Baroque Painting and Sculpture in Italy/Spain:

During the Baroque period, there was a dramatic religious split in the Church with the formation of Protestantism. Catholics reacted with the Counter-Reformation to revitalize Catholicism. They needed to attract viewers with religious art that more significantly impacted onlookers.

Protestant areas (in the North) responded with a lack of religious art, concentrating, for example, on genre paintings that taught their viewers moral lessons.

Compositions tended to have more open space. Objects and scenes were in a state of motion to create emotion; they either came out at the viewer or something could fall on the viewer. The motion in these pieces was created through circular or diagonal compositions.

At this time, there was also a general knowledge that the Earth was in motion, which was a giant conceptual leap to show this aspect of life in art.

-attention to exact, naturalistic details
-spatial values: deep space, trompe l’oeil (fools the eye), shallow theatrical space (ojects pushed into the viewer’s space
-integration of architecture, sculpture and painting
-stories happen in the space and time of the viewer
-more attention to light – one harsh source of light, with significant lights/darks = tenebrism, where the gray tones are taken out
-little to no iconography

Dutch Baroque Painting:

In the northern Dutch areas, there were no commissions from the Church. Wealthy patrons, and not the clergy, played a role in deciding art.

In the Baroque period, there was little competition for jobs (some pieces weren’t even commissioned); therefore, art became more specialized and independent.

Land was an important element of Baroque art in the North, because in Holland, most of the land was low country or swampland. Putting it in the art was a reaction to the pride of gaining land from the Hapsburgs and building dikes to keep the water out.

Holland was an excepting and tolerant place with respect to religion/traditions, which also extended into allowing women to be painters. Thinking back to older times, medieval and Renaissance women artists typically learned to paint from their husbands and fathers because formal apprenticeships were not open to them. Society was generally open and free (tolerant of banking, trade, no taxes).

Dutch painters liked to paint people as if they were “stepping out of the bar,” showing them in motion, within their daily lives and within the moment (genre paintings).

-continued understanding of human nature
-wealthy patrons
-more excepting and tolerant to female artists
-other Baroque elements apply, like tenebrism, shallow space, motion, emotion, etc.
-less intrigued with mathematical relationships (than the High Renaissance)
-interested in light and motion with a loose style that involved a collection of brush strokes that came together to show movement
-more iconography, much more popular in the North than in the South
-genre paintings
-more secular than the South


Baroque Painting and Sculpture in Italy:

Gianlorenzo Bernini, David, 1623
Gianlorenzo Bernini, Saint Teresa of Avila in Ecstasy, 1645-52
Caravaggio, Entombment, c. 1603
Artemisia Gentileschi, La Pittura, 1630

Spanish Baroque Painting:

Diego Velasquez, Las Meninas, 1656

Dutch Baroque Painting:

Frans Hals, Catherina Hooft and Her Nurse, c. 1620
Rembrandt, Captain Frans Banning Cocq Mustering His Company, 1642
Rembrandt, The Jewish Bride, c. 1665
Gerard Ter Borch, The Suitor’s Visit, c. 1658


Gianlorenzo Bernini, David, 1623, Marble

-in the moment, David’s sling is about to fly
-Bernini used a normal person as a subject – reflects greater attention to naturalism than in the High Renaissance – shows real muscular definition, passion and fury in his face (the increased emotion is caused by movement, a diagonal composition, elements of Baroque art)
-Baroque art tends to focus on the most dynamic moments to draw the viewer in
-David’s “man parts” are covered to reflect the Counter-Reformation’s effect on art and the need to attract viewers – the moment of action and movement appeal to the emotions of the viewer; therefore, the Counter-Reformationists used pieces like this one to try to engage viewers and bring them back to the Church

Gianlorenzo Bernini, Saint Teresa of Avila in Ecstasy, 1645-52, Marble

-emotional and moving, with a diagonal composition, characteristic of Baroque art, very different from St. Francis in Ecstasy, which is static with less emotion (characteristic of the High Renaissance)
-illustrates raw emotion; the work represents a vision described by the Spanish mystic in which an angel pierced St. Teresa of Avila’s body repeatedly with an arrow, transporting her to a state of religious ecstasy, a sense of oneness with God
-made for a Cardinal’s funeral chapel
-the agony of the art/the emotion would attract viewers
-biblical nature, religious expression needed by the Church to gain converts to counter the growing number of Protestants in the seventeenth century

Caravaggio, Entombment, c. 1603, Oil on Canvas

-Jesus’ butt is a pivot for the movement in the work (the rest of the composition seems to move around him like spokes on a wheel)
-older/Renaissance elements are the religious content and increased perspective and the more Baroque elements are bringing the viewer into the scene, tenebrism and naturalism in form
-Counter-Reformationists, at the time, were trying to combat Protestantism by creating emotional works to engage viewers and bring them back into the church
-the viewer, upon witnessing the faces/emotions of Jesus’ followers and his brutally naturalistic body, are supposed to feel sadness and sympathy
-the triangular and diagonal compositions seem to show movement; the viewer is seeing John take Jesus’ body off the cross
-the scene is directed out at the viewer, with the shallow space, as if the viewer is almost a part of it, there to see, taste and smell the pain of Jesus

Artemisia Gentileschi, La Pittura, 1630, Oil on Canvas

-uses shallow space, tenebrism (in the style of Caravaggio)
-empowered women by showing that they are capable of being artists; often painted great heroines of the Bible, like Judith, Bathsheba (perhaps to show her power to persevere through the pain of being raped); it's rare to have a woman painter in the South
-Spanish Baroque painters loved scenes of everyday life
-allegorical self-portrait
-the image of the woman with a palette and brushes, richly dressed, and wearing a gold necklace with a mask pendant comes from a popular sourcebook for such images, the Iconologia, by Cesare Ripa, which maintains that the mask imitates the human face, as painting imitates nature
-the gold chain symbolizes “the continuity and interlocking nature of painting, each man learning from his master and continuing his master’s achievements in the next generation”– Artemisia’s self-portrait not only commemorates her profession, but also pays tribute to her father

Diego Velasquez, Las Meninas, 1656, Oil on Canvas

-was directly influenced by Caravaggio
-Velasquez liked to make fun of classical themes
-show the maids of honor that serve the princess
-portrait for King Philip’s private chambers
-Velasquez is within the painting working on the painting
-the innovative portrait of the King and Queen can be seen in the reflection of the mirror – “not a true court portrait”
-thought about the nature of representation – how to capture the essences of people in a static medium
-motion can be seen in their gazes and with the type of brush strokes made (incomplete, wistful, motion created by the viewer’s eye finishing the painting); the style increases viewer involvement which is a Humanistic ideal
-finding the essence of people is not in painting their external; people are captured by painting what they see (i.e. the princess, maids, etc.), their world
-continues to challenge of the viewer, like Caravaggio’s Entombment; it draws the viewer directly into its action, for the viewer is standing, apparently, in the space occupied by King Philip and his queen whose reflections can be seen in the large mirror on the back wall
-Velasquez used a minimum of underdrawing, building up his forms with layers of loosely applied paint and finishing off the surfaces with dashing highlights into white, lemon yellow, and pale orange
-he tried to depict the optical properties of light rather than using it to model volumes in the classical manner; at close inspection his forms dissolve into a maze of individual strokes of paint

Frans Hals, Catherina Hooft and Her Nurse, c. 1620, Oil on Canvas

-fruit shows wealth
-Hals is a member of the guild
-illustrates the growth of wealthy patronage
-Hals captured the vitality of a gesture and a fleeting moment in time
-while the portrait records for posterity the great pride of the parents in their child and their wealth, it is much more than a study of rich fabrics, laces, and expensive toys – Hals depicted the heartwarming delight of the child, who seems to be acknowledging the viewer as a loving family member while her doting nurse tries to distract her with an apple
-although the accurate portrayal of facial features and costumes was the most important gauge of a portrait’s success, Dutch painters went beyond pure description to convey a sense of their subjects’ personalities

Rembrandt, Captain Frans Banning Cocq Mustering His Company, 1642, Oil on Canvas

-in Holland, the city was organized around military parties
-still mustering even though there is no war (~ reserves)
-Rembrandt was a storyteller, the story in this piece is that the men are getting their rifles together to practice
-shows various states of motion, the moment, which is characteristic of Baroque art, especially in the North
-has a forward momentum in the Baroque manner
-Rembrandt’s mature work reflected his new environment, his study of science and nature, and the broadening of his artistic vocabulary by the study of Italian Renaissance art
-a wealthy civic-guard company commissioned the painting to create a large group portrait for the meeting hall (this is a unique group portait and as characteristic of Baroque art, it attempts to capture the group's real personality)
-exhibits a natural golden light
-composition: shows a company forming for a parade on an Amsterdam street
-while the officers stride purposefully forward, the rest of the men and several mischievous children mill about
-Rembrandt was devoted to sketching people he encountered on the streets; the figure of the small girl carrying a chicken and wearing a money pouch adds lively touches of interesting local color to heighten the excitement of the scene

Rembrandt, The Jewish Bride, c. 1665, Oil on Canvas

-Rembrandt’s style of laying down paint allows it to rise from the surface (tangible texture); Rembrandt drags the hairs of the brush to create furrows that catch and reflect light
-fabrics on the dress reflect the fabrics of the seventeenth century
-printmaking and etching present
-understanding of human nature, wealthy patrons (characteristic of northern Baroque)
-Rembrandt had a distinct sensitivity to the human condition, shown here in the loving embrace
-the portrait may refer to the marriage of Isaac and Rebecca or some other loving biblical couple
-in comparison with Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and His Wife of the early fifteenth century, where the meaning of the picture relied heavily on its symbolic setting, the significance of this work is emotional, conveyed by loving expressions and gesture, such as the groom tenderly touching his bride’s breast, an ancient symbol of fertility

Gerard Ter Borch, The Suitor’s Visit, c. 1658, Oil on Canvas

-genre painting: a term used to loosely categorize paintings depicting scenes of everyday life, including domestic interiors, inn scenes and street scenes
-Borch painted scenes of everyday life – shows the middle class popularity and patronage
-in this work his tries to use “objects with a message,” to teach moral lessons; for example, he wants to teach women to beware the milkman who will show you the wild ways of “indiscretion” (iconography is stronger in the North)
-dog is a symbol of fidelity, stringed instruments are said to symbolize, through their tuning, the harmony of souls and thus, possibly, a loving relationship
-Borch was renowned for his exquisite rendition of lace, velvet and especially satin, demonstrated here
-the painting appears to represent a prosperous gentleman paying a call on a lady of equal social status, possibly a courtship scene