The Baroque, a cultural movement in European art, originated around 1600 in Rome. The Council of Trent (1545-63), in which the Roman Catholic Church answered
many questions of internal reform, addressed the representational arts by demanding that paintings and sculptures in church contexts should speak to the
illiterate rather than to the well-informed. This turn toward a populist conception of the function of ecclesiastical art is seen by many art historians as
driving the innovations of Caravaggio and the Carracci brothers, all of whom were working (and competing for commissions) in Rome around 1600.
The appeal of Baroque style turned consciously from the witty, intellectual qualities of 16th century Mannerist art to a visceral appeal aimed at the senses.
It employed an iconography that was direct, simple, obvious, and theatrical. 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 and Federico Barocci, nowadays sometimes termed 'proto-Baroque'. Germinal
ideas of the Baroque can also be found in Michelangelo. Some general parallels in music make the expression "Baroque music" useful: there are contrasting
phrase lengths, harmony and counterpoint have ousted polyphony, and orchestral color makes a stronger appearance. Even more generalized parallels perceived by
some experts in philosophy, prose style and poetry, are harder to pinpoint.
Though Baroque is superceded in many centers by the Rococo style, beginning in France in the late 1720s, especially for interiors, paintings and the
decorative arts, Baroque architecture remained a viable style until the advent of Neoclassicism in the later 18th century. See the Neapolitan palace
of Caserta, a Baroque palace (though in a chaste exterior) that was not even begun until 1752. Critics have given up talking about a "Baroque period".
Image: Peter Paul Rubens, Samson and Delilah, Baroque, 1609, National Gallery, London, England.
In paintings Baroque gestures are broader than Mannerist gestures: less ambiguous, less arcane and mysterious, more like the stage gestures of opera, a major
Baroque artform. Baroque poses depend on contrapposto ("counterpoise"), the tension within the figures that move the planes of shoulders and hips in
The dryer, less dramatic and coloristic, chastened later stages of 18th century Baroque architectural style are often seen as a separate Late Baroque
manifestation. Academic characteristics in Neo-Palladianism, epitomized by William Kent are a parallel development in Britain and the British colonies.
The Baroque was defined by Woelffrin as the age where the oval replaced the circle as the center of composition, that centralization replaced balance, and
that coloristic and "painterly" effects began to become more prominent. Art historians, often Protestant ones, have traditionally emphasized that the Baroque
style evolved during 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.
Whether this is the case or not, it was successfully developed in Rome, where Baroque architecture widely renewed the central areas with perhaps the most
important urbanistic revision.