"Redditus orbis erat": The political rhetoric of Bernini's fountains in Piazza Barberini

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Abstract

This article reconsiders Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Triton Fountain and Fountain of the Bees, both commissioned by Pope Urban VIII Barberini. Modern scholarship, citing a Renaissance emblem in which Triton represents "immortality acquired by literary study," has asserted that the Triton Fountain is a statement on the literary achievements of Urban, who was a poet of some note. In classical literature, however, Triton often appears as a combatant in divinely sanctioned warfare. It was this image of Triton that was used in the Triton Fountain in an attempt to justify the Barberini's prosecution of the disastrous War of Castro. The Fountain of the Bees, built just months after the end of the war, complements the earlier fountain, while also marking a hoped-for return to the peaceful antebellum days of Urban's earlier reign. Through an examination of these fountains, the historical context in which they were built, and the political motivations for Barberini artistic patronage, this article explains the wartime political rhetoric of Bernini's fountains in Piazza Barberini.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-24
Number of pages22
JournalSixteenth Century Journal
Volume45
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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