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An overview of the late renaissance and baroque era in architecture

Baroque and late Baroque, or Rococo, are loosely defined terms, generally applied by common consent to European art of the period from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century. The origin of the term The term Baroque probably ultimately derived from the Italian word barocco, which philosophers used during the Middle Ages to describe an obstacle in schematic logic.

Subsequently the word came to denote any contorted idea or involuted process of thought. In art criticism the word Baroque came to be used to describe anything irregular, bizarre, or otherwise departing from established rules and proportions.

Baroque architecture

This biased view of 17th-century art styles was held with few modifications by critics from Johann Winckelmann to John Ruskin and Jacob Burckhardtand until the late 19th century the term always carried the implication of odd, grotesque, exaggerated, and overdecorated.

Three main tendencies of the era Three broader cultural and intellectual tendencies had a profound impact on Baroque art as well as Baroque music. The first of these was the emergence of the Counter-Reformation and the expansion of its domain, both territorially and intellectually. By the last decades of the 16th century the refined, courtly style known as Mannerism had ceased to be an effective means of expression, and its inadequacy for religious art was being increasingly felt in artistic circles.

To this end the church adopted a conscious artistic program whose art products would make an overtly emotional and sensory appeal to the faithful.

The Baroque style that evolved from this program was paradoxically both sensuous and spiritual; while a naturalistic treatment rendered the religious image more accessible to the average churchgoer, dramatic and illusory effects were used to stimulate piety and devotion and convey an impression of the splendour of the divine. Baroque church ceilings thus dissolved in painted scenes that presented vivid views of the infinite to the observer and directed the senses toward heavenly concerns.

Baroque Architecture

The second tendency was the consolidation of absolute monarchiesaccompanied by a simultaneous crystallization of a prominent and powerful middle class, which now came to play a role in art patronage.

Baroque palaces were built on an expanded and monumental scale in order to display the power and grandeur of the centralized state, a phenomenon best displayed in the royal palace and gardens at Versailles. Yet at the same time the development of a picture market for the middle class and its taste for realism may be seen in the works of the brothers Le Nain and Georges de La Tour in France and in the varied schools of 17th-century Dutch painting.

For a detailed discussion of this phenomenon, see Rembrandt van Rijn. The Lamentation over St. Courtesy of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz The third tendency was a new interest in nature and a general broadening of human intellectual horizons, spurred by developments in science and by explorations of the globe.

Baroque art and architecture

These simultaneously produced a new sense both of human insignificance particularly abetted by the Copernican displacement of the Earth from the centre of the universe and of the unsuspected complexity and infinitude of the natural world. The development of 17th-century landscape painting, in which humans are frequently portrayed as minute figures in a vast natural setting, is indicative of this changing awareness of the human condition.

Architecture, painting, and sculpture The arts present an unusual diversity in the Baroque period, chiefly because currents of naturalism and classicism coexisted and intermingled with the typical Baroque style.

Indeed, Annibale Carracci and Caravaggiothe two Italian painters who decisively broke with Mannerism in the 1590s and thus helped usher in the Baroque style, painted, respectively, in classicist and realist modes.

A specifically Baroque style of painting arose in Rome in the 1620s and culminated in the monumental painted ceilings and other church decorations of Pietro da CortonaGuido ReniIl GuercinoDomenichinoand countless lesser artists.

The greatest of the Baroque sculptor-architects was Gian Lorenzo Berniniwho designed both the baldachin with spiral columns above the altar of St. French architecture is even less recognizably Baroque in its pronounced qualities of subtlety, elegance, and restraint.

  • Bernini, in the most ingenious manner, took the opportunity of transforming the disadvantageous widening of Maderna's facade into an improvement;
  • Further Resources For details of the greatest architects of the Baroque style across Europe, see the following;
  • It was also the first step back towards a conception which the Middle Ages knew, but which the High Renaissance abandoned, that of the subordination of painting and sculpture to the plastic unity of the building they were to decorate, A Renaissance altarpiece or statue was conceived as an isolated thing by itself, without very much relation to its surroundings; Baroque painting or carving is an integral part of its setting, and if removed from it, loses nearly all its effect.

Baroque tenets were enthusiastically adopted in staunchly Roman Catholic Spain, however, particularly in architecture. Art in the Netherlands was conditioned by the realist tastes of its dominant middle-class patrons, and thus both the innumerable genre and landscape painters of that country and such towering masters as Rembrandt and Frans Hals remained independent of the Baroque style in important respects.

The Baroque did have a notable impact in England, however, particularly in the churches and palaces designed, respectively, by Sir Christopher Wren and Sir John Vanbrugh. In ornate churches, monasteries, and palaces designed by J. Fischer von ErlachJ. Detail of Baroque stuccowork by Egid Quirin Asam, c.