August 03: Borromini’s suicide
2012/08/03 § Leave a comment
On this day in 1667 Francesco Borromini died from self-inflicted wounds.
The specific conditions surrounding Borromini’s dramatic death are somewhat speculative, at least in terms of what had driven him to the nervous despair that contemporaries describe in his last hours. He may have had a personality disorder; he may have been distraught over having his drawing instruments taken away and no light by which to write. No one knew or can know for sure. What is certain is the fact that early in the morning Borromini positioned a sword so that he could fall upon it. After several agonizing hours, he died.
Borromini died as he lived, in difficulty and pain. His personality and the political environment of seventeenth-century Rome conspired to ensure that he had charge of only a few, and relatively small, projects in comparison with his great rival, Gianlorenzo Bernini. Bernini, darling of a succession of popes, had ample opportunity to exercise his great gifts in architecture and sculpture during a long career that included an invitation to attend to a new wing for the Louvre. (This project did not go well, but an invitation from the King of France reveals his great international standing.) Borromini’s career was much less stellar. The Muse’s friends at Matters of Taste have paid tribute to Borromini’s life, and we invite you to visit their post written for his birthday, for insight there. He was laid to rest in S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini in Rome, in the tomb of his uncle Carlo Maderno. No inscription marked the site for centuries; it was Borromini’s preference to have an unmarked grave, nor did the church seek to celebrate a suicide.
It is tragically and painfully appropriate that Borromini, after the struggle of life, found death to come so difficult as well.
Image: Sant’Ivo della Sapienza (Clio’s)