The Italian Baroque
people, terms, and concepts: Counter-Reformation, planar recession, diagonal recession, closed composition, open composition, 'pomp and splendor' Baroque, 'humble realist' Baroque, multimedia, tenebrism, foreshortening
This topic examines the Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation, especially in the rise of a new style of art called the Baroque.
• What was the Catholic Counter-Reformation? What demands did the Catholic church make of artists, and why? How did these demands lead to more dramatic and emotionally-engaging art, as opposed to the relatively calm and intellectual art of the Renaissance?
• What general ways does (Italian) Baroque art differ from (Italian) Renaissance art, in terms of lighting, space, composition, and overall expression? How can we see these differences by comparing, for example, Michelangelo’s and Bernini’s Davids, or Leonardo’s and Tintoretto’s Last Suppers?
• What are the differences between the two major ‘types’ of Baroque art we identified, the ‘pomp and splendor’ type and the ‘humble realist’ type? How are both dramatic, expressive and engaging, but in different ways? Which type was preferred by the Counter-Reformation Catholic church and why?
Caravaggio, The Entombment, Italian ‘humble realist’ Baroque, 1602-03
How is this work a perfect example of the ‘humble realist’ Baroque style? How does Caravaggio attempt to connect directly and viscerally to his viewers, as well as enhance the expressive drama of the subject? How is Caravaggio’s approach different from Bernini’s?
Tintoretto, The Last Supper, Italian Baroque, 1592-94
How is Tintoretto’s version of the Last Supper different from Leonardo’s? How do these differences make the work more dramatic and expressive, and fulfill the Counter-Reformation's demands for art?
Bernini, David, Italian Baroque, 1623
How is Bernini’s David different from Michelangelo’s earlier version? How do these differences make the work more dramatic and expressive, and fulfill the Counter-Reformation’s demands for art?
Bernini, The Ecstasy of St Teresa, Italian ‘pomp and splendor’ Baroque, 1645-52 (detail below)
How is this work a perfect example of Italian ‘pomp and splendor’ Baroque art? How is the work multimedia and why? How does Bernini maximize the dramatic (literally theatrical) and expressive qualities of its subject? How does it perfectly fulfill the demands of the Counter-Reformation Catholic church in both subject and form?
Bernini, The Ecstasy of St Teresa, Italian ‘pomp and splendor’ Baroque, 1645-52 (detail of central group)