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The Triumph of the Immaculate by

Paolo de Matteis

The Church of Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The Baroque (US /brok/ or UK /brk/) is often thought of as a period of artistic style that used
exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and
grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance, theater, and music. The style began
around 1600 in Rome, Italy, and spread to most of Europe.[1]

The popularity and success of the Baroque style was encouraged by the Catholic Church, which had
decided at the time of the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, that the arts
should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement. [2][3] The aristocracy also
saw the dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and
expressing triumph, power and control. Baroque palaces are built around an entrance of courts,
grand staircases and reception rooms of sequentially increasing opulence. However, "baroque" has
resonance and application that extend beyond a simple reduction to either style or period. [4]


2Modern taste and usage



5.1Bernini's Cornaro chapel






8Literature and philosophy


9.1Composers and examples

10See also



13Further reading

14External links


Brooch of an African,Walters Art Museum

The French word baroque is derived from the Portuguese word "barroco" or Spanish "barrueco" both
of which refer to a "rough or imperfect pearl", though whether it entered those languages via Latin,
Arabic, or some other source is uncertain.[5] It is also yields the Italian "barocco" and modern Spanish
"barroco", German "Barock", Dutch "Barok", and so on. The 1911 Encyclopdia Britannica 11th
edition thought the term was derived from the Spanishbarrueco, a large, irregularly-shaped pearl,
and that it had for a time been confined to the craft of the jeweller.[6]Others derive it from
the mnemonic term "Baroco", a supposedly laboured form of syllogism in logical Scholastica.[7]The
Latin root can be found in bis-roca.[8]
In informal usage, the word baroque can simply mean that something is "elaborate", with many
details, without reference to the Baroque styles of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The word "Baroque", like most periodic or stylistic designations, was invented by later critics rather
than practitioners of the arts in the 17th and early 18th centuries. It is a French transliteration of
the Portuguese phrase "prola barroca", which means "irregular pearl", and natural pearls that
deviate from the usual, regular forms so they do not have an axis of rotation are known as "baroque
The term "Baroque" was initially used in a derogatory sense, to underline the excesses of its
emphasis. In particular, the term was used to describe its eccentric redundancy and noisy
abundance of details, which sharply contrasted the clear and sober rationality of the Renaissance.
Although it was long thought that the word as a critical term was first applied to architecture, in fact it
appears earlier in reference to music, in an anonymous, satirical review of the premire in October

1733 of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie, printed in the Mercure de France in May 1734.
The critic implied that the novelty in this opera was "du barocque", complaining that the music lacked
coherent melody, was unsparing with dissonances, constantly changed key and meter, and speedily
ran through every compositional device.[10]

Modern taste and usage[edit]

The Swiss-born art historian, Heinrich Wlfflin (18641945), started the rehabilitation of the
word Baroque in his Renaissance und Barock (1888); Wlfflin identified the Baroque as "movement
imported into mass", an art antithetic to Renaissance art. He did not make the distinctions
betweenMannerism and Baroque that modern writers do, and he ignored the later phase, the
academic Baroque that lasted into the 18th century. Long despised, Baroque art and architecture
became fashionable between the two World Wars, and has largely remained in critical favour. For
example, the often extreme Sicilian Baroque architecture is today recognised largely due to the work
of Sir Sacheverall Sitwell, whose Southern Baroque Artof 1924 was the first book to appreciate the
style, followed by the more academic work of Anthony Blunt. In painting the gradual rise in popular
esteem of Caravaggio has been the best barometer of modern taste.
In art history it has become common to recognise "Baroque" stylistic phases, characterized by
energetic movement and display, in earlier art, so that Sir John Boardman describes the ancient
sculpture Laocon and His Sons as "one of the finest examples of the Hellenistic baroque",[11] and a
later phase of Imperial Roman sculpture is also often called "Baroque". William Watson describes a
late phase of Shang-dynasty Chinese ritual bronzes of the 11th century BC as "baroque".[12]
The term "Baroque" may still be used, usually pejoratively, describing works of art, craft, or design
that are thought to have excessive ornamentation or complexity of line.


Aeneas Flees Burning Troy, Federico Barocci, 1598

The Baroque originated around 1600, several decades after the Council of Trent (154563), by
which the Roman Catholic Church answered many questions of internal reform, addressed the

representational arts by demanding that paintings and sculptures in church contexts should speak to
the illiterate rather than to the well-informed. This turn toward a populist conception of the function of
ecclesiastical art is seen by many art historians as driving the innovations of Caravaggioand
brothers Agostino and Annibale Carracci, all of whom were working (and competing for
commissions) in Rome around 1600.
The appeal of Baroque style turned consciously from the witty, intellectual qualities of 16thcenturyMannerist art to a visceral appeal aimed at the senses. It employed an iconography that was
direct, simple, obvious, and theatrical (illustration, right). Baroque art drew on certain broad and
heroic tendencies in Annibale Carracci and his circle, and found inspiration in other artists
like Correggioand Caravaggio and Federico Barocci (illustration, right), nowadays sometimes termed
'proto-Baroque'. Germinal ideas of the Baroque can also be found in the work of Michelangelo.
Some general parallels in music make the expression "Baroque music" useful: there are contrasting
phrase lengths, harmony and counterpoint have ousted polyphony, and orchestral color makes a
stronger appearance. Even more generalized parallels perceived by some experts in philosophy,
prose style and poetry, are harder to pinpoint.
Though Baroque was superseded in many centers by the Rococo style, beginning in France in the
late 1720s, especially for interiors, paintings and the decorative arts, the Baroque style continued to
be used in architecture until the advent of Neoclassicism in the later 18th century. See the
Neapolitan palace of Caserta, a Baroque palace (though in a chaste exterior) whose construction
began in 1752.

St. Nicholas Church in Lesser Town inPrague was founded in 1703 under lead of Baroque architect Christoph

In paintings Baroque gestures are broader than Mannerist gestures: less ambiguous, less arcane
and mysterious, more like the stage gestures of opera, a major Baroque art form. Baroque poses
depend on contrapposto ("counterpoise"), the tension within the figures that move the planes of
shoulders and hips in counterdirections. See Bernini's David.
The dryer, less dramatic and coloristic, chastened later stages of 18th century Baroque architectural
style are often seen as a separate Late Baroque manifestation, for example in buildings by Claude
Perrault. Academic characteristics in the neo-Palladian style, epitomized by William Kent, are a

parallel development in Britain and the British colonies: within interiors, Kent's furniture designs are
vividly influenced by the Baroque furniture of Rome and Genoa, hierarchical tectonic sculptural
elements, meant never to be moved from their positions, completed the wall decoration. Baroque is
a style of unity imposed upon rich, heavy detail.
The Baroque was defined by Heinrich Wlfflin as the age where the oval replaced the circle as the
center of composition, that centralization replaced balance, and that coloristic and "painterly" effects
began to become more prominent. Art historians, often Protestant ones, have traditionally
emphasized that the Baroque style evolved during a time in which the Roman Catholic Churchhad to
react against the many revolutionary cultural movements that produced a new science and new
forms of religionReformation. It has been said that the monumental Baroque is a style that could
give the Papacy, like secular absolute monarchies, a formal, imposing way of expression that could
restore its prestige, at the point of becoming somehow symbolic of the Counter-Reformation.
Whether this is the case or not, it was successfully developed in Rome, where Baroque architecture
widely renewed the central areas with perhaps the most important urbanistic revision.

The Baroque era is sometimes divided into roughly three phases for convenience:[13][14][15]

Early Baroque, c. 1590 c. 1625

High Baroque, c. 1625 c. 1660

Late Baroque, c. 1660 c. 1725

Late Baroque is also sometimes used synonymously with the succeeding Rococo movement.

Main article: Baroque painting

Caravaggio, The Crowning with Thorns

A defining statement of what Baroque signifies in painting is provided by the series of paintings
executed by Peter Paul Rubens for Marie de Medici at the Luxembourg Palace in Paris (now at
theLouvre),[16] in which a Catholic painter satisfied a Catholic patron: Baroque-era conceptions of
monarchy, iconography, handling of paint, and compositions as well as the depiction of space and
Baroque style featured "exaggerated lighting, intense emotions, release from restraint, and even a
kind of artistic sensationalism". Baroque art did not really depict the life style of the people at that
time; however, "closely tied to the Counter-Reformation, this style melodramatically reaffirmed the
emotional depths of the Catholic faith and glorified both church and monarchy" of their power and
There were highly diverse strands of Italian baroque painting, from Caravaggio to Cortona; both
approaching emotive dynamism with different styles. The most prominent Spanish painter of the
Baroque was Diego Velzquez.[18]
Another frequently cited work of Baroque art is Bernini's Saint Theresa in Ecstasy for the Cornaro
chapel in Saint Maria della Vittoria, which brings together architecture, sculpture, and theatre into
one grand conceit.[19]

Still-life, by Josefa de bidos, c. 1679,Santarm, Portugal, Municipal Library

The later Baroque style gradually gave way to a more decorative Rococo.
A rather different art developed out of northern realist traditions in 17th century Dutch Golden Age
painting, which had very little religious art, and little history painting, instead playing a crucial part in
developing secular genres such as still life, genre paintings of everyday scenes, and landscape
painting. While the Baroque nature of Rembrandt's art is clear, the label is less often used
for Vermeerand many other Dutch artists. Flemish Baroque painting shared a part in this trend, while
also continuing to produce the traditional categories.
In a similar way the French classical style of painting exemplified by Poussin is often classed as
Baroque, and does share many qualities of the Italian painting of the same period, although the
poise and restraint derived from following classical ideas typically give it a very different overall