I happened to see a photograph last week - on a weblog somewhere, but I don’t remember whose - of the obelisk in Piazza di Minerva in Rome, and of Bernini’s elephant-statue at its base. This reminded me of the fascinating sketches reproduced in Franco Borsi’s book about Bernini which show some of the architect’s preliminary ideas about the project…
Although I very much like the audacious plans at bottom centre and right, with the obelisk seeming to be either manhandled into place, or stolen away from it, there is something very satisfying about the design that was eventually realized.
Below is a photograph, lifted from this page, which shows the elephant as it looks today. Clicking on this and the other images will open larger versions of the same.
Added much later: I’m much obliged to Sig. Bonacci for the link in his comment below which mentions that the inspiration for Bernini’s design was very likely the above image, one of the woodcuts in Francesco Colonna’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. Also, I never knew that the statue was familiarly known as il pulcino della Minerva, where ’pulcino’, rather bizarrely, means ‘chick’ (as in baby chicken) - apparently, as the text in the linked page explains, this is a corruption of porcino, in Roman dialect, purcino, meaning, I think, ‘piggy’.Posted by misteraitch at December 10, 2003 02:11 PM | TrackBack