Baroque Art Characteristics & Famous Baroque Art Pieces

1600-1700

Baroque art is all about grandeur, and when you talk about baroque in art, it is the magnitude of sophistication and beauty that it relays remains an important legacy all the way. The heavy, grandiose largess of the gilded Baroque architectural and interior design is evident in its artwork as well, and this is one of the distinguished baroque art characteristics, as it is known to readily express drama and tension in all of the applied arts.

The Four Continents Baroque art

The Four Continents Baroque art

The need of the aristocracy to impress with opulence and grandeur kept artisans busy for nearly a century building elaborately ornate and heavy grand staircases in excessively decorated Baroque palaces.

This flamboyancy was encouraged by the Catholic Church in their quest to build the church back up after the Protestant Reformation.

The many wealthy bishops and important clergy of the Church wanted to be sure to that the people were aware of the supremacy of the Church and God’s blessings upon it, so they commissioned a number of artists and architects to make sure that the most opulent, grand, and imposing edifices and decors possible would send their message to the people.

“My talent is such that no undertaking, however vast in size… has ever surpassed my courage”. – Peter Paul Rubens

Protestant Holland and other protestant regions did not see such religious interest in the Baroque style, but it was present amongst the various classes, including those of the middle class.

The Baroque Art Origins and Historical Importance:

Around the year 1600, after the Council of Trent, it was the purview of the Catholic Church to convey religion to the masses in an emotionally evoking manner that would give religious understanding to the illiterate in addition to the educated.

Read key baroque art characteristics

The Conversion on the Way to Damascus Baroque art

The etymology of the word ‘baroque’ is that its Latin roots imply the meaning “rough or imperfect pearl”.

In informal language, it simply refers to something that is detailed and elaborate. It was not used at the time, but was later ascribed to the movement by later art critics to criticize the excess of the period in its application, details, and frivolity in architecture, but was later applied to the other arts of the period. Either way, the magnificent nature remains one of the key baroque art characteristics

“All works, no matter what or by whom painted, are nothing but bagatelles and childish trifles… unless they are made and painted from life, and there can be nothing… better than to follow nature.” ― Caravaggio

Baroque followed the intellectual and elitist styles of the Renaissance and Mannerism and turned instead toward a sensory approach to appeal to wider audience that might not understand ambiguous meanings that were previously only known to the educated.

3 Characteristics of Renaissance Art That Changed the World Forever

Baroque painting avoided the mysterious, yet favored the intensity of emotion displayed through sensationalism and exaggerated light.

It bore little to no resemblance to the lifestyles of the people of the Baroque period, but its melodramatic expression was thought to glorify the monarchy and validate the emotional depths of the Catholic Church. Subject matter included the life of Christ, the life of Mary, and important emotional or moving scenes from the New Testament, such Paul’s vision of Jesus on the Road to Damascus.

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa Baroque art

The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa Baroque art

The protestant regions, namely Holland, did focus on everyday life, still life, and landscape, but only some of the artists adapted the grandeur of Baroque.

Vermeer, for one, did not participate. Painters of the period, particularly in the Netherlands, focused on the play of light above all else and preferred dark backgrounds in order to showcase the main subject in the light. For this reason, they often shied from human figures and preferred still lifes, particularly of fruit.

Baroque sculpture focused on the human movement and expressing energy through the use of an axis in a spiral, sometimes reaching out, giving the viewer interest from every angle.

Embellishments such as hidden fountains, or disguised lighting were added to give the piece a living quality.

“There are two devices which can help the sculptor to judge his work: one is not to see it for a while. The other… is to look at his work through spectacles which will change its color and magnify or diminish it, so as to disguise it somehow to his eye, and make it look as though it were the work of another…”  – Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Baroque architecture centered on the bold and grand and including colonnades, chiaroscuro, domes, and large ornate staircases. The idea behind a better dwelling for the most important person in a building, the state apartment, is an invention of Baroque architecture.

With the decline of Italian power and wealth, Baroque went into decline as well. France was becoming a bigger player on the world stage and its principal decorative interest, Rococo, was becoming more fashionable.

The Baroque Art Key Highlights:

  • Bernini was one of the finest artists of the Baroque period, working in nearly every medium, including sculpture, performance art, writing plays, painting, and designing architecture.
  • Bernini’s creation of Saint Theresa in Ecstasy is a triumph of architecture, drama, sculpture, and story in one piece.
  • Baroque architecture is known for its grandeur, so it is interesting to note that its most influential painter was Peter Paul Rubens, the painter known for his “Rubenesque” women – women of stately proportions show in poses and light that renders them beautiful.
  • Renaissance art shows a scene in the moments before an action takes place. Baroque hones in on the very climax of the moment when the tension is most high.
  • Shapes in architecture that were exclusive to Baroque at the time are more circular features in central Europe, and pear shapes in Eastern Europe.

Baroque Art – Top Works:

The School of Athens by Raphael Sanzio

baroque artwork depicted by The School of Athens

The School of Athens by Raphael Sanzio

The School of Athens is a painting produced by Raphael Sanzio between 1509 and 1511. This painting is known as the “Raphael Sanzio’s masterpiece” which can be viewed at Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. Raphael represented all the scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers in this painting.

Why View Of The Flower Of Greece Is Truly A Masterpiece?

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

baroque artwork depicted by Las Meninas

Las Meninas by Diego Velázquez

Las Meninas is a painting produced by Diego Velázquez in 1656. The Spanish artist was considered as the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age. In the Western world, this painting is one of the most analyzed works.

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

baroque art depicted by Ecstasy of Saint Teresa

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa is a painting produced by Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1647 and 1652. The painting’s subject drawn is Teresa of Ávila. It is generally considered to be one of the sculptural masterpieces of the High Roman Baroque. The grandeur of this artwork is a key example of the opulent nature list one amongst many baroque art characteristics

The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn

baroque artwork depicted by The Night Watch

The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Night Watch is a painting produced by Rembrandt van Rijn completed in 1642. The Dutch artist painting was among the most famous Dutch Golden Age paintings. Baroque in Art is all about the intense sophistication. This painting can be viewed at the Amsterdam Museum.

Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Apollo and Daphne by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Apollo and Daphne is a painting produced by Gian Lorenzo Bernini between 1622 and 1625. In this baroque art, the Italian artist depicts the climax of the story of Daphne and Phoebus in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam is a painting produced by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. This painting depicts Adam who is considered as the first man was given life by God. The dimensions of this painting are 280 cm × 570 cm – and this can be considered as one of the best and famous baroque art ever made

The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio

The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio

The Calling of St Matthew by Caravaggio

The Calling of St Matthew is a painting produced by Caravaggio between 1599 and 1600. This painting depicts a scene in which Jesus Christ inspires Matthew to follow him. This painting can be viewed at San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

Bacchus by Caravaggio

Bacchus by Caravaggio

Bacchus by Caravaggio

Bacchus is a painting produced by Caravaggio in 1595. In this painting, the Italian master depicts a young and youthful Bacchus reclining in classical fashion with grapes and vine leaves in his hair. This painting can be viewed at Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Artemisia by Rembrandt

Artemisia by Rembrandt

Artemisia by Rembrandt

Artemisia is a painting produced by Rembrandt in 1634. The subject painted in this painting is still clear that it might be Sophonisba or Artemisia or a queen who is receiving a cup from a maiden. The painting by the Dutch master is signed as “REMBRANDT F: 1634”

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio

Supper at Emmaus by Caravaggio

Supper at Emmaus is a painting produced by Caravaggio in 1601, and remains one of the famous Baroque art ever made. The brother of cardinal Girolamo Mattei, Ciriaco Mattei originally commissioned this painting and also paid for it. This painting can be viewed at the National Gallery, London.

Art Movements (Order by period of origin)

Dawn of Man – BC 10

1st Century to 10th Century

10thCentury to 15th Century

15th century onwards

The Most Loved Art Stories by Our Readers

Ready to ignite your passion for art?

Join us! We're on a novel mission to provide you with inspiring and interesting stories on art and culture. Get our latest articles delivered to your inbox

Thank you. You will now receive a confirmation email requesting your approval to complete the subscription. Keep reading!