Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Rome

   The Oratory of St. Philip Neri is next door to the Chiesa Nuova in Rome. The commission to build the structure came from the Order of the Oratorians established by the saint and was given to Francesco Borromini after an architect of little note had been working on it for 13 years and yielding little results. The purpose of the building was to accommodate the throngs of individuals who came to the Chiesa Nuova for informal religious discussions and to hear sacred music. Borromini's genius is reflected in the play of concave and convex forms on the building's façade, characteristic of his style. While the overall shape of the façade is concave, the central bay on the lower level juts out to emphasize the building's entrance. Above this is a semicircular balcony and doorway contained in a coffered niche that is rendered in perspective to create the illusion of depth in spite of its flattened form. Borromini stylized the articulations on windows and pediments to echo these curves, though attached pilasters between the bays serve to contain the façade's overall undulating rhythms. The interior also presents a play of contracting and expanding movements. From pilasters on the walls that cannot be classified among the classical orders rises a series of ribs that crisscross to form an intricate pattern on the ceiling, culminating in the center with an enframed fresco. The work demonstrates Borromini's mastery in inventing new architectural forms and in according an organic motility to his spaces.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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