Read Stokstad chapter 14 or any other source on the subject.
Luther (1483-1546), a German priest and professor of theology initiated the Protestant Reformation against the Catholic Church in 1517. The Counter-Reformation was the official Catholic reaction to the rise of Protestantism. Counter-Reformation educational and propagandistic campaign began with the Council of Trent (1545-1563), which met in 25 sessions to decide active steps on how to stop the spread of Protestantism. Among them, the Catholic Church began a huge campaign of sponsoring art as instrument of propaganda. Art in Europe has long been used to convince and inspire, but never more effectively than by the Catholic Church during this period. Painting, sculpture and architecture were designed especially to visually “enter” into the spectator’s space, dramatically, almost aggressively.
Baroque, a term of unknown derivation meaning beautiful but strange, is therefore the art style that emerged during the 1600s as part of the Counter-Reformation educational and propagandistic campaign.
In content Baroque art is characterized by: (1) depiction of religious subjects in contemporary settings, (2) deliberate evocation of emotional response. It is further characterized by (3) the use of clear, easily interpreted detail to produce theatrical drama, tension, exuberance and ecstasy. (4) Baroque often sought to tell the whole story by showing its most exciting, climactic moment.
In style it is characterized by (1) idealization based on the observable world, (2) use of curvaceous and diagonal lines to depict movement, (3) dramatically lit compositions; (4) strong chiaroscuro.
In form it is most notably characterized by (1) the use of many mediums in the same piece. Its basic Patronage was the Catholic Church, but also the aristocracy and the merchant class. It is an art style that began in Rome and spread to most of Europe.
1. Bernini Saint Peter’s Basilica square Vatican 1657
1. Bernini David 1623
Bernini was 24 when he executed David as a commission to decorate a villa, which later became a museum, where the sculpture still stands. Bernini’s David introduced a new type of three-dimensional composition that intrudes forcefully into the viewer’s space. David is a freestanding life-size carved marble sculpture. It depicts the biblical hero bending at the waist and twisting far to one side, ready to launch his fatal rock at Goliath. Unlike Michelangelo’s pensive young man –maybe contemplating the task ahead (?), Bernini’s more mature David, with his lean body, clenched mouth, and straining muscles is all tension, action, and determination. Unlike Michelangelo’s David, Bernini’s is not self-contained, but interacts with the space around it. By designing a twisting figure caught in mid-movement, Bernini incorporates the surrounding space within his composition, implying the presence of the unseen enemy somewhere behind the viewer, who stands in the midst of the action. A possible influence on Bernini could have been the Borghese Gladiator (dating to 100BC), which was discovered in Rome in 1611, only a decade before Bernini’s David.
Caravaggio Calling of Saint Matthew San Luigi dei Francesi Rome, Italy 1600
Calling of Saint Matthew is a 127x131 inch oil on canvas painting depicting a group of men in a dramatically lit interior; a biblical scene.
The painting was completed in 1599-1600 for the Contarelli Chapel in the church of the French congregation, San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where it still hangs alongside two other paintings by Caravaggio: The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew (painted around the same time of Calling) and The Inspiration of Saint Matthew (painted in 1602). The three paintings are known as The Saint Matthew Cycle. Contarelli Chapel is named after the French cardinal who left funds to be used after his death in decorating the chapel with scenes from the…