Francesco Borromini was born near Como, in the year 1599. Apprenticed at an early age to Carlo Maderno, he speedily became both a brilliant carver and architect. On Maderno's death he succeeded to the charge of the works at St. Peter's under Bernini, with whom he very shortly quarrelled.
From his fervid imagination and rare facility as a draughtsman and designer, he soon obtained ample employment; and in his capricious vagaries, every tendency to extravagance that Bernini's style possessed Borromini contrived to caricature. Until near his death, in 1667, he continued sedulously occupied in subverting all known principles of order and symmetry, not only to his own enrichment but to the admiration of the leaders of fashion of the day.
The anomalies he introduced into design the disproportionate mouldings, broken, contrasted, and re-entering curves, interrupted and crooked lines and surfaces, became the mode of the day, and all Europe was speedily busy in devising similar enormities. In France the fever raged speedily, and the popular style, in place of the quaint but picturesque forms to be seen in the engravings of Du Cerceau, 1576-substituted the more elaborate but less agreeable ones to be found in Marot, 1727, and Mariette, 1726-7.
Borromini's works, which were published in the year 1725, and Bibiena's, which were not much purer, and which were giver to the world in 1740, had a large circulation, and tended to confirm the public taste in facility and elaboration versus simplicity and beauty. Despite this debasing influence, many of the French artiste of the time, both of Louis XIV. and XV., in the midst of their extravagance, made many beautiful ornamental designs, showing in them a sense of capricious beauty of line rarely surpassed.
Ornamental Composition, from a design by Le Pautre.
In some of Le Pautre's designs (reign of Louis XIV.), this quality may be recognised, as well as in many of the interior decorations given in Blondel's works published during the reign of Louis XV.