Baroque Lecture

Baroque Art
Cynthia Noble
Key Concepts
The art that emerged in the late 16th-century Europe, lasting into the 18th, is called Baroque,
which has come to designate certain characteristics of art (style) as well as a historical period.
As a period, the Baroque has two major geographical branches:
Southern (Counter-Reformation and aristocratic art, primarily Italy, Spain)
The Counter-Reformation Church believed that the rationalism and individualism of the
Renaissance had contributed to the Protestant Reformation, so the Church commissioned art
that was meant to inspire faith and piety again, and also reinforce the papal and aristocratic
authority. Therefore, much Southern Baroque art was found in churches and palaces and
actively involved the senses and evoked intense emotion, directly confronting iconoclasm in the
Northern (Protestantism and art for the new middle class, primarily Holland)
Most art in Northern Europe was produced for the Protestant merchants to decorate their
homes. So, it included small, quietly descriptive works of everyday life, including portraits, still
lifes, landscapes and genre scenes. The Dutch art market was highly developed and
competitive, and artists could not depend on large commissions as in the South.
As a style, the term Baroque has traditionally referred to art which is characterized by
naturalism, tremendous energy and emotion, asymmetry, dynamic mass, restless motion,
limitless space, rich colors and dramatic contrasts of light and dark. These traits are all in
opposition to the classical aesthetic of the Renaissance. (However, it is now recognized that
these traits are more specific to southern Baroque art and do not account for the art produced
in the North during this same time period.)
You will write a 3-4 page paper answering the following:
Step 1: Discuss Pietro da Cortona’s The Glorification of the Papacy of Urban VIII, 163239 in terms of its Southern Baroque style. What do you see in this painting that allows
it to be classified as Southern Baroque? (For help, you may refer back to the
questions for writing about art at the end of the Renaissance art lecture, also posted
on the blog.)
Step 2: Discuss the Hubble Telescope image. There have been some attempts to
classify the Hubble telescope within the Southern Baroque style. Do you agree with
this comparison? What specifically, if anything, is “Baroque” about this image?
Step 3: Analysis—How are the two images similar? Different? Is it valid to borrow a
stylistic category name, such as the (Southern) Baroque, and apply it to images from
later time periods that have similar stylistic traits, or is a style necessarily associated
with a particular time and place in history? Why? Why not? How do the meaning and
power of the Hubble images shift when they are called “Baroque”?
Albrecht Dürer. Four Apostles, 1526
Jan Vermeer. Woman Holding a Balance, c. 1665
Clara Peeters. Still Life with Flowers, Goblet, Dried Fruit and Pretzels, 1611
Jacob van Ruisdael. The Jewish Cemetery, 1655-60
Rembrandt van Rijn, Self-Portrait, 1659
House of Peter Paul Rubens, Antwerp, Belgium, 1610-15
Gianolorenzo Bernini. Cornaro Chapel, Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome, 1642-52
Gianlorenzo Bernini. St. Teresa of Avila in Ecstasy, 1645-52
Gianlorenzo Bernini. St. Teresa of Avila in Ectasy, 1645-52 (detail)
Gianlorenzo Bernini. David, 1623
Michelangelo. David, 1501-04/Gianlorenzo Bernini. David, 1623
Caravaggio. Entombment, 1603-04
Peter Paul Rubens. The Raising of the Cross, 1610-11
Giovanni Battista Gaulli. Triumph of the Name of Jesus and the Fall of the Damned, Church of Il
Gesu, 1672-85
Pietro da Cortona. The Glorification of the Papacy of Urban VIII, 1632-39
Hubble telescope image
Pietro da Cortona. The Glorification. . ./Hubble image