Baroque Art Essay

1431 words - 6 pages

Baroque art can be described as a “distinctive new style” in which artists embraced “dynamism, theatricality, and elaborate ornamentation, all used to spectacular effect, often on a grandiose scale”. Baroque art encompasses a vast range of art from the dramatic and theatrical Italian pieces, as the quote suggests, to the more simple and every-day life but still fabulous Dutch pieces. Baroque art can hardly be contained in one description because it describes so many types of art, in great part due to the religious, socio-economic, and political scenes of the time. Religiously, the Catholic Church was responding to the Reformation by creating dramatic pieces to invoke piety and devotion. Politically, monarchies and rulers were using commissioned art to emphasize their authority and their given right to rule. Socio-economically, the middle class was rising and therefore wanting to buy and commission pieces of art to boost their reputation and validate their status in the social scene. These three changes were extremely significant but can by no means generalize the entire historical context of Baroque art. Instead, they stand as specific examples of important reasons for the range and breadth of Baroque art.
Throughout the 17th century and the Baroque period, the Catholic Church was launching a Counter-Reformation in retaliation of the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic Church received a setback in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia recognizing religious freedoms and seemingly validating Protestant beliefs. They continued to be staunch supporters of the arts, perhaps even more so than before, in order to restore the validity and supreme authority of the Catholic Church. In the mid 17th century, Gianlorenzo Bernini received a commission to build the piazza in front of the previous façade at Saint Peter’s in the Vatican City. Bernini embodied the quintessential Baroque architect, and artist in general for that matter because of his “inventiveness, technical skill, sensitivity to his patrons’ needs, and energy”. The “embracing” colonnades of the temple front to those who enter symbolize the welcome the Catholic Church extended toward its members during the Counter-Reformation. The colonnades additionally emphasized the height of the façade and seemingly brought it closer to the viewer. By using the central designs of Bramante and Michelangelo, Bernini constructed a masterpiece that fully accomplished the Catholic Church’s goal of exhibiting their extreme authority through architecture in order to inspire the awe of its members. Inside of the cathedral, Bernini designed a huge baldacchino to mark the altar and tomb of St. Peter. Symbolically, the ornate elements again reinforce the history of supremacy by the Catholic Church and the papal authority. St. Peter’s fully illustrates one extreme of the Baroque style spectrum – an elaborate, theatrical, dramatic architectural piece designed to motivate devotion and piety. Bernini...

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