In 1655, a new Pope, Alexander VII, fired with religious zeal, political guile and a mania for building, determined to restore the prestige of his church by making Rome the must-visit destination for Europe's elite. To help him do so, he enlisted the talents of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, already celebrated as the most important artist of the age.
Together, Alexander VII and Bernini made one of the greatest artistic double acts in history, inventing the concept of soft power and the bucket list destination. Bernini and Alexander's creation of Baroque Rome as a city grander and more beautiful than since the days of the Emperor Augustus continues to delight and attract.
Loyd Grossman's love of Rome was kindled by his first encounter with the enigmatic monument to this relationship between artist and pope: the elephant carrying an obelisk outside Santa Maria sopra Minerva, just behind the Pantheon. With the elephant as his starting point, his book teases out all the intertwined strands of history, power and art that make up the Baroque.
Published by Pallas Athene