Gian Lorenzo Bernini (Naples 1598 – Rome 1680)
Tradition has it that Gian Lorenzo Bernini designed the great staircase set in a square shaft as part of the planned extension of Palazzo Sforza, purchased by the Barberini family in 1625 and intended to be the family’s principal dwelling. Contrasting with the helicoidal staircase by Francesco Borromini, both by its position within the palace and its stylistic approach, Bernini’s project had to reckon with a more complex articulation of levels, since it was to be embedded in the pre-existing northern wing of the Sforza building. Starting from the lowest level, the grand staircase was meant to connect the main entrance on the Cavallerizza courtyard (destroyed in the 1900s to create Via Barberini) with the existing staircase leading to the garden level, and then rise to the piano nobile and the floor above.
Bernini was able to overcome these difficulties by stressing the monumental proportions and courtly style required by the commission.