Borromini’s Opera

We recently acquired a beautiful new piece for our growing art history collection relating to Rome. It's Francesco Borromini's Opera del Caval. Francesco Boromino: cavata da suoi originale cio è la chiesa e fabrica della Sapienza di Roma con le vedute in prospettiva & con lo studio della proporz[io]ni geometriche, piante, alzate, profili e spaccati, published in Rome in 1720.

Here's the book dealer's description:

Scarce first edition of Borromini's Sant'Ivo chapel of the University of Rome, copiously illustrated with 47 plates engraved after the architect's drawings. Owing to its posthumous publication and the changing attitudes towards the Baroque in the aftermath of Borromini's suicide (1667), in which the style initially fell out of favor in Rome, became extremely popular in Catholic German-speaking countries and in Eastern Europe, and then became fashionable again within Rome, one of the scarcest publications of importance relating to Baroque Rome.


“A lavish publication, the Sapienza is the earliest among the books that focused exclusively on one particular building within the architectural production of a single architect. In the case of Borromini, it marked the beginning of the revival of interest in his architecture, despite the invectives of eighteenth-century theorists and historians in Italy.” (Millard) The Opera was followed by another book of engravings on Borromini's Oratorio di S. Filippo Neri, but the works are bibliographically separate.

The elaborate frontispiece unequivocally links Borromini's work with the splendors of ancient Rome by setting the title on a tablet in front of an imaginative composite view of an unidentifiable Obelisk, Trajan's Column, the Arch of Titus, the Temple of Hercules Victoris (Vesta), the Colosseum and the Pantheon. The architectural illustrations include numerous elevations, plans and details of the chapel's decoration, including several sheets that combine into larger prints. The influence of the antique is evident throughout. “The plan of the chapel is based on the hexagon, with each point either opening into a niche or chamfered, creating an animation typical of Borromini's work. The polygonal plan of Sant'Ivo was influenced perhaps by Borromini's studies of the ancient Roman temples of Minerva Medica and studies of hexagonal centrally planned churches by Baldassare Peruzzi and Giuliano da Sangalo.” (Millard)