Obelisco della Minerva Rome

Image by Francesco Fenoaltea

Obelisco della Minerva – Baroque-style dissing

Artists are eccentric people; there is no doubt about that. I’m pretty sure many of them are blessed with wit and humour and they sometimes express it in their art. But the pettiness of one of the greatest baroque artist of all time, Bernini, is what truly gets to me.

His rivalry with Borromini is well known and if it’s not, you should really look it up online. My personal favorite is the story of the construction of the palace of Propaganda Fide: first it was assigned to Bernini, then to Borromini. Neither of them took it the right way, so Borromini sculpted a pair of donkey ears on the palace dedicated to Bernini. Of course he had to reply in some way, so he sculpted on the exterior of his house a penis, pointing right in the direction of the construction site. Unfortunately, both of these two things have been brought down.

But Bernini did not only go against Borromini, as shown with this elephant sculpture. Bernini was assigned the construction of a base for the obelisk, and he wanted to do a more open design, as in his famous fontana in Piazza Navona. He was forced to build though a block under the elephant for stability by a Dominican priest, and so he made the tail of the animal just slightly to the left to show a little bit of butt towards the convent nearby. And it will remain like that forever. Old style scalpel drop.

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Details about this spot



Piazza della Minerva, Rome

Opening Times

24 hours daily


Last Changed Date: 2016-05-19 11:45:13 +0200 (Thu, 19 May 2016)