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An Elephant in Rome Reviews

An Elephant in Rome by Loyd Grossman

An Elephant in Rome: Bernini, The Pope and The Making of the Eternal City

Loyd Grossman

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Pallas Athene
Publisher: Pallas Athene
Publication date: 28 Jul 2020
ISBN: 9781843681939

An account of the invention of soft power and the bucket list destination, through Alexander VII and Bernini's creation of Baroque Rome

2 stars out of 5
3 Jan 2021

" January 1, 2021 Read this issue IN THIS REVIEW AN ELEPHANT IN ROME Bernini, the Pope and the making of the Eternal City 224pp. Pallas Athene. £19.99. Loyd Grossman Acheerful bricolage of biography, art history, trivia and travelogue"

The final section of the book is a set of “obelisk walks”. Some of these look quite long on a hot day – restaurant recommendations are included, though I’d hop on a tram to Testaccio or San Lorenzo myself. This was my favourite bit, to the extent that I rather wish Loyd Grossman had used it as the organizing principle for the whole book. The historical and art-historical material that precedes it doesn’t seem bad or wrong so much as unnecessary, impersonal and a little bland. Quotations and epithets are repeated, as if memorized from a commonplace book. Subtleties are overlooked in the name of bringing the subject to life – though the same could be said about Bernini, of course.


4 stars out of 5
Michael Prodger
26 Jul 2020

"(a) lively and informative book"

The obelisk itself is not unduly remarkable, except for the fact that it stands on the back of a smiling marble elephant with an unfeasibly long and wobbly trunk. What’s more, this humorous creature is the conception of the greatest artist of the 17th century, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a man capable of endowing his work with the most profound emotional depth. In his lively and informative book, Loyd Grossman, a big cheese in the heritage world as well as the world of pasta sauces, looks not just at the elephant and its obelisk, but also at the relationship between Bernini and his patron Pope Alexander VII, and how the pair transformed Rome.