Bernini's house

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was born in Naples in 1598 and moved to Rome with his family at the age of eight because his father Pietro, a painter and sculptor from Tuscany, was one of the artists engaged on the worksite of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The young Gian Lorenzo thus had first-hand experience of the busy site for the decoration of the basilica, and the atmosphere that he breathed here must have influenced his later life. Probably because of its proximity to the worksite, Pietro chose a house for the family next to the basilica, in Via Liberiana 24. The young Gian Lorenzo lived here from his arrival in Rome until 1642, when he moved to Via della Mercede, not far from Piazza San Silvestro.

The house on the Esquiline thus witnessed the whole of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s artistic apprenticeship: here the artist executed three sculptures that brought him to prominence at the Vatican, home to the most influential buyers and patrons of the time. These were the Rape of Proserpina, the David and Apollo and Daphne, commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese between 1621 and 1625, and now on display in the Galleria Borghese. The ability demonstrated in these works so impressed Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, the future Pope Urban VIII, that he commissioned Bernini to undertake the radical renovation of the church of Santa Bibiana. On this occasion, for the first time, Bernini was commissioned not only to execute the statue of the saint, but also to design the church façade, which has survived until the present. The church, now overlooking Via Giolitti, was then on the edge of the city and we can imagine Bernini crossing the whole Esquiline to reach his worksite.

After his death on 28 November 1680, Gian Lorenzo Bernini was buried in the family tomb in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, just a few hundred metres from the house where he lived as a young man.