BAROQUE 1600-1750

Baroque Period

The term Baroque comes from Portuguese barroco, meaning "oddly shaped pearl," this term was considered to be derogatory. The art and the music of this period were thought to be ornamental and exaggerated. The Baroque Period expanded our horizons; from Copernicus to Galileo in the galaxy to major advanced in technology, such as the invention of the telescope. Rembrandt, Vivaldi, and Shakespeare all contributed to art during this time whether on canvas, in the concert hall, or on stage. European nations were becoming more involved in colonization and foreign trade, which allowed for contact to parts of the world for the first time. The middle class also grew and actually become patrons in the culture of art. This allowed other people besides only the church or court to enjoy art. The Baroque Period is also called the Counter Reformation. This was a reform movement that occurred within the Roman Catholic Church that arose in response to the Protestant Reformation. Most of the people of this time period could not read or write, so the Roman Catholic Church began a religious campaign with art to reach the people. They wanted artist to create art that would encourage faith through art. Most of the art of this time period was larger than life and had a grandiose manner. It was intended to evoke a spiritual response from the people.

Art of the Baroque period

The art of the Baroque Period was said to be over exaggerated and the artist were encouraged to act out their faith through art. The Roman Catholic Church wanted them to tell the story of God through their art to reach people. This was due to the fact that most people could not read or write at this time. The artist of this time used vivid colors, displayed a wide range of styles, and their art was both honest, as well as, realistic. The artist also used light and shadows to enrich their paintings. The art of the Baroque Period was almost like theatrical snapshots in time.



Gian Lorenzo Bernini sculpted this "David" between 1623-4. This is taken from the Old Testament Story found in First Samuel of David the shepherd boy and how he killed the Philistine Goliath. David is dressed as a typical shepherd boy would have been during his time. The weapon he used to kill Goliath was a sling, also typical of this time. We can see in David's face by his frown and biting of his lower lip, that he is in deep concentration; this is appealing to our emotions. Even though Goliath is not seen here we know who the object of David's stone is. Bernini's pieces were unique in the fact that they were three-dimensional works, where as Renaissance sculptures were only frontal views. During the Baroque period the master's were very intense in their pieces and emotional. They were larger than life on the spiritual level, as they were trying to reach the people with their art. Bernini's "David" certainly engages the audiences as it interacts with the space around it. It is as though he is capturing a moment in time, a "snapshot" so to speak from this Biblical story bringing it to life for the people. Bernini also uses diagonals in the piece to show instability, as well as, energy and movement. This sculpture involves us, makes us believe that we are right there with David.

Apollo and Daphne


Judas Repentant

This painting is said to be Rembrandt's first mature work.

The Blinding of Samson

The Night Watch

This painting is said to not only be the most famous painting done by Rembrandt, but the most famous painting in all of Amsterdam. It is a painting of the militia group that originally was began for protection, then turned into a symbol of civic pride. In the foreground are the Captain and the Lieutenant; they are a perfect example of classical Baroque lighting. It is as though the Captain is giving an order to the Lieutenant to be carried out, the Captain's hand is a great example of foreshortening, often used in the Baroque Period. Another example of this technique is the Lieutenant's spear; it is as if it is coming out of the painting. There is so much going on in the painting that draws the viewer into the scene. The rising of the standard, the turning dog, the drummer, and the militia men loading their guns all pull the audience into this moment of time with them. Not to go unnoticed is the mascot for this militia group, the little girl that we see very well, through the use of light. There is even the use of diagonals, and plenty of energy and movement all of which appeals to our emotions and draws us in.

Rembrandt was most well known for his self portraits, Biblical scenes, and etchings. He was also a master of the use of shadow and light in his paintings. His paintings had spots of brightness and pockets of deep darkness. In the 1630s Rembrandt began painting large-scale Biblical scenes using his contrast method of light and darkness in them. Even though he is very well known for painting Biblical images it is unknown if he personally belonged to any particular religious community himself. Again bringing the Bible to life for the people is one of the main goals of art during the Baroque period. Rembrandt's portraits were often criticized for not capturing the likeness of the subject well enough. This criticism actually involved his self portraits as well, which had noticable changes from one to another. He was known for the number of self portraits of himself. Rembrandt also like to add himself to his large portraits, he was usually one of the people in the scene.


Early in the Baroque Period most composers were from Italy, like Monteverdi and Vivaldi. Handel and Bach were both from Germany, they were coming on the musical scene in the mid-eighteenth century. Cantata, concerto, sonata, oratorio and opera are all musical forms of the Baroque Period that all originated in Italy. The musical texture of the Baroque Period was Polyphonic, meaning it would have two or more independent but harmonically related melodic parts sounding together.


Four Seasons

Antonio Vivaldi was born and lived his whole life in Venice. Although he traveled, he always returned to Venice. He was a master violinist, composer and teacher during his lifetime. Vivaldi became a priest for short period of time, but he said that he was no longer able to do mass and left the church. Most of his life he was employed by Ospedale della Pieta, right after his ordination in 1703, he was a violin teacher and composer. Vivaldi composed many concertos, such as the Four Seasons and the Opus 3, but he also composed many operas as well. In 1716, he performed his first great oratorio, Juditha Triumphans devicta Holofernis barbaric. It was a piece celebrating the Christian victory over the Turks.



George Frideric Handel was born in Germany in 1685. Over the course of his life time he composed thirty oratorios and fifty operas. Early in his career he wrote church cantatas and chamber music that was lost to time. His 'Messiah', though which he wrote in 1741, is considered one of the most famous oratorios in history. Handel composed mainly operas until they fell out of popularity, then he moved to writing oratorios. Most of the oratorios that he produced were based on biblical libretto's. Actually this is how Handel's 'Messiah' came about. Handel worked with Charles Jennens, who took the scriptural text from the King James Bible, and from the version of the Psalms, from the Book of Common Prayers, while Handel composed the music for the oratorio. This piece is by far Handel's most famous piece, but he composed other oratorios with Biblical backgrounds, such as Samson, Joshua, and Solomon. Handel also wrote anthems and orchestral pieces that brought him success, like Water Music in 1717, and Coronation Anthems in 1727. Handel had some health issues throughout his life time and actually suffered two strokes, of which he was able to make full recoveries both times. He went completely blind in 1752, but was able to keep performing and composing until he died at the age of 74 years old.


Literature during the Baroque Period was expressing new values through the use of metaphors and allegories. Most literature was the works of religious themes, because the Roman Catholic Church was behind what was being published.


Paradise Lost by John Milton

John Milton's, Paradise Lost was a famous Baroque epic poem written in blank verse. As is consistent with the Baroque Period, the theme of this book is one of a Biblical story regarding the fall of man. In this poem Satan is the protagonist. It goes though the temptation and fall of Adam and Eve, followed by their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. It was written in ten books by Milton, who states in the first book that the purpose of his writings are to "justify the ways of God to men". This is typical of the Baroque Period, ever pointing people to God.


Factors that led into the baroque period are the protestant reformation. This was led by Martin Luther as a way to free people from the Catholic Church.

Post Baroque

The baroque period caused the enlightenment period because of many characteristics. But mostly the 30 year war had a large impact because of the destruction that war caused. Overall the start of the enlightenment was caused by a snowball effect of discoveries. The average middle class was growing tired of the monarchies and church of the Baroque period and wanted something different.

Student Thinking

1) I really appreciated the over exaggeration of the Baroque period art. The works were truly beautiful and could be admired for hours.

2) A specific piece that really touches my heart is Handel's Messiah. I especially love this piece because of the memories that it holds for me personally. For many years me, my mother, and my children went to see Handel's Messiah at MVNU. Linking fond memories to music can make that music even more special to a person. Another composer that I enjoy is Vivaldi and he is from this period. His music is so beautiful and has also held a special place in my heart.

3) The focus of my life is God. The Baroque period also had a high focus on God. I think that if the world had more focus on God there might be more peace and love.

Acknowledgements and Credits

New World Encyclopedia

The Morgan Library and Museum


Khan's Acadamy


Created with images by Mauro Cateb - "Pearls" • garyullah - "St Nicolaaskerk, Amsterdam" • WireLizard - "Jesuit Church, Dillingen" • MCAD Library - "David"

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