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3 Tutorials that teach Italian Baroque Art
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Italian Baroque Art

Italian Baroque Art

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will introduce the Baroque period in Italy.

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Tutorial

An introduction to Italian Baroque art.

Video Transcription

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Hello, I'd like to welcome you to the subset of Exploring Artistry with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about the Italian Baroque. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or align as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of the lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, explain the influence of the Counter-Reformation on the art of the Baroque, and describe the difference between the Baroque and Renaissance styles by comparing Bernini's Michelangelo's Davids.

Key terms are always listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is baroque style of architecture are characterized by grand scale movement and dramatic effects Renaissance, a cultural movement marking a time of accelerated activity and learning expressed by art and literature in Europe during the 14th and 17th centuries.

The big idea for today is that the Baroque is a style of art and architecture characterized by grand scale, movement, and dramatic effects. So the period of time that we're looking at today, is from 1623 to 1652. And as a reference point, I've noted the Thirty Years' War, which begins in 1618. And our artists today hails from Naples in Italy. There's Rome and there's Naples.

The Baroque refers to a style of art and architecture that followed the mannerism in the Renaissance in Italy, but it extended beyond the borders of Italy as well. Now, where Renaissance art could be described as rational and scientific in nature, the Baroque was passionate and depicted scenes filled with emotional drama. The many examples of Renaissance art, like Michelangelo's David, show a constrained emotion, suggesting impending action.

Baroque art shows overt emotion and plenty of action or dynamism. Now Catholic and Protestant relations at this time we're tempestuous and came to a head with the onset of the Thirty Years' War, which just over 100 years after Martin Luther famously nailed his theses on the door of a Wittenberg Church, marking the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Now Gian Lorenzo Bernini, or just Bernini, was an incredibly talented artist of the Baroque era, known primarily for his skills as sculptor, but also immensely talented in painting and architecture. And he was commissioned by the Catholic Church to create a number of works of art. You see, the Catholic response to the Protestant Reformation was the Counter-Reformation.

At the Council of Trent, where Catholic leaders met and essentially called for a response to the Protestant Reformation, the Church's use of art work was evaluated and was deemed as serving an important persuasive function within the Church. And this is a complete departure from the Protestant Reformation prohibition on the use of art within the church and helps to explain the noticeable differences in the artwork produced in Catholic countries versus Protestant ones.

So the theme of David and Goliath, if you've been following, has been a very popular one. It may seem that almost every artist of note created their own interpretation of that biblical story. Bernini would fall under that category. And his masterpiece is a brilliant example that embodies all the elements of the Baroque style and can serve as an excellent contrast to the David's that preceded it during the Renaissance.

Now Bernini depicts the hero in the midst of winding up to launch a stone at Goliath. It's a very dynamic scene. We feel as though we're viewing a snapshot of the man in action. It's an interesting contrast between the fierce determination and steady gaze of his face and head with a sense of portion and energy in the way the body is coiling, almost like a pitcher ready to throw some heat in a baseball game.

Now the stylistic contrast is most apparent when Bernini's David is compared with its Renaissance counterpart, the David by Michelangelo. Now just as Michelangelo's David is regarded as a masterpiece of Renaissance style, Bernini's David is regarded as a masterpiece of the Baroque. Two identical stories, but two very different thematic interpretations. Michelangelo's

David is rather static, posed, and tranquil in his overall appearance. But as we know, there is an intensity in his focus, which enhances the sensation of restrained emotion. Even the geometry of Michelangelo's David is an application of the Renaissance ideal. The pyramid or triangle that are hallmark of the Renaissance style can be seen in this contrapposto-style pose and reinforces this feeling of stability and calm.

Now Bernini, in the Baroque fashion, coils his David around a sharp diagonal, which serves in creating a sense of movement and tension. This is further enhanced by the way the drapery around David appears to shift and slip away from his body. Not at all dissimilar from examples of Hellenistic sculpture from Greece that use a similar technique.

While Michelangelo's use of contrapposto creates stability, Bernini's David breaks free of it. If Michelangelo's David is the calm before the storm, Bernini's David is clearly the storm itself. So the Baroque is all about over emotion, drama, and dynamism. In Bernini's sculpture depicting St. Teresa in ecstasy from the Cornaro Chapel at the Church of Santa Maria Della Victoria in Rome-- the Catholic Church's view that depictions of intense spiritual experiences were important devotional and persuasive functions of artwork is clearly articulated in this sculpture.

According to the story, St. Teresa's conversion took place during a bout of intense visions that followed the death of her father in which she felt the pain in her heart she attributed to a fire-tipped arrow being repeatedly thrust in her by an angel. And the experience could be described as delightfully agonizing. And Bernini depicts these conflicting sensations brilliantly. Again, he uses a sharp diagonal as his primary access for the swooning Saint, whose clothes appear to billow upwards as she falls in ecstasy into a cloud.

The angel appears to be at the apex of her windup, about to lunge forward with her golden arrow and pierce the heart of Teresa again. And it's in powerful visualizations like this where the Catholic Church felt a connection could be made between the devout on earth and the Heavenly realm that transcended it. So that brings us to the end of this lesson.

Let's take a look at our objectives to see if we met them. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms, explain the influence of the Counter-Reformation on art of the Baroque, and describe the difference between the Baroque and Renaissance styles by comparing Bernini's and Michelangelo's Davids. And our big idea is that the Baroque is a style of art and architecture characterized by grand scale, movement, and dramatic effects. And that's it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Italian Baroque Art"

Key Terms

Baroque

A style of architecture and art characterized by grand scale, movement, and dramatic effects. 

Renaissance

A cultural movement marking a time of accelerated activity and learning expressed by art and literature in Europe during the 14th to 17th centuries.

Citations

Image of David Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_von_Michelangelo.jpg/d/d5/David_von_Michelangelo.jpg; Image of Italy Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EU-Italy.svg; Image of St. Teresa Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Santa_teresa_di_bernini_04.JPG; Bernini's David; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:David_Bernini_1623.jpg; Image of Bernini Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gian_Lorenzo_Bernini,_self-portrait,_c1623.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Baroque

    A style of architecture and art characterized by grand scale, movement, and dramatic effects.

  • Renaissance

    A cultural movement marking a time of accelerated activity and learning expressed by art and literature in Europe during the 14th to 17th centuries.