Northern European Baroque: 1600

Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
 The territories of Northern Europe were at war with each other for almost
all of the 17th century.
o The root cause of the wars was the conflict between Protestants and
Catholics for control of territories.
o These religious conflicts were also inflamed by secular, dynastic, and
nationalistic concerns.
o Another factor was a series of conflicts that arose between European
powers as they expanded their mercantile (trading and financial) and
colonial empires.
 The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 restructured Europe through the creation
of Protestant and Catholic territories and nations.
o This hastened the secularization of the political structure of Europe.
Flanders (basically contemporary Belgium) remained under Spanish control
and remained essentially a Catholic territory. FLEMISH = FROM
FLANDERS. Counter-Reformation
The Netherlands (Dutch, basically contemporary Holland) became an
independent Protestant country. Reformation
France remained a Catholic country. However, the increasing power of the
king, especially in the person of Louis XIV, created an increasingly secular
state with waning papal influence. Counter-Reformation
England became a Protestant country as Henry VIII desire for serial
marriages (to assure a male heir to the throne) was thwarted by the pope.
Taking Mannerism to the next step
o Maximum Expression of Emotion and Theatricality
 Raking Light / Tenebrism (Dramatic Illumination)
 Twisting Poses
 Depicting Climactic Moments
o Sumptuous and Ornate
Original Impetus was Counter-Reformation
o Create fantastic “must-see” art and architecture to bring or keep
worshippers in the Catholic (Roman Pope) fold.
o Spread to monarchs who also wanted to glorify themselves and bolster
the concept of “divine right.”
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
1. Brief biography
1. Classically trained artist
2. Traveled to Italy where he was influenced by classical art and the
Renaissance masters (see he drawing of Laocoon statue in
3. Thriving workshop in Flanders with many students
4. Friends with the regent of Flanders, a member of the Spanish royal
5. During 1620’s, spent several months as part of the court of Philip IV
(influenced Diego Velazquez)
6. Multitalented and hardworking artist with a very successful career.
He awoke early and worked all day painting and supervising his
numerous assistants. With his great wealth, he would usually
entertain his friends with dinners in his luxurious home and then
bring them to his interior balcony to show them his workshop.
7. Such a cultured and affable man that he was sent on diplomatic
missions for Flanders (like an ambassador)
8. Painted religious paintings (Flanders was still Catholic), classical
mythological paintings, historical paintings, and portraits
9. Famous for his voluptuous nude women
2. Key points
1. Influenced by many Italian artists, including Michelangelo and
Venetians like Tintoretto & Titian.
2. Dramatic, sensual, dynamic movement
3. Worked for many patrons internationally (Flanders, Spain, Italy,
France, England) and was wealthy
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
4. The Raising of the Cross – made in Flanders just after he got back
from Italy, established Rubens as the premier painter of Flanders in
the 17th century
Notice the Baroque qualities of the painting – a dramatic
Dramatic use of lighting – the diagonal light hits the scene,
Christ looks heavenward during his agony as the soldiers
strain to lift the cross
This altarpiece was intended for the altar of Ghent Cathedral –
part of the Counter-Reformation’s goal that art would draw
people to church, inspire and teach them
5. The Arrival of Marie de’Medici – painted as part of a 21 part series
for the widow of Henri IV of France
A dramatic event, the arrival of the future Queen of France at
Marseilles in southern France
Marie de’Medici was a member of the famous Florentine
Medici family
A shrewd intermarriage – the Medici with the French royal
But Henry IV would later die in a jousting match leaving
Marie de’Medici as the reigning monarch of France
What artist should be called upon to glorify the life of the
queen? ---RUBENS!
Fame flies above Marie de’Medici with a laurel crown of
Trumpets blow as she disembarks from the boat
A figure dressed in the fleur-de-lis, an allegory for France,
welcomes her to her new country
A triton and nereids, sea god and goddesses, emerge from the
surf to welcome the new monarch, the hope for the future of
6. Samson and Delilah
Recall Rembrandt’s take on the Old Testament story
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Ruben’s portrays Samson as a Herculean man (reminiscent of
Lysippos Weary Herakles)
 He has fallen asleep on Delilah, who has cut his hair
 The Philistines wait safely to make sure the champion of Israel
cannot attack them
 Notice the sensual portrayal of Delilah
 Notice the sensual use of color
7. Consequences of War, 1638 – 1639, oil on canvas
 As a diplomat Rubens spent a lot of time trying to avert
war in a war-filled century.
 How is this painting Baroque? Discuss…
o Composition
o Lighting
o Critical moment/ Theatrical
B. Anthony Van Dyck
1. Assistant of Rubens
2. When he realized that he could never escape the shadow of Rubens in
Flanders, Van Dyck left for Italy and then England
3. He became internationally known for his high quality portraits. He was also
influenced by the 16th century Italian portrait painter Sofinisba Anguissola
(remember the portrait she did of her sisters and brothers).
4. Van Dyck is most famous for his paintings of King Charles I of England
5. Van Dyck’s portraiture would proceed to exert a major influence on the
development of English painting
6. Portrait of Charles I
portrays the king of England as very powerful even though he is
dressed like a nobleman who has just dismounted from his horse.
Charles is the focal point of the composition. Despite being slightly off
center, Charles looks out at you with a regal gaze, suggesting his
elevated status.
He was a very autocratic (domineering, liked to have all the power)
ruler who was eventually beheaded.
Interesting note: Charles was a man of small stature and liked to use
art and other means to distract attention from that physical trait.
7. Equestrian Portrait of Charles I
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Portrays Charles as majestic and in control.
A plaque behind him bears a Latin inscription that refers to him as
“Charles the Great, King of England.”
His page (servant) dressed in red stands behind him.
Charles I disbanded Parliament and ruled as an absolute monarch.
Soon, the Parliament rebelled against him and overthrew and
beheaded him.
The somewhat sad expression in Charles’ eyes may hint at the real
tumult in England that was soon to transpire.
I. Before the Reformation and the Treaty of Westphalia, Holland was part of Flanders
(and earlier part of the Duchy of Burgundy). Therefore, Holland and Flanders have the
same artistic heritage from the Renaissance.
Oil painting
 Meticulous attention to detail
 Disguised symbols – common objects carry underlying meanings
A. Dutch Republic
1. Independent – achieved independence from Spain in late 1500’s after a long
series of wars. Officially recognized as the Dutch Republic by 1648.
2. Prosperous
Dutch East India Company
Financial center – Amsterdam was the financial center of Europe in
the 17th century
Prosperous middle-class
3. Cosmopolitan cities – Amsterdam, Leiden, Utrecht, Haarlem
4. Protestant
 Calvinists with strong work ethic and serious way of life
 Calvinists rejected art in their churches; they wanted to purify their
churches of ostentatious decoration.
 Dutch artists produced relatively little religious art
B. Basic Characteristics of Dutch Baroque art
1. New Patrons
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Less ecclesiastical (church) patronage and more secular (non-church)
Commissions from royalty was uncommon as well
Middle-class merchants are the main patrons
2. New Art Types
 Genre paintings – paintings of people doing everyday activities
 Landscapes – Dutch were very proud of winning their independence
as well as reclaiming their land from the sea
 Individual and group portraits
 Still-life paintings – paintings of inanimate objects often with hidden
 Paintings of flowers
A. Pieter Saenredam: New genre, interior of churches. Shows the iconoclastic
Protestant cleansing imagery of churches.
B. Paintings of everyday life
Example – Jan Steen’s Feast of Saint Nicholas
o St. Nicholas has just visited the household leaving toys, candy, and
cake for the children
o The little girl and boy are delighted with their presents. She holds a
doll and a bucket filled with sweets, while he plays with a golf club
and a ball (?).
o Everybody is jolly except their brother who has received only a birch
rod for canning naughty children
o But his tears will soon turn to joy. His grandmother, in the
background, beckons to a bed, where a toy is hidden.
A. Characteristics
1. Very realistic
2. Dutch took great pride in their accomplishments and material possessions
3. But this pride was tempered by the ever-present morality and humility
central to the Calvinist faith
4. Objects shown are a reference to the vanities of life
5. Vanitas paintings present a moral message – beware of the vanities of life
because you will die someday and God is going to judge you. Objects such
as skulls are a reference to the TRANSIENCE OF LIFE (shortness of
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
B. Example 1: Harmen Steenwyck’s The Vanities of Human Life
The Chronometer
Human skull
Empty shell
Japanese sword
Extinguished Lamp
C. Example 2: Willem Claesz Heda, Still Life with Oysters, Rum Glass and Silver
Reveals the pride Dutch citizens had in material possessions
Pride is tempered by the ever-present morality and humility of the
Calvinist faith
The oysters, partially peeled fruit, broken glass, and tipped silver cup
all suggest a presence that has disappeared. Something or someone
was here – and now is gone.
D. Audrey Flack (born 1931), contemporary American artist who also created a
body of work based on the vanitas still-life concept.
1. 2001 Exam – Slide-based MC questions Still-life with Peaches and Glass
Vase (G-264) on the left and Still-life with Oysters, Rum Glass, and Silver
Cup on the right
2. Sample Questions: The work on the left can best be characterized as
(A) Encaustic
(B) Tempera on wood
(C) Fresco
(D) Screen print
The work on the left was most likely influenced by
(A) Gothic manuscripts
(B) Archaic vase paintings
(C) Baroque ceiling frescoes
(D) Hellenistic panel paintings
The objects in the work on the right contain references to
(A) Transience of life
(B) Ancient Roman ritual
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
(C) Table manners
(D) Paganism
The work on the right is distinguished from the work on the left in that it
(A) Incorporates utilitarian (useful) objects
(B) Models form with light and shadow
(C) Is painted in oil
(D) Is a still life
A. Brief biography
1. Born into a family of painters
2. May have practiced as a surgeon
3. Became the foremost landscape painter of the 17th century
B. Major paintings
1. View of Haarlem, Gardner 727
Scene is depicted with great precision. For example, we can clearly
see Saint Bavo church (where Ruisdael is buried) in the
background. We can also see figures in the foreground stretching
linen to be bleached.
Nature is depicted as ever-changing. Huge clouds race across the
sky. The sun is like a giant shifting spotlight. The ETS would write
the question as: “an atmospheric, changing environment)
2. Windmill at Wijk bij Durrstede
3. Jewish Cemetery
Ruisdael’s landscape tells us that nothing endures: time, wind, and
water all grind objects down to dust
The broken tombs, ruined building, and broken tree all
underscore the transience of earthly life and endeavors
The rainbow may be a sign of promise of redemption
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
A. Brief biography
1. Apparently self-taught
2. Felt no inclination to travel. His paintings all depict figures from his life.
3. Although very productive, Hals was plagued by financial difficulties. This
may be because he had two wives and a total of 10 children. His second wife
had a particularly quarrelsome temper and is known to have become
involved in brawls.
4. A remarkable gift for painting portraits of individuals and groups.
B. Key Paintings
1. Jolly Topper
2. Laughing Cavalier
 A famous portrait
 But is the cavalier “laughing?”
 Note the complex images on his sleeve – the flaming cornucopias,
winged arrows, and bees. These were all familiar emblems of love.
3. Gipsy Girl
 One of Hals’ most popular works
 The girl’s smile has been described as “a sort of low-life answer to the
Mona Lisa.”
4. Malle Babbe
 One of Hals’ children was institutionalized and this may have been
one of the patients at the institution
 It could also be one of the patrons of a local bar. She may represent
evil because of the owl on her shoulder.
 It shows Hals’ ability to capture the moment – the facial expression
5. Archers of Saint Hadrian
 A military unit who served in the war for independence from Spain.
They would have reunions at which they would party raucously for a
few days.
 Challenges of portraying a group – democratic concept (Dutch
Netherlands was a republic).
 Each must be portrayed – because all contributed equally to the cost
 Somehow, Hals had to balance portraying each figure as an individual
as well as a group
6. Regentesses of the Old Men’s Home
 One of Hals’ last group portraits (another portrait was done of the
Regents of the Old Men’s Home
 Serious Calvinist women – no ostentatious displays of wealth, wearing
black clothing, focused on doing their earthly job to which God has
called them – taking care of poor, elderly men
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
All dressed alike, no one stands out – democratic
Yet, they are being recognized as individuals – Hals gives each women
a slightly different pose and facial expression
We see signs of their age and know their social standing – perhaps a
reference to the transience of life
ETS essay question – Identify the period in which this work was
painted. Discuss in what ways the painting reflects the social values of
their time and place.
A. Review of famous female leaders, painters, and patrons
1. Hatshepsut – first female pharaoh to rule independently, built an
elaborate mortuary temple in a cliff. It has a terraced appearance and
reflects the stone cliffs in the natural surroundings.
2. Isabella d’Este – greatest female patron of the Renaissance.
Commissioned work from Leonardo and Titian. Wanted to be shown as
cultured, wealthy, and beautiful. Wanted to be remembered.
3. Sofinisba Anguissola – great portrait painter of Mannerist period.
Became well-known portrait painter, who received advice from
Michelangelo. Travelled to Spain where she became court painter to
Philip II.
B. Judith Leyster
1. Studied under Frans Hals
2. Known for her lively scenes of daily life
3. Best known painting is her Self Portrait
 Depicts herself as an artist seated in front of a painting on an easel
 She allows viewers to see her and evaluate her skill
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
A. Brief biography
1. A tale of two lives
Very successful early life
Financially successful, became an art collector, had many students
that he trained, a nice home
Happy marriage to Saskia, whose family was also wealthy
A series of tragedies
He and Saskia only had one child who lived past two months old.
His mother died in 1640 and Saskia died in 1642 after giving birth
to their son Titus, the only child who would live to adulthood (even
this son died before Rembrandt)
His students began to take some of his once lucrative market for
Rembrandt faced a series of financial setbacks – Saskia’s family
challenged Rembrandt’s claims for her share of the family
finances, Rembrandt was forced to sell his home and several of the
works of art he collected
B. Impact on his artwork
1. Early paintings more focused on superficial detail
2. Later paintings (after the tragedies) are more introspective
3. Left many self-portraits that chronicle different parts of his life
4. Later style is more appreciated by art historians
C. Golden Years
1. Self-portrait with Lace Collar
2. The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp
 A group portrait with a difference
 Believe it or not, anatomy lessons were public events and people
paid to get into the theater where they were held
 The dead man is a criminal who had been hanged the day before
 Dr. Tulp – the gentleman with a hat (a sign of his status as an
eminent surgeon). He is demonstrating to the group how the
tendons and muscles of the forearm and hand work.
 In reality anatomy lessons started with the chest and abdomen and
worked out towards the limbs. Why do you think this change was
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Onlookers – 7 city officials arranged in a pyramid. The man whose
head is closest to Dr. Tulp holds a list with the names of all the
men on it
3. Saskia
 Portrait of young Saskia
 She would be featured regularly as characters in his paintings
(affordable model)
 She was the 21 year-old cousin of Rembrandt’s picture dealer
 Saskia was well-off as she was an orphan and had been left money
by her parents
 It is obvious by his number of paintings of Saskia that Rembrandt
adored Saskia
4. The Blinding of Samson
 Story of an Old Testament hero whose only weakness was women
 The secret to his strength was his hair – as long as it was never cut,
the spirit of God was upon him giving him mighty power
 Philistines – traditional enemies of Israel, used Delilah to discover
his weakness
 After delaying several times, Samson told her his weakness. Once
his weakness was discovered, the Philistines were able to subdue
him and blinded him for defeating them all the times before
 One last miracle afterward
5. Belshazzar’s Feast
 Last Babylonian king
 Disrespected the Lord’s holy vessels from the Temple of Jerusalem
(the Babylonians had plundered Jerusalem) by drinking from
them while worshipping the Babylonian gods
 A hand from God appeared and wrote on the wall: “Mene, tekel,
parsin” which means:
o Numbered – the king’s days are numbered
o Weighed – the king has been weighed and found wanting
o Divided – his kingdom would be divided
 Divine justice came that night – The Persians invaded and
Belshazzar was killed
 Note the use of IMPASTO – the thick, pasty layering of paint –
Rembrandt captures the interesting textures of objects in the
 Note Caravaggio’s influence with the use of TENEBRISM
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
6. The Nigh Watch (The Militia Company of Frans Banning Cocq)
 Rembrandt’s most famous painting
 A national treasure in Holland
 What’s happening?
 Marie de’Medici, Queen of France, is coming to visit
 The militia company is preparing for a parade before the queen
 A number of artists were commissioned to paint group portraits
for the occasion
 Who’s who?
 The Captain – Frans Banning Cocq – a wealthy and ambitious
 Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch
 Musketeers
 One on the left is loading his weapon
 One in the center is firing his weapon
 One to the right is blowing into the chamber
 An unknown woman
 Interesting history behind the painting – the painting was cut
down to fit into a new place when the Rijksmuseum – Amstedam’s
main art museum - was built. The painting was also attacked with
a knife by a deranged visitor
 Baroque qualities
 Dramatic gathering
 Dramatic lighting
 A famous mistake: the gathering is not happening at night – years
of aging of the varnish that protects the painting has made it
 His last major painting prior to the tragedies that would strike his
D. Later Years
1. A New Style
Introspective, psychological
Golden-brown tones, subtle shading
Quiet, solemn mood
Less clarity and detail, more impasto and visible brushstrokes –
more feeling
2. Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer (4 feet 8 inches by 4 feet 5
inches – at the MET!)
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Aristotle – the great Greek philosopher. Note his contemplative
mood as he places his hand on top of a bust of Homer and stares
off into the distance. What is on his mind?
Homer – the famous blind poet who possessed the gift of inner
vision. Note that the light that bathes Aristotle’s face does not fall
upon Homer’s blind eyes. Also, note how the creamy color of the
marble bust is repeated throughout Aristotle’s sleeve.
Can you find a third portrait in the painting? Look closely at the
gold and silver chain that cascades down the philosopher’s
shoulder to his left hand. There is a medallion with a portrait of
Aristotle’s most famous pupil, Alexander the Great. In contrast to
Homer and Aristotle, Alexander was a man of action.
3. Return of the Prodigal Son (Gardner 723) (8 feet 8 inches by 6 feet 9
inches) – Ranked as one of the top 10 paintings of all time
Do you know the Jesus’ parable (story with a moral message) of
the Prodigal Son (Gospel of Luke)?
Young son of a rich man asks his father for his share of the family
Takes money and lives a decadent lifestyle
A fool and his money are soon parted. The prodigal son is reduced
to misery. He returns home ruined and repellent. But he is
repentant as well.
What should the father do?
Look at the Prodigal Son?
Ragged, threadbare clothes
Shaven head because of lice
Missing shoe
Look at the father
Rembrandt painted this painting while suffering agony of the
death of his beloved son, Titus
The elderly father is dressed in rich garments. The father’s large
hands rest on his son’s shoulders with a feeling of protection and
Symbolically, we see sinful mankind taking refuge in the shelter of
God’s mercy.
Who are the figures?
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Older brother who stayed home and worked. How do you think he
4. Self-Portrait (Gardner 723)
Despite his many setbacks, Rembrandt portrays himself as a
working artist holding his brushes and palette
He is clothed in studio garb – a smock and a painter’s turban
Note the circles on the wall behind him. They may allude to a
legendary sign of artistic virtuosity – the ability to draw a perfect
circle freehand!
A portrait of dignity and strength
1. Introduction
Pollaiullo’s Battle of the Ten Nudes (Early Renaissance) is one of
the earliest surviving ENGRAVINGS
Durer was a master ENGRAVER
A new technique called ETCHING was perfected in the early
Here’s how it works: For etching, a copper plate is covered with a
layer of acid-proof wax or varnish. The artist incises the design
into this surface with an etching needle exposing the metal below
but not cutting into its surface. The plate is then immersed in acid,
which etches, or eats away the exposed parts of the metal, acting
the same as the burin in engraving.
2. Example: Christ with the Sick around Him
Christ appears in the center preaching compassionately to the
blind, lame, and the young
A powerful image of humility and mercy
Etching allows for greater tonalities of light and shadow than
etching because of the effects of the acid
A. Johannes (aka Jan) Vermeer, the “Sphinx of Delft”
1. We don’t know much about Vermeer’s appearance. He may have been
the artist with his back to us in the Allegory of the Art of Painting in
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
2. Vermeer was born in Delft, Holland in 1632. He spent all of his life there.
3. Married Catharina Bolnes in 1653. She was from a well-off bourgeois
family. They had 11 children! The family lived in the house of Maria
Thins, Vermeer’s mother-in-law.
4. Vermeer did make a living from his paintings. Only 35 of his paintings
are known to exist. Some were used as a form of currency to pay off his
debts. He also ran a tavern and was a minor art dealer.
5. Vermeer painted genre scenes mostly of domestic interiors. Often, a
woman alone doing something: pouring milk, weighing jewels, reading a
letter, playing a lute. It is not known who any of the models were.
6. Vermeer is famous for his masterly use of light and extreme naturalism.
His paintings contain many interesting details, which occasionally have
more than one meaning.
7. Vermeer may have used a CAMERA OBSCURA as he painted. This
device could project the scene he wanted to paint onto a canvas, which
would result in more realistic paintings.
8. View of Delft
 Vermeer’s birthplace and home
 A shaft of sunlight hits the roofs of homes, the Lange Geer canal
(to the right), and the tower of New Church
 A draw bridge and the Rotterdam gate – to the right
 The main canal in the middle ground is Schie Canal, along which
there are several shipyards
 Several of the red brick buildings on the left house helmets, body
armor, and leather war belts. A 17th century document mentioned
that two cannons were produced every year bearing the crest of
Delft. In short, Delft was a military town.
 Three well-dressed burghers (2 men, one woman) stand by a tow
barge, which has a red canopy over it for sheltering passengers
from sun and rain
 Two peasant women stand to their right, one holding a basket in
her arm with a square piece of cloth draped over her forearm
 A third woman (holding a child?) stands to the left of the burghers
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Paintings and drawings of Dutch towns were in demand in the art
market of the Netherlands
The realism and photographic qualities of View of Delft may help
to explain why it is ranked #2 on the list of the greatest paintings
of all time.
9. Allegory of the Art of Painting
The Artist – Vermeer himself appears in the painting but with his
back to the viewer
The Costume – Vermeer wears a 15th century costume. Perhaps,
he is connecting the art of his own era with art from the time of
the great masters such as Van Eyck
Clio – the Muse of History
She wears a laurel wreath
She carries a book in which she records all heroic deeds
She also carries a trumpet symbolizing the fame that can be
achieved by an artist
Death mask
Symbol of imitation
Represents painting as the art of imitation
An amazing chandelier
Note the two-headed eagle. It is the symbol of the Hapsburgs.
The Hapsburgs lost control over the Northern Provinces (Holland)
but still controlled the Southern Provinces (Flanders)
An empty chair – maybe inviting the viewer into the painting, just
behind a curtain, which has been opened up for us to view the
A map of the United Provinces of the Netherlands behind the
artist’s easel, which was displayed in Dutch interiors
Vermeer’s manifesto – a testament of his values and abilities,
remained in his possession until his death and was treasured by
the family afterwards
10. The Milk Maid
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
A young woman pours milk from a jug into a container. The lower
viewpoint gives the viewer a better view of her robust figure.
Light enters the room from a window at the left.
Details in the painting create the effect that this is a ‘real’ space: a
brightly lit hand against a darker section of the wall, the milk, the
broken pane of glass and the shadow of the nail in the wall.
A basket of loose rolls, a jug, and a blue table cloth – a breakfast
Cupids on the blue table cloth, a foot-warmer on the floor of the
room – cupid tiles and man with poll tiles border the floor - May
this have a meaning?
11. The Love Letter
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
1. A powerful country – most powerful and populous country in Europe
2. A powerful new king – Louis XIV (1638 – 1715) aka the Sun King
3. A new artistic purpose
 Glorify Louis’ achievements
 Enhance Louis’ power and achievements in the eyes of the world
4. During the latter part of 17th century, France becomes the center of the art
world and remains so for the next 250 years (until World War II).
 Louis XIV was a great patron of the arts
 Artists travelled to France to work for Louis XIV (ex. Bernini).
A. Art and the Government
1. Under Louis XIV, art became a government institution. The government
sponsored a prestigious art school, which all aspiring artists sought to attend.
This set a precedent for French artists for the next 150 years.
2. Nicholas Poussin
Considered the “father of French painting.”
His beliefs on art formed the foundation of the French art school’s
He believed all art should be realistic but also idealized to reflect the best
in the world. Paintings should have a highly finished look in which the
brushstrokes should not be visible.
Art should be meticulously planned and the result of great preparation
and study.
The composition should be logical and balanced.
Classically influenced art and Renaissance art was the best and good
artists should emulate and improve on the qualities established by those
two traditions.
Artists should choose suitable subject matter for their paintings such as
Biblical stories or classical mythology.
Any artists who could not abide by these guidelines were of deficient
talent and skill according to Poussin.
Et in Arcadia Ego, 1655, oil on canvas (I, Too, in Arcadia)
o Arcadia is a mythic, paradisiacal land.
o Three young shepherds study an inscription on a tomb.
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
o Woman (spirit of Death) is present to remind the young men that
Death comes to everyone, everywhere.
o Figures inspired by ancient statues.
o Even lighting.
o Organized, rational, calm composition from Raphael.
Burial of Phocion, 1648, oil on canvas
o Phocion was an Athenian general unjustly put to death.
o His body was taken out of Athens because he was forbidden to be
buried in Athens after his disgrace.
o His reputation was restored and his body was taken back and
buried in Athens.
o Painting shows his body being taken away: lonely in huge
o Theme from antiquity
o Even light
o Landscape recedes in a series of interlocking terraces and
geometric structures.
Rape of the Sabine Women, 1637-38, Louvre
o Theme from Roman antiquity
o Even amid chaos there is rational repetition of raised arms against
strong, repetitive, geometrical background.
o Composition can be read as a series of interlocking rectangles.
o Romulus (in red) balances massive building on right.
Compare and Contrast Poussin’s Assumption of the Virgin paintings with
Raphael’s Sistine Madonna.
3. Poussinistes vs. Rubenistes
 The debate between line and color, rationality vs. emotion/feeling
i. During the 17th century, a lively debate developed between followers
of Rubens (called Rubenistes) and followers of the style of the
renowned French painter Nicholas Poussin (called Poussinistes) over
what qualities make for good painting.
ii. Nicolas Poussin was the premier French painter of the 17th century.
Nicolas Poussin was very influential. Under Louis XIV, the Sun King,
the state began to fund a royal art academy. The artistic tenets
(beliefs) of Poussin became the curriculum for all art students at the
national academy. Poussin believed that good art should contain:
1. Thorough planning
2. Great detail
3. Classical or Biblical subject matter
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
4. Historical painting was also acceptable
5. Caravaggio’s style – UNACCEPTABLE
6. Poussin urged his students to paint in the “grand manner”
iii. Rubenistes believed that vibrant colors and dramatic brushwork were
the important elements of good painting.
iv. Poussinistes believed that paintings that focused on line (very detailed
and planned out) were the best.
This debate between artists who favored expressive color and artists who
favored precision and the use of line continued for the next two hundred
4. Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Cattle and Peasants, 1629, oil on canvas
 Rival of Poussin
 Known as a landscape painter: figures in landscape often incidental.
 Softer approach to the rational structure insisted upon by Poussin
 Compositions balanced with screens of trees, architectural masses,
terraces, and water.
 Preferred dusk or dawn light
 Greater use of aerial perspective than Poussin through painstaking value
5. Louis Le Nain, Family of Country People, ca. 1640, oil on canvas
 Painted genre scenes of common people
 Tone is somber not gay or boisterous or funny like Dutch genre scenes.
 Perhaps the portrayal of satisfied, noble peasants appealed to rich or
aristocratic patrons. Life was extremely hard for peasants in 17th C.
France; constant warfare and invading and looting armies.
6. Jacques Callot, Hanging Tree, Etching, 1629 – 33
 Chronicled the troubled times of the common person.
 Rembrandt learned from his work.
 Portrayed life without comment in the Miseries of War series.
7. Georges de La Tour, Adoration of the Shepherds, 1645 – 50, oil on canvas
 Paintings are like genre scenes repurposed for religious depictions.
 Famous for his tenebrism and candle-lit religious scenes
 Uses common people as models, but paintings contain a deeper religious
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
1) The Louvre, East Wing, 1667 – 1670
a. Incomplete from initial construction.
b. Louis XIV first construction project
c. Synthesis of French and Italian classical elements
d. Center pavilion modeled on a temple; colonnades on either
sides can be thought of as a peristyle that is folded from the
sides to the front.
e. Even roof with balustrade, only broken by pediment over
central pavilion
f. Compare with West Wing from 1546
A. Art and Sculpture in the Palace
1. The art and sculpture inside the Versailles Palace further underscored Louis’
power and authority. Le Brun and his assistants covered each ceiling with
paintings depicting Louis as a victorious general and brilliant leader. Three
works of art stand out as examples of how Louis used art to create an image
of omnipotent power and authority.
Bernini’s Bust of Louis XIV
Bernini wanted to do more than create a good likeness. He also
wanted to bring out the qualities of a hero. Bernini succeeded. The
young Sun King seems about to give a command. His flowing shirt
seems to convey a Baroque blur of energy
Hyacinth Rigaud’s Portrait of Louis XIV
Louis wanted to impress his subjects with his power and grandeur. He
particularly liked to be portrayed as omnipotent, magnificent, and
proud. Rigaud’s life-size (9 feet by 7 feet) portrait admirably
succeeded in visually conveying these traits.
Louis stands in an elaborate costume of ermine and blue velvet with
gold fleur-de-lis signifying French royalty. Louis’ silk stockings show
off his shapely legs, while his high-heel shoes compensate for his short
He holds a scepter and sword symbolizing his power and might. Even
the column in the background has a purpose. Just as a column
supports a building, so Louis supports and holds up France.
Compare Rigaud’s portrait of Louis XIV to Sir Anthony Van Dyck’s
portrait of Charles I.
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
B. A Day in the Life of Louis XIV
1. The Royal Courtyard
2. Welcome to Versailles. The Palace is huge. The façade (done in the French
Classical style – similar to Renaissance) is 700 yards or ½ mile long.
3. About 1,000 nobles and their 4,000 servants lived in the palace’s 226 rooms
4. An army of as many as 36,000 workmen built the palace and its grounds.
They were directed by a highly skilled team of architects and decorators led
 Charles Le Brun
 Louis Le Vau
 Andre Le Notre – the gardens
 Jules Hardouin-Mansart
5. Work on the palace began in 1668 and continued until 1710. But an
impatient, Louis XIV and his eager court moved into Versailles on May 6,
6. The Marble Courtyard
 Louis’ bedroom was located on the top floor in the exact center of the
palace. His royal bed faced east toward the rising sun. The symbolism
in this was obvious: as the Sun King rose, so arose the glory of the
morning sun.
 The nobles assembled in the courtyard in the morning to await Louis’
 Mona Lisa hung on one of the walls in Louis’ bedroom.
7. The King’s Bedchamber
 The Lever – the royal “getting up.”
 For the next two hours, approximately 100 nobles and attendants both
aided and watched the King dress, pray, and eat a light meal.
 The etiquette surrounding the dressing of the king was particularly
precise. Almost every article of the King’s clothing was removed or
presented to him by a particular gentleman or servant. For example,
the Master of the Wardrobe had to draw off the King’s nightdress
holding it by the right sleeve, while the first valet of the wardrobe held
it by the left. The highest privilege of all was to hand the king his
8. The Royal Mirror
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
Having completed the morning lever, Louis XIV might have looked
into his royal mirror to make sure everything was in place.
9. Louis XIV
 Louis was a shorter man, who stood about 5 foot 5 inches. Yet, his
commanding presence (and high-heels) made him seem much taller.
10. The Royal Chapel
 Louis would then be carried in a sedan chair into an ornately
decorated chapel to attend mass. When the King entered the chapel,
courtiers bowed to him, and he bowed to the Blessed Sacrament.
11. Council Chambers
 After mass, Louis attended meetings of his various government
councils which were held in the King’s Council Chambers
12. Palace Grounds
 The King usually spent his afternoons hunting or walking in his
13. Statues
 As he walked along the palace grounds, Louis could admire his 100
statues of classical heroes.
 Apollo figures very prominently among the statues.
14. Fountains
 Apollo Attended by the Nymphs, Grotto of Thetis, Versailles, Girardon
and Regnaudin, influenced by ancient sculpture and Poussin’s figure
 The Palace grounds included 1,400 fountains. Even now, over 1
million gallons of water are required for the fountains of Versailles to
play for one hour!
15. The Apollo Fountain
 The triumphant Apollo (a symbol of Louis XIV) is being pulled from
the sea, while Tritons blow on their shells to announce the god’s
emergence to illuminate the heavens.
16. The Royal Opera
 Evening entertainment might include a play at the Royal Opera,
located within the Palace.
17. Hall of Mirrors
 The fame and beauty of this room derive from 17 high windows
curtained with white damask which looked out on the gardens. They
were reflected in 17 mirrors lining the opposite wall.
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
The furniture in the Hall was silver. At night, it reflected the glimmer
of 4,000 wax candles in silver chandeliers.
The Hall of Mirrors is 246 feet long by 33 feet wide.
18. The Queen’s Bedroom
 After entertainment and supper, the King might retire to his wife’s
bedroom. Louis was a dutiful husband who prided himself on being
an excellent family man. Yet, at the same time, he maintained a series
of mistresses and had numerous illegitimate children.
 Late in the evening, Louis retired to his bedroom where the morning
ceremonies were reversed. The culminating event of the day occurred
when the King chose a lucky noble to hold a candlestick during the
evening ceremony.
C. “The Basic Reality of Things”
1. Louis XIV believed that the people of France were not sophisticated enough
to understand government. He used pomp and ceremony to enhance his
power and present an image that all his people would admire and respect.
2. Louis XIV was an absolute monarch who ruled by the divine right of kings.
He once said: “L’ etat, c’est moi.” (The state is me.)
D. How art and architecture convey power and authority – Versailles Palace and its
grounds were built to be a visual display of the power, authority, and grandeur
of Louis XIV
1. Romanesque churches were built to accommodate pilgrims on their way to
see relics.
2. Gothic churches were built to glorify God with their great height and
plentiful light.
3. The Palace of Versailles was built to glorify Louis XIV. Louis wanted his
court and subjects to see him as the “Sun King.” Just as the planets revolve
around the sun, so at Versailles everything revolved around Louis XIV.
4. The architecture of the Versailles Palace visually illustrated Louis’ role as
the Sun King. Louis’ bedroom was placed in the exact center of the palace.
Just as the sun rises in the east, so Louis’ bedroom faces due east.
5. The Hall of Mirrors was also designed to be a visual illustration of Louis’
power and glory. During the day, light poured into the room from 17
windows and reflected off of the 17 mirrors. As the “Sun King,” Louis
embodied light. Even in the evening, Louis’ light outshone everything around
Northern European Baroque, 1600 - 1750
him. The Hall of Mirrors was illuminated by 4,000 candles whose collective
glow symbolized Louis’ glory.
3) Eglise du Dome, Church of the Invalides, Paris, Hardouin-Mansart, 1676 – 1706
a. With dome and drum a narrow and tall appearance – hallmark of Baroque
(compare with Santa Susanna, Rome, 1597 – 1603, Carlo Maderno). Tall
dome overpowers skyline; Baroque love for dramatic magnitude.
Sharply different from France.
King’s power limited by Parliament.
Mixture of religions, Catholic, variety of Protestant religions
Had large navy and vigorous overseas trade.
Inigo Jones, Banqueting House at Whitehall, London, 1619 – 1622
a. Royal banqueting house
b. Studied Palladio’s work in Italy.
c. Used Italian Renaissance motifs
d. Two stories with different orders; however, the interior is one
room with a very high ceiling, with Rubens paintings on ceiling.
Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, 1675 – 1710, Christopher Wren
a. Astronomer, mathematician, engineer
b. Great Fire of 1666 created many rebuilding opportunities.
c. Studied work of Jones, Louvre design, and Italian Baroque.
d. Tallest dome in London.
e. Studied St. Peter’s in Rome to figure out how to integrate façade
with dome.
f. Towers balance the dome.