A book I’ve been reading and using for research, and for anyone who wants to learn more about Gian Lorenzo Bernini, is Bernini: His Life and His Rome, by Franco Mormando (University of Chicago Press, 2011). The book is incredibly comprehensive and I’ve found it invaluable in my efforts to learn more about my 400-year-old boyfriend. It’s a bit on the academic side, but to get down in the weeds of Bernini’s life, as much as is known at any rate (how I wish there were love letters or diary entries from the man himself!), this book is very well researched. Mormando draws from biographies of the great artist written around his own time (some more reliable than others—one is by Bernini’s own son, Domenico), as well as the author’s own extensive digging into the artist’s history.
The book dwells more on Bernini’s political maneuverings and how he excelled as a courtier through the “reins” of numerous popes. The Cavaliere, it turns out, probably wasn’t a very likeable guy—intense, with a quick temper, exacting of his assistants—he clearly put most of his interpersonal energies toward schmoozing the Powers That Be, who, after all, were his meal ticket (GLB was one of the richest guys in town at the time).
This book isn’t for leisure reading—but if you’re looking for a thoroughly researched work on an artist that changed Rome, this is it.