As it has been our pleasant task to record how French ornamental art was regenerated by imitation of Italian models in the sixteenth century, so it now becomes our less agreeable duty to note how deleterious an influence was exercised in the seventeenth from the same procedure. There can be no doubt that two highly-gifted, but overrated, Italian artists, set during their lives upon pinnacles which made them the "observed of all observers", effected an immense amount of mischief to French art.
These artists were Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini. The former was the son of a Florentine sculptor, and was born in 1589. He evinced an unusually precocious talent for sculpture; and whilst yet a youth was fully employed, not only as a sculptor, but as an architect.
He resided almost entirely at Rome, where he designed the fountain of the Barcaccia in the Piazza di Spagna, the celebrated Triton in the Piazza Barberini, and the large fountains of the Piazza Navona; the College de Propaganda Fide; the great hall and facade of the Barberini Palace, facing the Strada Felice; a campanile to St. Peter's (afterwards taken down); the Ludovico Palace, on the Monte Citorio; the celebrated Piazza of St. Peter's; and the great staircase from St. Peter's to the Vatican, besides numerous other works.
Busts by Bernini were eagerly sought after by the sovereigns and nobles of Europe; so much so, that when he was sixty-eight years of age, Louis XIV., who was unused to be refused anything, and much less to be forced to beg, was actually obliged to write supplicatory letters to the Pope, and to Bernini, requesting the sculptor's presence at Paris. During his residence there, though he did but little, he is said to have received five golden louis a day, and at his departure fifty thousand crowns, with an annual pension of two thousand crowns, and one of five hundred for his sons, who accompanied him. On his return to Rome he made an equestrian statue in honour of Louis, which is now at Versailles.
Besides his works in architecture, sculpture, and bronze, he appears to have had a decided mechanical turn; and, moreover, to have painted as many as five hundred pictures in the Case Barberini and Chigi. He died in the year 1680.