Velázquez, Las Meninas, 1656.
Velázquez, The Maids of Honour
(Las Meninas), 1656, oil on canvas,
125″ x 108,6″, Prado Museum, Madrid.

  • Context, Art and History:
         The Baroque period is one of the biggest chapters inside the Art World. Not only is an artistic style, but also a way of life.
         By the end of 16th Century and specially in Italy, Renaissance was ending and developping to Mannerism. Italy walked by new ways again. Europe had a lot of problems in 16th Century. A change was necessary. The consecuences of Luther´s thesis and the end of Counter-Reformation in Trento Council brought a revolution. After Trento, catholic church refused protestant nations and started a very heavy discipline. Catholicism wants to express the idea of truth, this is why a new iconography is developped in picture and sculture.
         The word “Baroque” was created in 19th Century. This word comes from berueco that means “irregular pearl”. At the beginning, the Baroque period was considered like a bridge between Renaissance and Neoclassicism. However, this is a bad interpretation, baroque art is more than that. If classical art promotes human reason, Baroque prefers information about feelings and human sensitive. This way will be continued in Rococo and increased in Romanticism. Eventually, in 20th century, Dadaism and Abstraccion got success at feelings definitively.
  • News of Baroque in relation to Renaissance:
    • Colour is more important than drawing:in Renaissance the line was the most important thing. Baroque prefers a “spot picture”.
    • Chiaroscuro: the picture of Renaissance had a clear and clean light. Baroque uses a light in connection with shadows, the result of this process was unknown until now. First results were brought by Caravaggio with his tenebrism method.
    • The renaissance perspective disappears: Renaissance wanted to show depth in spaces, and this is why Euclides´s perspective was applicated. This mathematic method consists in a sucession of planes. In Baroque depth sensation is given by different ways:
      • Foreshortenings: figures are represented in no parellel positions respecting to canvas or fresco.
      • Foreground on a big scale in relation to background.
      • Lights and shadows.
    • Assymetric composition: during Renaissance the main figure was put at the center and the rest of the composition was organized in two symmetrical halves. Baroque prefers disequilibrium in order to present cut figures which continue out of the composition.
    • Movement: it is a consecuence of foreshortenings, diagonal lines and undulations.
  • Baroque painters indexed (Click here)

    Written by:
    Beatriz Aragonés Escobar.
    Licentiate in Art History.

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