Written by – BIANCA NAVONE

Translated by – FLAVIA OCCHINI


Few days ago, on the National Geographic Channel Facebook Page, there was a black and white picture of the famous Barcaccia by Bernini along with these words written in huge capital letters: “19/02/2015 ore 16:30 L’ARTE È MORTA” [“19/02/2015, 4:30 pm ART is DEAD].


This meaningful statement cannot go unnoticed, especially if unaware of what happened: hundreds of Dutch hooligans, supporters of Feyenoord, invaded Piazza di Spagna. They ruined both a quite sunny day in Rome and the fountain at the feet of Trinità dei Monti, carved by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo.


It may be seem superficial to forget about the huge economic damage caused by this act of vandalism, but let’s focus uniquely on the effect of the association between “death” and art.
Death is the opposite of life, the emptiness; this is why we are afraid of it. However, if art died, what would happen? Just as with humans, all Art would disappear with all its immeasurable and timeless beauty that surrounds us.

Dead. Vanished. For Ever.

Then let’s pretend to believe in what National Geographic Channel wrote and do what everyone naturally does in case of the loss of a beloved one: remember that person.

Besides and as a consequence of this we want to remember Pietro and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, we want to remember why Barcaccia was created and we want to remember how it was Rome by the time it hosted the seed of the Italic Culture.

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The Fountain Barcaccia was begun in 1627 by Pietro Bernini and finished in 1629 by his son Gian Lorenzo, on commission by Pope Urbano VIII. The work was thought as part as a project aimed at redesigning the Roman aqueducts. Therefore, it was mainly a functional piece to be placed in one of the junctions of Acqua Vergine aqueduct, suffering from scarce pressure, to create gushes nor falls.

The work of art is adorned by decorations such as the tiara and and the bees, heraldic symbol representing the Pope’s family, the Barberinis. Overall, it is the first example of fountain realized moving away from the standards of the classic tank and approaching sculpture.

The collaboration with his father pushed Gian Lorenzo toward the glory: he was in fact recognized as one of the greatest sculptor of his time. Walking around Rome, we bump into magnificent buildings, fountains, squares and sculptures by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and anyone can feel that the famous artist is still living in his creations.

For instance, Bernini watches deputies going to the Chamber from Palazzo Montecitorio (1653); from Palazzo Barberini (1625-1633) he observes tourists visiting Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, he controls the coming and going from Obelisk of Minerva (~ 1650) and smiles when he sees children playing near his Fountain Quattro Fiumi (1648-1651).



The above-mentioned works of art are astonishing masterpieces realized by the artist throughout his life; among the most well-known sculptures there are the four Borghesiani groups: Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius (1618-1619), Rape of Proserpine (1621-1622), David (1623-1624), Apollo e Daphne (1624-1625).


When walking in the mystique beauty of the works of art preserved by Galleria Borghese, fascinated by the polychromy of marbles, it is possible to perceive Bernini’s eyes, his hands, his breath; they are hidden in the marble folds of Daphne’s skin, in the old Anchises’ wrinkles and even in the frightened eyes of Daphne.

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Among its countless characteristics, Art carries the memory of his/her creator and protects who gave Her a shape; That’s what a child does, once become a man: he protects his father. But Who protects the Art? It’s her Mother: Rome. An usurped, mangled and sometimes even forgotten mother; a mother that hosts everything, always present and too often representative of a culture that does not honour her.



The memory of Bernini, his poetry hidden in the marble and eternity gave life again – at least for a few minutes – to that dying Art. The only antidote to Death is Life itself.




In the silence, we wonder: is it Art really dead?

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