Baroque Art and Architecture, the style dominating the art and architecture of Europe and certain European colonies in the Americas throughout the 1600s, and in some places, until 1750. A number of its characteristics continue in the art and architecture of the first half of the 18th century, although this period is generally termed rococo (see Rococo Style) and corresponds roughly with King Louis XV of France.
Manifestations of baroque art appear in virtually every country in Europe, ith other important centers in the Spanish and Portuguese settlements in the Americas and in other outposts. The term baroque also defines periods in literature and music. II DEFINITION The origins of the word baroque are not clear. It may have been derived from the Portuguese barocco or the Spanish barueco to indicate an irregularly shaped pearl. The word itself does not accurately define or even approximate the meaning of the style to which it refers.
However, by the end of the 18th century baroque had entered the terminology of art criticism as an epithet leveled against 17th-century art, which any later critics regularly dismissed as too bizarre or strange to merit serious study. Writers such as the 19th-century Swiss cultural historian Jakob Burckhardt considered this style the decadent end of the Renaissance; his student Heinrich , in Principles of Art History (191 5; translated 1932), first pointed out the fundamental differences between the art of the 16th and 17th centuries, stating that “baroque is neither a rise nor a decline from classic, but a totally different art. Baroque art encompasses vast regional distinctions. It may seem confusing, for xample, to label two such different artists as Rembrandt and Gianlorenzo Bernini as baroque; yet despite differences, they shared certain baroque elements, such as a preoccupation with the dramatic potential of light. A Historical Background Understanding the various forms of baroque art requires knowledge of its historical context. The 17th century could be called the first modern age. Human awareness of the world was continuously expanding.
Many scientific discoveries influenced art; Galileo’s investigations of the planets, for example, account for astronomical accuracy in many paintings of the time. The assertion of the Polish astronomer Copernicus that the planets did not revolve around the earth was written by 1 530, published in 1 543, and only fully accepted after 1600. The realization that the earth was not at the center of the universe coincided in art with the rise of pure landscape painting devoid of human figures.
The active trade and colonization policies of many European nations accounted for numerous portrayals of places and peoples that were exotic to Europeans. Religion determined many aspects of baroque art. The Roman Catholic church was a highly influential patron, and its Counter Reformation, movement to combat the spread of Protestantism, employed emotional, realistic, and dramatic art as a means ot propagating the taitn The simplicity sought by Protestantism in countries such as the Netherlands and northern Germany likewise explains the severity of the architectural styles in those areas.
Political situations also influenced art. The absolute monarchies of France and Spain prompted the creation of works that reflected in their size and splendor the majesty of their kings, Louis XIV and Philip ‘V. B Baroque characteristics Among the general characteristics of baroque art is a sense of movement, energy, nd tension (whether real or implied). Strong contrasts of light and shadow enhance the dramatic effects of many paintings and sculptures.
Even baroque buildings, with their undulating walls and decorative surface elements, imply motion. Intense spirituality is often present in works of baroque art; in the Roman Catholic countries, for example, scenes of ecstasies, martyrdoms, or miraculous apparitions are common. Infinite space is often suggested in baroque paintings or sculptures; throughout the Renaissance and into the baroque period, painters sought a grander sense of space and truer depiction of perspective in their works.
Realism is another integral feature of baroque art; the figures in paintings are not types but individuals with their own personalities. Artists of this time were concerned with the inner workings of the mind and attempted to portray the passions of the soul on the faces they painted and sculpted. The intensity and immediacy of baroque art and its individualism and detail”observed in such things as the convincing rendering of cloth and skin textures”make it one of the most compelling periods of Western art.
C Early baroque styles The roots of baroque styles are found in the art of Italy, and especially in that of Rome in the late 16th century. A desire for greater clarity and simplification inspired a number of artists in their reaction against the anticlassical Mannerist style, with its subjective emphasis on distortion, asymmetry, bizarre Juxtapositions, and biting colors. Annibale Carracci and Michelangelo Merisi, called Caravaggio, were the two artists in the forefront of the early baroque.
Caravaggio’s art is influenced by naturalism and the grand humanism of Michelangelo and the High Renaissance. His paintings often include types drawn from everyday life engaged in completely elievable activities, as well as heroic and tender depictions of religious and mythological subjects. The school that developed around Carracci, on the other hand, attempted to rid art of its mannered complications by returning to the High Renaissance principles of clarity, monumentality, and balance. This baroque classicism remained important throughout the century.
A third baroque style developed in Rome about 1630, the so-called high baroque; it is generally considered the most characteristic mode of 17th-century art, with its exuberance, emotionalism, theatricality, and unrestrained energy. Ill BAROQUE ART IN ITALY In Italy painting, sculpture, and architecture evolved from Mannerism to an early baroque mode. This change followed the Council of Trent’s call in 1563 for art that would instruct and cultivate piety through simplicity. A Italian Baroque Painting Some of the first and most influential artists to undertake a systematic reform of the Mannerist style were ot the Carracci tamily.
Annibale, his brother Agostino, and t cousin Ludovico were Bolognese artists who had an enormous impact on the art of the baroque’s greatest center, Rome. Annibale arrived there in 1595. Having already ecome famous for his frescoes in Bologna, he was commissioned to execute the ceiling painting (1597-1600) in the Galleria of Rome’s Farnese Palace, his most significant work and a key monument in the development of the classical or ideal, baroque manner, of which Annibale was the chief initiator.
This style appealed to such artists as Guido Reni, Domenico Zampieri, called Domenichino, and Francesco Alban’, who were trained by the Carracci at their workshop in Bologna. Other baroque classicists, such as the French painters Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, came from abroad to work in Rome. Also drawn to Rome was Caravaggio, who became the principal rival of Annibale. Works such as the Calling and the Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (1599? -1600, San Luigi dei Frances’, Rome) found sympathetic response, and Caravaggio came to be the guiding spirit behind an entire school of baroque naturalists.
Naturalism was spread throughout Italy in the first two decades of the 17th century by such native painters as Orazio Gentileschi and his daughter Artemisia, Bartolomeo Manfredi, and Caracciolo, called Battistello, and later by foreigners working in Italy, including the French painter Valentin de Boulogne, Gerrit an Honthorst from the Netherlands, and the Spaniard Jusepe de Ribera. Although of lesser importance in Italy after about 1630, baroque naturalism continued to have an enormous impact throughout the rest of the century in all parts of Europe.
Another turning point in the history of baroque painting took place in the late 1620s. Many artists attempted to introduce greater liveliness and drama into their works to create illusions of limitless space (illusionism). From 1625 to 1627 Giovanni Lanfranco painted the enormous dome of the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle in Rome with his Assumption of the Virgin. Although this fresco was inspired by Correggio’s Renaissance ceilings in Parma, it virtually overwhelmed contemporary spectators with its exuberant illusionistic effects and became one of the first high baroque masterpieces.
Lanfranco’s work in Rome (1613-1630) and in Naples (1634-1646) was fundamental to the development of illusionism in Italy. The illusionistic ceiling fresco was a particularly important medium for high baroque painters. Pietro Berrettini, called Pietro da Cortona, developed it to an extraordinary degree in works such as the ceiling (1633-1639) of the gran salone of Rome’s Barberini Palace. From 1676 to 1679 Giovanni Battista Gaulli, also called Baciccio, painted Adoration of the Name of Jesus on the ceiling of the Gesј Church in Rome.
From 1691 to 1694 Andrea Pozzo painted The Entrance of Saint Ignatius into Paradise for the ceiling of Sant’ Ignazio, Rome, with the same theatricality, drama, and emotion that had characterized high baroque painting throughout the century. B Italian Baroque Sculpture Anti-Mannerism in Italian sculpture is first seen in Saint Cecilia (1600, Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Rome) by Stefano Maderno. Its simple curving lines represent a dramatic eparture from the more pronounced contortions of earlier works. It was Gianlorenzo Bernini, however, who dominated baroque sculpture in Rome.
Among his early over- life-size group sculptures, Abduction of Proserpina (1621-1622) and Apollo and Daphne (1622 1624, both Galleria Borghese, Rome) display his virtuosity in the handling of marble, creating effects of realistic dramatic tension, strong light-and- dark contrasts, and the illusion of variegated colors. His Ecstasy of Saint Theresa (1645-1652, Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome) epitomizes the highly charged theatricality that is a hallmark of the baroque. Bernini was the favorite artist of the popes, for whom he did highly ambitious works in the Vatican.
The huge baldachin, a pillared canopy (1624-1633), above the high altar in Saint Peter’s Church, as well as the Cathedra Petri (Chair of Saint Peter, 1657-1666) in the apse of the church, attest in their colossal size and precious materials (including marble and gilded bronze) to the sumptuous splendor of Roman Catholicism. Bernini also excelled in portraiture, as may be seen in such examples as Costanza Buonarelli (1635? , Bargello, Florence) and Pope Innocent X (1647? , Palazzo Doria-Pamphili, Rome). His only rival in this genre was the sculptor Alessandro Algardi.
Fountains were among the principal types of baroque public monuments, and those by Bernini are among the most outstanding examples. Fountain of the Four Rivers (1648-1651) in Rome’s Piazza Navona startles the viewer with its mammoth statues and obelisk balanced almost precariously on ledges from which gush dramatic cascades of water. Bernini was also an important and influential architect; in addition to the vast colonnade (begun 1656) embracing Saint Peter’s Square, he designed such churches as Sant’ Andrea al Quirinale (1658-1670) in Rome.
C Italian Baroque Architecture Among the first major architects of the early baroque was Carlo Maderno, who is known principally for his work on Saint Peter’s. Between 1606 and 1612 he built the nave extension and facade of this structure, begun approximately 100 years earlier by Donato Bramante. Aside from Bernini, the major architects of the Roman baroque were Francesco Borromini and, to a lesser extent, Carlo Rainaldi. Together they designed Sant’ Agnese (begun 1652) in Piazza Navona.
The elegantly undulating facade of Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (1665-1667) in Rome, with its onvex and concave rhythms echoing those of the interior, might be called the quintessence of Italian baroque architecture. Building activity also occurred in centers outside Rome during the early decades of the 17th century. Francesco Maria Ricchino, in Milan, and Baldassare Longhena, in Venice, both designed central-plan churches. Longhena’s Santa Maria della Salute (begun 1631) has been noted for its extravagantly ornate exterior and its superb site at the entrance to the Grand Canal.
Especially theatrical is the work of Guarino Guarini in Turin. His Cappella della Santa Sindone (Chapel of the Holy Shroud, 1667-94) astounds the observer with its intricate geometric forms derived from Islamic buildings in the unusually high dome. IV BAROQUE ART IN SPAIN Although he is acknowledged as one of the great Spanish painters, the influence of El Greco’s Mannerism was fairly slight in Spain. The early appearance of a naturalistic baroque style was due to an influence from Italy.
A Spanish Baroque Painting Vincente Carducho, a Florentine artist, was influential in establishing a Counter Reformation anti-Mannerist painting style in central Spain. Juan Sanchez Cotan and Juan van der Hamen were botn expert at painting realistic still t li es that combine an influence from the Netherlands with that of Caravaggio. In Valencia, a naturalistic baroque mode is observed in the work of Francisco Ribalta, inspired by the art of both the Italian High Renaissance painter Titian and Jusepe de Ribera. Seville and Madrid became the two greatest centers of Spanish baroque art.
For example, early in the 17th century, baroque characteristics emerged in the paintings of Juan de las Roelas, Francisco Pacheco, and Francisco de Herrera the Elder. In his early work, Francisco de Zurbaran, who settled in Seville in 1629, derived some of his inspiration from Flemish prints, but his most impressive baroque compositions are deeply moving for their direct and realistic approach to religious subject matter. Zurbaran worked almost exclusively for convents and monasteries. Late in his life his style was touched by the softening influence of Bartolom© Esteban Murillo.
Works by Caravaggio were seen in Seville by 1603. Their popularity partially accounts for the strong realist influence on the work of Spain’s greatest baroque painter, Diego de Velazquez. In Seville Velazquez painted such earthy works as Old Woman Frying Eggs (1618, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh). In 1623 he moved to Madrid to serve as portraitist to Philip ‘V, a post he retained throughout his life. His series of royal portraits culminated in The Maids of Honor (1656, Prado, Madrid), representing the royal family, court functionaries, and the artist himself.
Velazquez was also noted for historical and mythological compositions and for his work as an architect and decorator. Two other important artists of Velazquez’s generation were also from Andalucia” Alonso Cano and Murillo. Cano (also a sculptor and architect) is noted for his sensitive renderings of flesh, as in the Descent into Limbo (1650? , Los Angeles County Museum of Art), one of the few Spanish baroque treatments of the nude. Murillo specialized in sentimental genre paintings and renderings of the Immaculate Conception.
The late baroque in Seville is best represented by Juan de Vald©s Leal, whose two paintings (1672) of vanitas (reminders of mortality) subjects in the Hospital of La Caridad, Seville, are horrifying in their morbid, ultrarealistic depictions of skeletons and putrefying cadavers. In Madrid, the last generation of baroque painters includes Francisco Rizi, Juan Carreno de Miranda, and Claudio Coello, artists who cultivated a style based on the Italian high baroque. B Spanish Baroque Sculpture Italian art had little impact on Spanish baroque sculpture, which was essentially an outgrowth of the medieval woodcarving tradition.
Realism and intense attention to detail characterize all Spanish wood sculpture; it is usually polychromed, and, at times, provided with glass eyes, hair, and garments. Among the most important works of Spanish baroque sculpture are numerous carved ood retables (altar pieces), many of considerable size and richness, produced by sculptor-architects. Of these, Gregorio Fernandez, who worked principally in Valladolid, was the major sculptor of central Spain, while the southern school is best represented by Juan Martinez Montan©s and Juan de Mesa from Seville and Pedro de Mena and Alonso Cano working in Granada.
C Spanish Baroque Architecture Spanish architecture of the early baroque often continues the pattern ot the muted severe style ot the monastery-palace ot El Escorial (1563-1582) near Madrid, as in the Buen Retiro Palace (begun 1631, now destroyed) in Madrid. Cano’s facade for Granada Cathedral (designed 1667) contains classical elements but, in its surface decoration, points the way to the development of the rococo style. The most ornate baroque buildings are found in Andalucia. Seville’s Hospital of Los Venerables Sacerdotes (1687-1697), designed by Leonardo de Figueroa, is typical.
In the rest of the country the Churrigueresque style, a wildly exuberant baroque mode named for the Churriguera family of architects, is evident in richly adorned buildings in Barcelona, Madrid, and especially Salamanca. D Spanish Baroque in the New World The art of the New World in the 17th century followed lines similar to that of the Iberian countries. Among the major centers in Spanish America were Mexico, Guatemala (especially the city of Antigua Guatemala), and Peru (Cusco and Lima).
The art of Brazil followed the patterns set by Portugal. In painting, the styles of Caravaggio, Zurbaran, and Murillo had tremendous impact. Paintings of the Cusco school combined indigenous decorative forms with European-like figures. Sculptural decoration from native sources also served as an ntegral part of the interiors and exteriors of the hundreds of baroque churches constructed in a flamboyant and exaggerated Churrigueresque mode, in all parts of the Spanish colonies at this time.
V BAROQUE ART IN NORTHERN EUROPE The baroque spread rapidly to the countries of northern Europe from Italy, where most of the major masters went to study the manifestations of the new style. Each country, however, developed distinctive versions of the baroque, depending on its particular political, religious, and economic conditions. A Flemish Baroque The Flemish baroque is dominated by the brilliance of Peter Paul Rubens. His youthful painting style was formed from such diverse Italian sources as Caravaggio, the Carracci, and Michelangelo, evidenced by his Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus (1616-1617? Alte Pinakothek, Munich). Rubens and his atelier executed a large number of mythological and religious paintings for patrons all over Europe. Rubens’s mature style, with its exceedingly rich colors, dynamic compositions, and voluptuous female forms, is the peak of northern baroque painting and is exemplified by his famous series of 21 huge canvases, The Life of Marie de M©dicis (1621-1625, Louvre, Paris). Among Rubens’s pupils, his most worthy successor was Anthony van Dyck, whose specialty was elegant portraiture, such as Portrait of Charles I in Hunting Dress (1635, Louvre).
Jacob Jordaens and Adriaen Brouwer are best known for their convincing peasant genre scenes, which are also the subjects of Flemish artist David Teniers and Dutch artist Adriaen van Ostade. Flemish baroque sculptors often derived inspiration from Italian art. Franpis Duquesnoy worked with Bernini in Rome, executing the gigantic Saint Andrew in Saint Peter’s in 1633. The style of the work of Artus Quellinus was derived from Italy nd from Rubens. Italian taste is equally present in architecture, as in the former Jesuit church of Saint Charles Borromeo (1615-1621, now a museum), in Antwerp, Belgium.
Dutch Baroque At the turn of the 17th century many Dutch artists, such as Hendrik Goltzius, were still working in the Mannerist idiom. Caraveggesque baroque was brought to the Netherlands when several artists, including Gerrit van Honthorst and Hendrik Terbrugghen, returned to their homeland from Italy; by the 1620s naturalism was entrenched in Utrecht. In that decade and the next Frans Hals produced portraits emarkable for their deft brushwork, informality, and naturalness.
Many of Hals’s paintings are of local militia companies, as is The Night Watch (1642, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) by the greatest Dutch baroque master, Rembrandt. Unlike most Dutch artists, Rembrandt painted a wide variety of subjects”portraiture, history, mythology, religious scenes, and landscape”with unmatched virtuosity. His handling of glowing light against dark backgrounds, his deft, flickering brushwork in thick paint, his truthful but sympathetic rendering of his subjects are among the virtues that place Rembrandt in the highest rank of painters. His fame as a graphic artist is also unsurpassed.
The creation of a convincing psychological ambience and masterly evocation of shimmering light effects distinguish the midcentury work of Jan Vermeer; his meticulous draftsmanship and delicate handling of pigment, often imitated, are unique. Landscape, still life, animal painting, and architectural views now became important genres in Dutch baroque painting. Until about 1650, Dutch sculpture remained Mannerist; a strongly baroque exuberance was then introduced by Flemish sculptors, most notably by Quellinus ith his work for the interior and exterior of the Amsterdam Town Hall.
The building, now the Royal Palace, was begun in 1648 to the plans of Jacob van Campen. It epitomizes the pervasive taste of the time for a classicism based on the published designs of the 16th-century Italian architect Andrea Palladio. C English Baroque Baroque painting in England was dominated by the presence of Rubens and van Dyck, who inspired an entire generation of portraitists. British sculpture was influenced equally by Italian and Flemish styles. The architect Inigo Jones studied the classicism of Andrea Palladio in Italy, as is evident in his
Banqueting House (1619-1622, London), with a spectacular ceiling painting, Allegory of Peace and War (1629), by Rubens. Sir Christopher Wren also Journeyed to Italy, and his plans for Saint Paul’s Cathedral (begun 1675, London) reveal his study of Bramante, Borromini, and other Italian architects. Wren, who was in charge of the rebuilding of London after the fire of 1666, influenced the course of architecture in England and its North American colonies for over a century.
D French Baroque At the start of the 17th century in France, the Mannerist school of Fontainebleau was till active in commissions for the Palace of Fontainebleau, where projects such as the decoration of the Chapel of Trinity with paintings (1619) by Martin Fr©minet continued earlier traditions. Mannerism is also found in the prints of Jacques Callot and Jacques Bellange. The candlelit scenes of Georges de La Tour, however, suggest Caravaggio’s influence.
Baroque naturalism arrived with artists such as Valentin de Boulogne, who had lived in Italy and with those who had contact with Flemish realism, such as the Le Nain brothers and Philippe de Champaigne. Of greatest mportance tor the history ot French baroque painting is the classicism ot Nicolas Poussin. Although he lived for most of his creative life in Rome, Poussin’s impact” and that of his fellow expatriate Claude Lorrain”in his own land was enormous. Late in the century classicism combined with a high baroque manner in Charles Lebrun’s frescoes at the Palace of Versailles.
In the late baroque paintings of Antoine Coypel, the pervasive influence of Rubens is strongly apparent, especially in those for the Royal Chapel of Versailles. The sculpture of Pierre Puget is also in the high baroque style; Franpis Girardon and Antoine Coysevox expressed a marked classicism in monumental sculptures for the king. Girardon’s group Apollo and the Nymphs (1666-1672), in the Grotto of Thetis at Versailles, is indicative of the French taste for a chaste version of the antique.
The Palace of Versailles (begun 1669), created for Louis XIV”the Sun King”by Louis Le Vau, Andr© Le Notre, and Charles Lebrun, is the single most important French baroque architectural monument. It is dedicated to the Sun King, and its measured classical forms, vast and complex gardens, and sumptuous interiors glorify the power f the monarchy; it gave rise to imitations by dozens of other rulers throughout Europe. A similarly grandiose project was the enlargement (1660s-1670s) of the Louvre by Le Vau, Lebrun, Claude Perrault, and others, a work of great restraint and subtlety.
E Austrian and German Baroque Although political events”the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) in Germany and the Turkish presence in Austria”prevented baroque art in those countries from truly flourishing until the 18th century, some 17th-century artists of merit did emerge. Two masters of German baroque painting are Adam Elsheimer, who moved to Rome in 600, worked in a classical manner and was strongly influenced by Italian painters, and Johann Liss, who traveled to Venice in 1621 and worked there and in Rome.