art of ArchitectureTod MarderAbbeville Press9780789201157  
The Rome of Borromini: Architecture as LanguagePaolo PortoghesiGeorge BrazillernoneNA1123.B6 P63 
Borromini and the Roman Oratory: Style and SocietyJoseph ConnorsMIT Press9780262030717  
Bernini and the Bell Towers: Architecture and Politics at the VaticanSarah McPheeYale University Press9780300097405  
BorrominiAnthony BluntHarvard University Press9780674079267  

Weekly presentationsStudents will offer two short presentations each week on one of the class readings and on an individual monument to be discussed in depth with the rest of the class. In order to encourage professionalization, students will provide these presentations using a software program or app like PowerPoint, learning how to use high quality images with proper formatting.40%
Annotated BibliographyStudents will produce annotations of approximately one paragraph each on the assigned readings, to be turned in at mid-course and at the end. Due dates are included in the schedule.20%
Research PaperThe final paper of approximately 10 pages may treat either a theme discussed in class or a specific work, in consultation with the professor. It will include a thorough bibliography20%
Final ExamThe final exam will be composed of essay questions based upon the main themes and works discussed during the course. 20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Specialized courses offered periodically on specific aspects of the art of the early modern world. Courses are normally research-led topics on an area of current academic concern.
May be taken more than once for credit with different topics.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


The professor reserves the right to make changes to the syllabus.

A full schedule with reading assignments and due dates will be made available on the first day of class. Topics for bi-weekly lectures include:

--Course Introduction: Who is an architect in the 17thcentury?

--Research strategies and presentation practice

--Architectural and other training—becoming Bernini and Borromini

--First works: S. Bibiana, Palazzo Barberini

--Borromini and the Religious Orders: Oratory and S. Carlino

--Borromini, Virgilio Spada and the Opus architectonicum

--Marks of success and failure: The lost bell towers of St. Peter's

--Bernini and Alexander VII: Rome as theater

--Legacy of Bernini and Borromini in the Accademia di S. Luca