If one were to guess, what would come to minds of the many people when they hear the term 'baroque'? The answers would probably be dark, gloomy yet dramatic paintings, and dreary melodies played with string instruments. While these assumptions may reflect some truths, Baroque art is not limited to the paintings that have dark backgrounds, dramatic scenes, and 'random' skulls that are meticulously placed in the frame.
The term 'baroque' comes from Portuguese origin. The word 'barroco' means 'a flawed pearl' and it sparked an inspiration to name this art style. The erratic form of a pearl influenced people to give the name for the art style that emerged in the early 17th century. Artists started to seek new ways for artistic expression in the beginning of the 17th century and the style of Baroque has emerged with artists like Caravaggio, Ribera, and Velazquez. The Baroque style is, of course, not limited to paintings but includes architecture, sculpture, music, and even dance. It all started in Rome. Then, the Baroque style began to spread across Europe, which then influences more artists of this style for some time until the middle of the 18th century. In every country, different manifestations of Baroque style were observed because of different political and cultural states in each country.
The era in which the pieces were created surely plays a huge role in identifying whether or not the style it possesses is considered to be ‘baroque,’ as Baroque has greatly influenced the art scene in Europe between the years of 1600 and 1740 greatly. However, there are other important characteristics particular to the Baroque style that may help in the way of differentiating it. One of the important factors that have affected the art scene within the era was the Catholic Church’s role. The baroque style was encouraged by the Catholic Church at that time, due to counter-reformation movement that is held by the church itself as a reaction for the reformation started by Martin Luther. This movement allowed great religiously-affected paintings—a very famous one being Andrea Pozzo’s ceiling painting in Church of Sant'Ignazio in Rome.
When one is describing the characteristics of the Baroque-style paintings (although it showed changes from country to country across Europe), it can be said that most paintings clearly displayed emotions. They include facial expressions and/or motions reflected in a emotionally-touching manner. The incredible detailing of the scene is one of the other properties. The dramatic scenes were made to appeal to people’s emotions. The ability of the Baroque artists to paint shadows in excellence allows there to be contrast between light and dark, which makes the paintings even more captivating and displaying of the facial expressions more emotional.
With the emergence of this style, art has reached to more common people with the support of the Church. The Roman Catholic Church laid their views after the Council of Trent (1545-1563) that the art must reach to more common people to invoke their faith in the Church. After that, more emotionally charged and dramatic art started to show itself in architecture, music, and paintings. The aim of the beautiful paintings, architecture, and paintings on the church ceilings was to stimulate the faith and devotion to the divine and to the Church. Baroque art were not only favored by the Church but by the royals as well. Kings and queens has built glorious palaces with Baroque-style architecture to display power and glory. The Palace of Versailles may be counted as an example for this tendency.
All-in-all, Baroque style had a dominating influence in the 17th century in most of the artistic fields such as painting, music, sculpture, and even dance. Artists have kept on displaying dramatic, gloomy, mostly spiritual pieces with this unique style. To this day, Baroque style has been associated with melancholy by many people due to its characteristics. However, it is a limiting way to describe the era as many pieces were created, and many variations have been created from country to country.
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