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Francisco Borromini

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BORROMINI, FRANCISCO, born in 1599, in Ilissone, diocese of Como. His father was an architect, and much employed by the Casa, or family of Visconti. Francisco was sent, at an early age, to Milan, to study sculpture ; and, at seventeen years of age, he went to Roine to be instructed in architecture, by his relation, Carlo Maderno, who also bad him instructed in geometry. Maderno set him to take fair copies of his drawings, and made him execute the die rubim on either side of the small doors of St. Peter's, which, with the drapery and festoons over the arches, are the only works of Borromini's chisel. He delighted in painting, and some of his pictures arc vary good, among which is one of the fathers della Chiesa Nueva, in Rome. On Maderno's death, Borromini was made architect of St. Peter's and remained a little while under the direction of Bernini ; hut becoming first emulous of him, then envious, and finally his enemy. he endeavoured to get more commissions for work, and in fact was employed in a vast number of buildings, where, trying to surpass Bernini in novelties, he laid aside the common rules, and bewildered his imagination and talents in a labyrinth of extravagances. At the bottom of the court of the Sapienza, he built a church with a concave front, on a polygonal plan, with its sides alternately concave and convex; the exterior of the cupola, which is surrounded above by a balustrade, has a similar figure ; the convex part being formed into steps, interrupted by buttresses. But the lantern is still more whimsical, having its vase in a zig-zag form, on which is erected a spiral staircase, sustaining a crown of metal with a ball and cross at top. However, the greatest delirium of Borromini, is the style of the church of an Carlino alle Quattro Fontane. So many right, concave, 2nd convex lines, so many columns upon columns of different proportions, with windows, niches, and sculptures, in so small a front, cannot but excite pity for the derangement of the mind by which they were projected. The oratory of the fathers della Chiesa Nuova, has likewise its front com posed of orbiculated and right lines ; where everything is deranged and out of order : undulating coronte, which, instead of helping the discharge of the water, retain it ; delicate mouldings under great weights; mouldings of a strange and new form ; breaks only in the architrave of the entablature ; prominences, contortions, and every kind of absurdity. There appears, nevertheless, in this building

a something harmonious and handsome, hut better adapted (as Bernini said) to a country-house or villa, than to the second edifice of a city. The flat arch of the oratory is rather wonderful, being of a much larger size than that of Santa Martina, made by Cortona. Though it supports above it the weight of the great library, the wall of one of its larger sides is not flanked with counterforts, but stands insulated, fronting the street. The habitation of these fathers of the oratory, is one of the best buildings of Borromini, yet it is not without its whimsicalities, in the porticos and loggias of the cloisters, supported by a single Composite pilaster : the tower of the clock is likewise mixtilinear. The best work of Borromini, is the front of St. Agnes, in the Piazza Navona. The king of Spain, wishing to modernize and enlarge his palace at Rome, Borromini was commissioned to do it ; for which purpose he made a drawing. and though it was never executed, it gave such satisfaction, that the monarch honoured the author with the cross of St. James, and made him a present of 1000 dollars. Pope Urban VIII. likewise created knight of Christ, gave him 3000 dollars, and settled an annual pension on him. Part of the palace Barberini ; the whole of the monastery and church of the Madonna de' Sette Dolori, at the foot of San Pietro Montorio ; and the palace of Rufina, at Frescati, were built by this architect ; he also modernized the palace Falconnier, and embellished that of Spada. Besides these, he executed many other works, and sent to various countries designs of buildings, which produced him fame and riches. Borromini was one of the first men of his age for the elevation of his genius, and one of the last for the ridiculous use he made of it. The frenzy which he had displayed in scientific pursuits, extended, as he advanced in years, to moral objects ; and he at length died, a lunatic, by his own hands, in 1667.