Baroque art (1600-1700) emerged in response to the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther. This created ornate religious works that stimulated the senses and emotions of believers. Thus, the Catholic Church was able to restore its influence with the use of powerful imagery. Behind these striking and awe-inspiring creations, here are the following facts:
1. The word “baroque” used to be a negative term.
- Many believe it originated from the Portuguese word “barroco” (irregularly-shaped pearl). Others believe it came from the Italian word “barocco,” a Middle Age term that describes complex or distorted thought.
- Early critics favored Neoclassicism and believed Baroque was misshapen like an imperfect pearl. Unlike the restrain and order of the former, the latter seemed grandiose and unbalanced.
2. Baroque art was made for religious propaganda.
- The Council of Trent determined that art will spearhead the Catholic Counter-Reformation. The new style was to be impressive and persuasive to move the faithful and speak to the illiterate.
- Baroque is also called the “Jesuit Style.” The order wished to combine different art forms to create a richer experience for the viewer.
3. Catholic Baroque works were usually large.
- They included huge paintings on the walls, and frescoes and vaults for the ceilings. These masterpieces shared space with the viewer to create an immersive effect.
- The movements, drama, and emotion of the pieces were also large. They featured expressive figures caught in exaggerated mid-motion and cast in theatrical lighting.
4. Artists created innovations to make their works more realistic and emotive.
- Most paintings appear dimly lit to emphasize the effects of chiaroscuro and tenebrism. Caravaggio used tight compositions to enhance the intimacy and immediacy of a scene.
- Giovanni Battista Gaulli used the Jesuit style to combine painting, sculpture, and architecture. He created illusions that blurred the line between his works and the real world. These impressive masterpieces made the divine appear present and closer to the viewer.
5. The Baroque style became a symbol of wealth and power.
- Monarchs adopted Baroque to bolster their own political status. Louis XIV commissioned the Versailles Palace to proclaim his right to rule as divine.
- The rising middle class of recently Protestant Holland patronized non-Catholic paintings. This created categories such as still-life, landscape, and genre painting.
6. The essence of Baroque extended beyond its intended purpose.
- Its many adaptations changed the meaning of the term in casual usage. Baroque now describes any work that is ornate, highly-detailed, and extravagant.
- A more elaborate version of Baroque became an offshoot of the movement known as Rococo. It deviates by depicting playful, light-hearted, and whimsical scenes.
The Baroque era produced many of the most sophisticated and incredible artworks in history. Divine or not, it removed the barrier between its audience and its masterpieces.
To learn more about other great art styles and movements, check out their interesting facts here.