The Baroque is a cultural movement in European art history that had its origins in Rome around 1600. Its appeal turned consciously from the witty intellectual qualities of Mannerist art of the 16th century, and substituted visceral appeal directly to the senses. It employed iconography that was direct, simple, obvious, theatrical, rather than the arcane programs, often worked up by bookish humanists and patrons rather than by the artists themselves, which were characteristic of the urbane coterie arts of mannerism.. Baroque art drew on certain broad and heroic tendencies in Annibale Caracci and his circle, and found inspiration in other artists like Correggio and Caravaggio, nowadays sometimes termed 'proto-Baroque'. Germinal ideas of the Baroque can be found in Michelangelo.

Art historians, often Protestant ones, have traditionally emphasized that the Baroque period falls in a time in which the Roman Catholic Church had to react against the many revolutionary cultural movements that produced a new science and new forms of religion (Reformation).It has been said that the monumental Baroque is a style that could give the Papacy, like secular absolute monarchies, a formal imposing way of expression that could restore its prestige, at the point of becoming somehow symbolic of the Counter-Reformation. Effectively, it was successfully developed in Rome, where Baroque architecture widely renewed the central areas with perhaps the most important urbanistic addition (or, more properly, revision). But many other examples are found in other European towns (and in the Spanish Americas).

Table of contents
1 Baroque architecture and sculpture
2 Baroque theater
3 'Baroque'
4 Baroque literature and philosophy
5 Baroque music

Baroque architecture and sculpture

In architecture, new emphasis was placed on bold massing, on colonnades and domes, light-and-shade (chiaroscuro) and other 'painterly' effects of color and the bold play of volume and void. In sculpture, groups of figures assume a new importance, and the movement and energy of human forms spiral around an empty central vortex or reach outwards into the surrounding space. The characteristic Baroque sculpture adds extra-sculptural elements: concealed lighting, or the play of water in fountains. The architecture, sculpture and fountains of Bernini give highly-charged characteristics of Baroque style.

Baroque architecture was taken up with enthusiasm in central Germany and Austria. In England, the culmination of baroque architecture comes with Sir Christopher Wren, Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor

Examples of typical baroque architecture

San Lorenzo, (Turin, 1666 to 1679)
San Carlo alle quattro fontane, (Rome, DATES? - Francesco Borromini
Chateau de Versailles, (Versailles, 1661 to 1774) - many co-operators
St. Pauls Cathedral, (London, 1675 to 1710) - Christopher Wren
Karlskirche, (Vienna, 1715-1737) - Johann Fischer von Erlach
Pommersfelden castle, Germany - Dientzenhofer.
Casa del Mexicano, Braga, Portugal.

Examples of typical Baroque Art

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, The Ecstasy of St. Theresa

Baroque theater

In theater, the elaborate conceits, multiplicity of plot turns, and variety of situations characteristic of Mannerism (
Shakespeare's tragedies for instance]]) are superseded by opera, which drew together all the arts in a unified whole.

Dance was popular in the Baroque era.


The word "Baroque", like most period or stylistic designations, was invented by later critics rather than practitioners of the arts in the 17th and early 18th centuries. It is a French translation of the Italian word "Barocco"; some authors believe it comes from the Portuguese "Barroco" (irregular pearl, or false jewel - notably, an ancient similar word, "Barlocco" or "Brillocco", is used in Roman dialect for the same meaning), or from a now obsolete Italian "Baroco" (that in logical Scholastica was used to indicate a syllogism with weak content). A common definition, before the term Barocco was used, called this genre simply the style of The Flying Forms.

The term "Baroque" was initially used with a derogatory meaning, to underline the excess of its emphasis, of its redundancy, its noisy abundance of details, as opposed to the clearer and sober rationality of the century of Enlightenment. It was finally rehabilitated in 1888 by the German art historian Heinrich Woelfflin (1864-1945), who identified Baroque as antithetic to Renaissance and as a different kind of art (thus, not a "non-art").

Baroque literature and philosophy

Baroque actually expressed new values, that often are summarised in the use of metaphor and allegory, which widely invaded Baroque literature, and in the research for the "maraviglia" (wonder, astonishment - as in Marinism), the use of artifices. If Mannerism was a first breach with Renaissance, Baroque was directly an opposed language and represented the evidence of the crisis of Renaissance neoclassical schemes. The psychological pain of Man, disbanded after the Copernican and the Lutheran revolutions, in search of solid anchors, in search of a proof of an ultimate human power, was in Baroque art as well as in its architecture. A relevant part of works was made on religious themes, since the Roman Church was the main "customer".

Virtuosity was researched by artists (and the Virtuoso became a common figure in any art), together with realism and care for details (some talk of a typical "intricacy").

Not without a certain correctness, it is said that the privilege given to external forms had to compensate and balance the lack of contents that has been observed in many Baroque works: the same Marino's "Maraviglia" is practically made of the pure, mere form. Fantasy and imagination should be evoked in the spectator, in the reader, in the listener. All was focused around the individual Man, as a straight relationship between the artist, or directly the art and its user, its client. Art is then less distant from user, more directly approaching him, solving the cultural gap that used to keep art and user reciprocally far, by Maraviglia. But the increased attention to the individual, also created in these schemes some important genres like the Romanzo (novel) and let popular or local forms of art, especially dialectal literature, to be put into evidence. In Italy this movement toward the single individual (that some define a "cultural descent", while others indicate it was a possible cause for the classical opposition to Baroque) caused Latin to be definitely replaced by Italian.

In English literature, the metaphysical poets represent a closely related movement; their poetry likewise sought unusual metaphors, which they then examined in often extensive detail. Their verse also manifests a taste for paradox, and deliberately inventive and unusual turns of phrase.

Examples of typical Baroque Poetry

Torquato Tasso, (Gerusalemme Liberata, 1584)
John Milton, Paradise Lost

Baroque music

The term Baroque also is used to designate the style of music composed during this period; see
Baroque music for discussion. It is an interesting question to what extent Baroque music shares esthetic principles with the visual and literary arts of the Baroque period. A fairly clear shared element is a love of ornamentation, and it is perhaps significant that the role of ornament was greatly diminished in both music and architecture as the Baroque gave way to the Classical period.

Examples of typical Baroque Music

Johann Sebastian Bach, ( The Art of the Fugue, 1685 to 1750)
Antonio Vivaldi, ( L'Estro Armonico, 1678 to 1741)
Domenico Scarlatti, (Sonatas for Cembalo or Harpsichord 1685 to 1757)
George Frideric Handel (Water Music Suite for Orchestra 1685 to1759)

Baroque pearls are natural pearls that deviate from the usual, regular forms. In particular, they are pearls that do not have an axis of rotation. It was this use of the term for irregular pearls that eventually lent its name to the baroque movement.\n