The Baroque Period By Bethany Bogantz

Influences on the Baroque Period

There are several different factors that played a role in influencing the Baroque Period of Art and Music. To begin, one of the most significant influences of this era was Martin Luther's Protestant Reformation. The Protestant Reformation began when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the Castle church. In doing this, Martin Luther drew a lot of attention to himself as he challenged the beliefs of the Catholic church and presented the belief that one is able to have a direct relationship with God, which had strongly been reprimanded by the Catholic church. Furthermore, this led to the Catholic church feeling threatened by the rapid growth of people converting to Lutheranism and thus compelled them to find a way to "combat the Protestant criticisms". It was evident to the Catholic church there were very few people who were able to read, meaning they had to find a way to address the uneducated population that would not require literacy. The church recognized that the best way to do this was through art, which was the beginning of the Baroque movement. Because the Church wanted to make the Catholic beliefs appealing once again, much of the art work created during this time was very exaggerated and dramatic. This influenced artists to create art that celebrated, "intense personal visions, conversion, religious visions, death, and even martyrdom". The church was determined to rebuild Rome as a "holy city". "Papacy embarked on extensive building and decoration campaigns aimed at highlighting its ancient origins, its beliefs, and its divinely sanctioned authority".

Works of Visual Art

One representative work of art from the Baroque period is The Crowning with Thorns by Caravaggio that is pictured above. This painting directly speaks to the movement of the Catholic church that is mentioned above because it portrays a powerful image of Christ's death and the sacrifice that He made on the cross. This painting elicits an emotional response in the viewer that was meant to inspire people to be committed in their faith to the beliefs of the Catholic Church. By portraying such an emotional picture of Jesus, the church aimed to discredit the Protestant movement, and gain back the hearts of the people.

Another representative piece of art from the Baroque period is the Crucifixion of St. Peter that is also by Caravaggio. Caravaggio was intentional in contrasting light and dark as seen in the painting above. Caravaggio also used "tightly-cropped compositions that enhance the physical and emotional immediacy of the depicted character". As seen in this painting, St. Peter's crucifixion is dramatically depicted which again evokes a strong emotion in the viewer of the sufferings he faced as a martyr for his faith. The goal of this painting was once again to ignite the people to be willing to follow in St. Peter's footsteps and suffer for their beliefs.

Musical Compositions

One representative musical compositions of the Baroque era was Summer the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. Just as artist during this time sought to dramatize their art to appeal to the masses, composers similarly aimed to dramatize the music they produced to gain more popularity. In this particular piece by Antonio Vivaldi he introduces a sense of drama as he tried to match the opera styles of the day. He accomplishes this by using the technique of harmonic progression where he created a sense of "forward momentum in his music" by the use of different chords.

Furthermore, another musical composition that represents the Baroque era is Jesus Bleibit Meine Freude by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach's music coincided with the movement of the Catholic Church in the counter-reformation in that its focus is the "devotion to God in human form of Jesus of Nazareth". No matter how complex his music may have been, his ultimate goal was to enhance the meaning of the words in his music. Just as art in this era, music, such as this piece above, was used to instill a passion in the hearts of people to show this kind of devotion to God and the church.


In an article on Baroque literature, the author describes the Baroque style of writing and states, "Baroque literature is a style of writing that is extravagant, heavily ornamented, and/or bizarre" (Duarte, Explaining Baroque Literature). Just like the music and art of this time, Baroque literature was a reaction to the "civil, political, and religious conflict during that time" (Duarte, Explaining Baroque Literature). One representative piece of literature is Simplicissimus by Hans Jacob Christoph von Grimmelshausen. This series of stories was written in response to the Thirty Years war. The author uses a dramatic style of writing, reflective of the period it was written in, to unmask the horrors that a man experienced in the Thirty Years War and what he learned from it.

The Baroque Period and the Renaissance Period

The art, music and literature of the Baroque period challenged that of the overarching concerns of the Renaissance in many different ways. To begin, in the Renaissance period much attention was drawn to using a humanistic approach. This humanistic approach contrasts with that of the Baroque period because artist sought to use realism as a technique to make the divine "present and palpable". Where as renaissance art, music, and literature, seemed to fail in depicting and evoking emotions through their work, the Baroque era did quite the opposite. Much of the art, music and literature during this era was extremely affective in reinforcing the beliefs of the catholic church in a very exaggerative, dramatic, and engaging way. The Baroque era broke away from artists use of frozen movements, and incorporated aspects such as movement and trauma in their art to intensify the underlying message they were wishing to convey.

The Baroque Period and The Age of Enlightenment & Neoclassicism

The Period that followed the Baroque Period was the age of Enlightenment and Neoclassicism. This style of art broke away from the "emotionally charged Baroque style" and returned back to the classical techniques of art. Unlike the Baroque style, Neoclassical art did not seek to incorporate emotions into the work and was often seen as being "cold" or "emotionless" even though much of the art during this time was centered around emotional topics. Instead of focusing on the suggestiveness of the art from the Baroque period, Neoclassical artists concerned themselves with the symmetry, proportions, and simplicity that was accomplished during the Renaissance Period. Whereas art in the Baroque period focused more so on the divine and the foundations of the church, Neoclassical art aimed to incorporate themes such as patriotism, honor, and human rights. The Age of Enlightenment and Neoclassicism was characterized as having, "sober colors, shallow space, and strong horizontal and vertical lines that render the subject matter timeless", which was quite the opposite of the art that was produced in the Baroque Period.

Compelling Aspects of the Baroque Period

There are many different aspects of the Baroque Period that I found to be compelling. The first thing that I found to be compelling was how the Catholic church used art as a means to reach the uneducated people of the time to gain back loyal followers after the Protestant Reformation. This leads to the next aspect that I found to be compelling of the Baroque Period, which was the contrast of light and dark and the use of dramatic colors. By using techniques such as these, the artist was able to engage the viewer in the overall meaning of the piece of art and thus inspire them to demonstrate the same dedication that was shown in the art of martyrs who suffered and died for their faith. The last thing I found to be compelling in this era was just the overall exaggeration of the art, music and literature that was produced . I found this to be compelling because it contrasted greatly with the Renaissance Period and that of the Enlightenment and Neoclassicism Period. The Baroque period was a unique era of grandiose art, music, and literature that I found to be extremely enjoyable and intriguing.

Credits & Acknowledgements

Duarte, A. (n.d.). Explaining Baroque Literature. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from

Besides the link listed above, the material used in the presentations was from the assigned readings and videos provided in the course material.


Created with images by Hans - "martin luther portrait painting" • Gruenemann - "Caravaggio, Crowning with Thorns"

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