A San Francisco city tour would not be complete without visiting the Palace of Fine Arts. Of course, there’s no royalty in residence. However, the architecture is fit for a monarchy, with a style that borrows freely from Bernini’s (1598-1680) neoclassical Saint Peter’s Square.
The Palace is introduced with a lagoon, fountains, swans and a processional colonnade, in a generous welcome to visitors. The rotunda was inspired by a Piranesi engraving that featured a Roman ruin reflected in a pool. According to Bernard Maybeck, the architect who designed it in 1915, this ruin existed not for its own sake but to show “the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes.”
This fascinating work of art, in its own right, was designed for an exhibit at thePanama Pacific Exposition,held in 1915, to celebrate the restoration of the city after the devastating 1906 earthquake and the opening of the Panama Canal.