Barcaccia, a fountain of discovery

Anatole Tchikine’s article “Galera, Navicella, Barcaccia? Bernini’s Fountain in Piazza di Spagna Revisited” was published in the latest issue of Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes (31/4, pp. 311-331). The Fontana della Barcaccia, one of the most bizarre creations of Baroque Rome, is usually seen as a piece of Counter-Reformational propaganda, a warship of the Catholic Church that fights heresy while bringing salvation. Prof. Tchikine challenges this traditional view. His new interpretation of Bernini’s celebrated fountain places its origins in the world of Renaissance gardens, explaining many puzzling features of its design. The message of the Barcaccia, argues Prof. Tchikine, is not about power and politics, but the ability of Baroque imagination to break earlier conventions, creating a playful spectacle in the center of the papal city.

Anatole Tchikine, Ph.D.
Professor of Art History at ISI Florence