An Exploration of Baroque Art, Architecture & Sculpture

Baroque period is one of the most important artistic revolutions in history that changed how the art, architecture and sculpture looked like.


Baroque Art

Whenever the world desires to see itself with the eye of masterpieces and renowned philosophies, there comes a single word announcing its arrival every time, Renaissance. Whether you talk of integrity, humanism, values of spiritual beauty, systematic technology, marvelous architecture and sensible melodies through expressions, or perfect complementing colours, you will always find Renaissance as the base of these values. Imagine waking up in one castle in Milan and seeing da Vinci in his exquisite selected colour silk dresses or Michelangelo’s never-ending desire to take an off from his work. Fascinating? Obviously, yes, but we weren’t here to talk about my favorite interval, but rather the one that came after it, The Baroque Period! You might raise a question here; Mahima, if the Renaissance was so wonderful, why it came to an end, and why did the Baroque art emerge? So, Mate, this is what the article is about. You will know the complete chronology of the Baroque style, following its characteristics, key figures, architecture, art and sculpture. But, before we begin discussing the Baroque period, I have a few lines to say about its pre-eminence so that you know why you are reading this article. It is because of the fact that this single period brought diversity and unity in style and subject. You can witness a gradual theatrical contrast through paintings from Bernini’s St. Teresa to Rubens’ Maria de Medicini and get impressed in the hallway by Caravaggio’s naturalist style and Rembrandt’s extraordinary paintings. There is much more and beyond, but to understand accurately, you must hold my company here. So without wasting any more minutes, let us start moving with the flow of our article. On an important note, it may be a long read, so stretch your back, grab your Americano quickly and enjoy this binge-read.

Baroque Art of the Landing of the Queen in Marseilles by Peter Paul Rubens
Baroque sculpture of Ecstacy of Saint Teresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Origin of the Word Baroque.

Before I tell you in detail what the term literally means and how it emerges, let me tell you a few things. While you read about the European civilization through history, you notice one thing, after each new valley, there comes something fresh, even in terms of art, music, culture, and architecture. Nothing ever gets lost, however, it may seem to look like it did. Now, the thing is that almost every trend or style is either an advanced preceding influence or totally fresh. Something similar happened with Baroque art. In the beginning, for many years, it was considered the pariah in the history of art, or you can call it decadence or disorder. But it was only after the end of classicism that it got its literal value. And today, it is so crucial in our lessons that you are reading it here with me.

Baroque Art The Penitent Magdalen by Georges de La Tour

Coming forward, let me tell you the origins of the word now. Typically, it derives from the word-baroco, a memory term that medieval logicians used, meaning ridiculous. It also extracts from the Italian word Barocchio, used for shady financial practices and the Portuguese term Barocco, illustrating the irregularly shaped pearls. So when French and German writers used the term baroque, they typically represented the poor taste of something. It was only in the nineteenth century when the two publications W Lubke’s Geschichte der Architektur and J Burckhardt’s Cicerone spoke in appreciation and reappraisal of the Baroque artistry.

Carel Fabritius Self-Portrait Baroque Artwork

The first paramount investigation into nature and the beginning of Baroque art were H Wolfflin’s Renaissance and Baroque (1888), where he also showed the significance of Baroque architecture. Further, in Italy, the term was first used in 1885 by Enrico Nencioni as Barrocchismo to facet the aspects of the society of the seventeenth century. In 1887, Cornelius Gurlitt published Geschichte des Barockstils in Italien; in 1908, Alois Riegl published Die Entstehund der Barokkunst, and a series of lectures were published posthumously describing the Baroque art interlinking with a cultural and intellectual history of the era.

Baroque art has received much attention in recent years, and few critics have even assigned them a chronological order: early, high, late, classicism, realism, and decorative. Now, what comes inside them and how they differ from each other; you will read in later sections of the article.

Origins of Rococo.

You might think that is why we are discussing the word-Rococo. Let me tell you the reason behind this. Rococo is a word that may have confused many when it came to explaining the end of the Baroque period in the nineteenth century, as few scholars used it interchangeably for Baroque. But after a few years, the scholars tended to use it more often to explain the European art of the 1700s till the French revolution. With a twist, few scholars thought that introducing these words into the history of art may lead to conceptual imprecision, which can question the validity and utility of a particular time. However, with time Giuliano Briganti proposed that the term baroque must be limited to the generation of 1630. That’s it, folks; you know quite a bit about the historical background of the term Rococo; now let me explain its origin to you briefly.

Based on the french word rocaille, it refers to shellwork and rockwork decoration of grottos and fountains. Then, in the eighteenth century, a student of David’s studio coined the term rococo by combining the words baroque and rocaille.

Historical Background of Baroque Art.

Before we lean ourselves to the history of the baroque period, there must be an emphasis on the Renaissance. You know that the basis of intelligence, technology and harmony satisfying the intellect can be easily visible throughout the Renaissance era. But the perfect form or best possible Renaissance was intangible, or you can say that every change hindered its achievement. Hence, it somehow refrained from the active principles of life, asking for freedom as the life repressed because of it.

You can consider it as the first reason behind the emergence of a new style, and the second most crucial reason was the historical intervention. In 1530, when there was nothing more left for the Renaissance to achieve and they accomplished everything, the Catholic churches and reformation demanded change as the rigidity and perfect figures began challenging their spirit. So the reformation process started, which resulted in a less austere subject in Spain. The art theme suddenly had a social function, whereas the Renaissance had a religious and moral dimension. This way, we see the emergence of humanism which encouraged the independence of art form.

Similarly, Protestantism was disturbed by the art association with luxury, and even sensuous feelings were hostile to the art. For those who don’t know the term Protestantism, it is a Western Christian tradition that rejects the authority of Rome. There is a difference between the protestants and Catholics that the protestants believe only faith in Jesus and his sacrifice can lead you to salvation, whereas the Catholics accepted that faith plus good deeds lead towards salvation. It becomes necessary to understand as the next section will confuse you with arguments and history. Returning to the topic, as Protestantism was disturbed by ongoing art and started a reformation, it ended in iconoclasm. Iconography also became important because Protestantism included dry austerity, eliminating the need for senses. But the iconography during this time exploited the display of several emotions. Emile Male, for example, portrayed love through the mystical reunion of souls with God. Therefore, the new thing was unremarkable for everyone else. What’s next? Understandably, art turned its back to classicism. as it was thought to be impure and cold, discovering the Baroque art, which was dynamic and profuse.

Legends, you finally know the reason behind the emergence of baroque, so there is no sense of any confusion. Here’s an introduction to another common term, Counter-Reformation. You need to understand it as the counter-reformation was a historical event, which coincided with the emergence of Baroque art in Churches and religious subjects. Hence, it is attached to the Baroque history, thereby becoming crucial to study in the Baroque period. (Counter-reformation was the revolution against the Protestant belief, which we learned about in this section briefly).

The Counter-Reformation.

A protestant threat was sparked in 1517 when Martin Luther King, a theologian and Augustinian monk, became dissatisfied with the abuses from clergy and the Church’s excessive sales of indulgences to build New St. Peter’s in Rome; posted his Ninety-Five Theses on Wittenberg cathedral in Germany’s portals. These theses attacked Pope Leo X and explained Luther’s position on contrition and penance, soon spreading throughout northern Europe through pamphlets. It motivated the Protestant Reformation and led to the emergence of various religious reformers who competed with the Protestant churches.

To end this spread of Protestantism and rectify the problems caused earlier, Pope Paul III convoked a Council of Trent in 1545, which tried to eliminate the abuse from Church administration. This council forbade the sale of indulgences which motivated Martin Luther to break with the Church authorities, abolishing the greed exhibited by bishops, absenteeism and excessive benefices. It also reformed old monastic orders and created new ones, making it the most vital instrument to fight against Protestantism. Further, it included a lot of reforms against the incompetence and delivery of services from the Church.

95 Thesen Erste Seite by Martin Luther King

Now, after this damage, to make the visual image right, churches used art as the counter weapon of the Counter-Reformation. You must know that the churches had used art to counter the effect of their political propaganda from early history. And to win this fight against the spread of Protestantism, they revived the art by imparting messages persuading everyone to the faith. To do this, they chose images to follow sacred scripture to avoid any errors, and bishops were to ensure that the art must be strictly religious. Since the ongoing mannerist art was ambiguous and ineffective in providing the proper religious messages from Church, Baroque art was widespread!

Where Did Baroque Art Exist?

After you know how baroque art emerged due to historical reasons, it is time to see its boundaries. Due to the pace in history, it started on Italian grounds, though Latin spirits were unfavorable of such type of artistry. In response to the Protestantism that spread everywhere and artists were little lost in its emergence, baroque art spread to the masses to combat its influence. So it spread in Europe- first into Austria, Bohemia, and Bavaria, then ultimately to the corners of Spain and America. This expansion was a big step by Rome which never spoilt its ancient art due to the barbarian flood. This way, baroque art reached the ultimatum in the 17th century.

What Is Baroque Art?

The term baroque art itself includes the names of artists, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Caravaggio, Annibale Caracci, Diego Velaquez, Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Johannes Vermeer, rendering the epic masterpieces of all time, which rightly reflects the period’s creative energy. With this line, I have successfully described the era of baroque artistry, which roughly began in the 1580 and ended in the early 18th century. In some northern European regions, it lasted till the 1750s. You have already studied how it started, so I am not bringing it up again.

Baroque art Visit To Grandmother by Louis Le Nain
Baroque sculpture Character Head The Yawner by Franz Xaver Messerschmidt

Baroque era is generally referred to as the era of genius since it was the first time ever in history when the Scientific revolution established the foundations of modern science. This era is the source of many of the physics lessons you learn today, including laws by Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, and Johannes Kepler, as well as the principles of modern philosophy and analytical geometry. Returning to Baroque art and architecture, let us move forward in the section.

How Baroque Artistry and Architecture Were Different?

There are many differences between Renaissance art and Baroque art. For instance, during the Renaissance, spatial illusionism developed, but in the baroque period, it was systematically exploited. We will take our differences for sometime later as we are dealing with the section for the vision to spot the baroque art and architecture.

The Jewish Bride Baroque art by Rembrandt
Floor Plant of Saint Peter Basilica Vatican City Baroque Architecture
Forced perspective gallery by Francesco Borromini

In Versailles, there is a magic mirror tricking the eye into seeing a much wider hallway than the actual one. Further, some picture scenes in the curtains of Rembrandt and Vermeer’s paintings seem real. In Borromini’s little colonnaded corridor, the eye sees much bigger than reality. Similarly, Bernini used the device to build Scala Regia in the Vatican. Further, in baroque architecture, there were extraordinary effects like arches curving forward in space, walls undulating as if capable of motion, and ground plans in unusual patterns.

Sleeping Girl by Domenico Fetti Baroque art
Veüe du Palais d'Orléans appelé Luxembourg by Pierre Lepautre
Flora by Rembrandt Baroque Art
The Fall of the Damned by Peter Paul Rubens Baroque Artwork

In terms of Baroque art, the artists maintained extraordinary attempts to create real people in their paintings and even reactions to specific situations. They observed man’s behavior in moments and traced their postures and expressions to their artwork. The faces in baroque artworks typically have broad laughter, sardonic smile, and explosion of emotions. They used to believe that body is as good a carrier of human emotion as the face, so they had in-depth knowledge of gestures and bodily poses.

Crucifixion by Baroque Artist Rembrandt
The Bitter Potion by Adriaen Brouwer Baroque Art

Truly, the baroque period was dynamic as the foundations of the modern world were deeply immersed on the grounds.

The Seventeenth-Century Art From Baroque Era.

1. Italy.


The first great church, built for the Jesuit order, II Gesu, was started by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola in around 1568, offering more than a milestone in the history of church architecture. It was a crucial historical structure as it solved one major problem; integrating a central plan of the building with a longitudinal one. There is something unique about the church nave as it is long enough to feel like being in the longitudinal room and short to make the visitor aware of the light area passing the dome. It consists of two separate storeys having the upper portion narrower. Such a facade was also seen in Santa Caterina dei Funari by Guido Guidetti in Rome. Next, the Gesu had all its crucial horizontal elements broken so that there is verticalism present in the structure, which is necessary as the facade is as wide as it is high. In the Santa Caterina dei Funari, the pediment of the primary portal was low, whereas, in Gesu, it consisted twin pediment above the central door. There is a compulsive entrance through the main gate as it seemingly welcomes a visitor by moving out towards him.

Baroque architecture Church of the Gesù, Rome
Church of St Catherine of the Rope-makers Baroque Architecture

Next is the facade of Santa Sussana, which is remarkable for the charity of its organisation and is astonishing as it is richly covered by the plastic decor, making a theatrical play between the light and shade. It has a few artistic principles from the High Renaissance, like the density of forms and motion in depth and height, replacing the static equilibrium.

Santa Susanna, Rome Baroque Architecture

Other prominent structures from the Italian Baroque architecture of this time include; St. Peter’s, Sant’ Andrea Della Valle, Santa Maria in Valicella, Chiesa Nuova of the Oratorians, and San Carloal Corso.

Sant Andrea della Valle Roma Baroque architecture
Parrocchia Santa Maria in Vallicella Baroque Architecture


By the end of the 1560s, when the world was in mediocre Mannerist style, Venice had treasure in form of artist Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, and Jacopo Bassano. You have already learned so much about Baroque art but before I tell you a few crucial paintings from this era, note a few points. It really was unable to express the religious and spiritual ideals of the time though it has highly artificial figural and compositional formulations. The main elements of baroque art are naturalistic and emotionally forceful subjects with a clarity of presentation and the importance of gestures scientifically.

The earliest significant work from Baroque era belonged to Federico Barocci, Deposition from 1566-69. Though, Barocci was from the Mannerist generation, he was the leader of the reform movement. He spent most of his time in Urbino, but his demand for art led him to fulfill commissions all over Italy. In the 1560s, he already kept a place of space and atmosphere, colour and light, vivid form, and religious subjects in his art. As he developed this painting style, the space in his pictures became deeper, the atmosphere became denser, and there was a perfect balance of light and shadow.

Deposizione dalla croce Federico Barocci Baroque artwork

Some of the masterpieces of Baroque art are Bean eater by Annibale Carracci, Madonna and Child with Angels and Saints by Ludovico Carracci, Still Life By Caravaggio, Baptism of Christ by Guido Reni, Aurora in the ceiling fresco in Rome by Guido Reni.

Baroque art The Bean Eater by Annibale Carracci
The Baptism of Christ Guido Reni Baroque Artwork
Still Life with Fruit by Caravaggio
The Madonna and Child with Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Agnes, Romauld, Paul, Peter and Andrew by  Ludovico Carracci


There was finally a break in Mannerism through the sculpture of the baroque period, where artists tended to avoid posing the figures in torsions and extremeness.

The prominent baroque sculpture are St. Cecilia by Stefano Maderno from 1600, the Equestrian Statue of Alessandro Farnese from 1630-25 by Francesco Mochi, Apollo and Daphne from 1622-25 by Gianlorenzo Bernini and Abduction of Proserpina by Bernini during 1621-22.

Baroque Sculpture of Alessandro Farnese by Francesco Mochi
Who Was Gianlorenzo Bernini?

One of the important sculptors of the Baroque period is Gianlorenzo Bernini. Born in Naples in 1598, his father Pietro was a sculptor and taught him the best. From the 1620s till the end of 1680, Bernini’s contemporaries have acknowledged him as one of the greatest sculptors alive in history. His earlier fame started with the marble structure he made, Apollo and Daphne, where he created magic through the gestures, emotions, and the metamorphosis of the skin of a maiden into bark and leaves. Bernini never got tired of adoring the beauty of magnificent nude bodies with an adolescent look for a woman and a muscular for a man. He always tried to tempt a connection behind his sculptures. A few of more works of Bernini that helped in revolutionizing baroque sculpture include- St. longius from 1629-38, St. Bibiana from 1624-36 and St. Theresa in Ecstasy from 1645-52.

2. France.


In France during the seventeenth century, architecture was determined by Henry IV, who was concerned with making practical improvements in Paris. During his reign, architects like Claude Chastillon and Louis Metezeau executed schemes envisaged in the sixteenth century. One of them was Place des Vosges, also known as Place Royale, which dates back to the idea of Catherine de Medici in the 1560s. Under the reign of Henry IV, the square was planned, and plots were sold to people who were ready to build according to the architectural plan, including houses of bricks and stucco and continuous use of line of arcades.

Aerial view of Place des Vosges, 3rd and 4th arrondissements, Paris

The most notable architect of this period was Salomon de Brosse, whose best works can be visible in Palais de Justice at Rennes and the Luxembourg Palace in Paris. The Luxembourg Palace projects the artist’s personality of forcible in his feeling for mass and weighty articulation. It has a dome entrance pavilion with columns and aggressive rustication of the entire surface.

Palais du Luxembourg, Paris Baroque Architecture

Some of the crucial baroque architecture structures are the West Facade of the Church of the Sorbonne by Jacques Lemercier, Marie de la Visitation by Francois Mansart, Garden facade of Chateau of Maisons by Francois Mansart and Vestibule of Chateau of Maisons by Francois Mansart.

Baroque architecture of Château de Maisons by François Mansart
Temple du Marais in Paris


The French baroque art emerged in 1625. Earlier in the century, the official court paintings dominated the reign, represented by the second school of Fontainebleau, characterised by a conservative and Mannerist mediocre style. The primary source for baroque artworks in the seventeenth century was the styles of the Carracci and Caravaggio schools. Though the success of Caravaggism in Paris was low, it impacted the provinces while giving new foundations to the artists through naturalism.

Who Was Georges de La Tour?

One excellent French artist derived from Caravaggio’s teachings was Georges de La Tour of Loraine. In the early works of La Tour, there was an emphasis on naturalistic surface effects and the influence of Terbrugghen. His paintings are predominately night scenes with the illumination of candles or torchlight. For him, the light was just an element of pictorial pattern and stylization, which serves to animate the form. A few best of his works are St. Irene Curing St. Sebastian, Woman with a Flea and Magdalene with two flames.

St Sebastien Attended by St Irene Georges de La Tour Baroque painting
The Penitent Magdalen by Georges de La Tour Baroque artworks
Woman catching a flea by Baroque artist Georges de La Tour

The best paintings from baroque era are Trictrac Players by Mathew le Nain, Portrait of the Abbot of St. Cyran by Philippe de Champaigne, The Lovers by Simon Vouet, Toilet of Venus by Simon Vouet, and St. irene Curing St. Sebastian by Georges de la Tour.


The French sculptures only remarked up to quality after the second half of the seventeenth century. A few sculptors like Jacques Sarrazin, and Jean Warin and brothers Francois and Michel Anguier were excellent sculptors, but they were unaware of the developments in baroque art, so they lacked sufficient genius to produce famous works.

Some of the best baroque sculpture examples are Pierre Puget’s St. Alessandro Sauli, Apollo and the Nymphs by Francois Girardon, Grand Dauphin by Antoine Coysevox, and St. Serapion by Francisco De Zurbaran.

Louis of France, The Grand Dauphin, Baroque Sculpture
Apollo Served by the Nymphs
Baroque Sculpture of the Martyrdom of Saint Serapion by Francisco de Zurbarán

3. Spain.


Unlike paintings and sculpture, Spanish architecture did not dominate the world with inventive personalities or national aesthetics. The first few years of seventeenth-century architecture had freedom and animation in the design of group plans and elevations. The oval plan of structure became popular, as we see in Sebastian de la Plaza’s bernardas church in Alcala de Henares. Among the several achievements of seventeenth-century architecture in Spain, Alonso Cano’s Facade for Granada cathedral exists. And few other noteworthy architectural structure of the time period includes Narciso Tome by Trasparente 1732 and Pedro de Ribera portal by Hospicio de San Fernando.

Baroque Sculpture El Transparente


Spanish power and wealth were at the heights in the sixteenth century, so sometimes, it is called the golden age of Spanish art. There were substantial achievements in all the visual arts, but artworks dominated every field, chiefly because of the reason that, Spanish painters were familiar with the developments in contemporary European art. Further, the influence of Venetian art also played a crucial role in the origin and development of seventeenth-century Spanish baroque art.

Who Was Francisco Ribalta?

One of the finest baroque artists of Spain was Francisco Ribalta, born in 1563. Till 1612, Ribalta’s work came under the influence of Mannerist formulas, but in a later period, however, it gradually disappeared. The naturalistic style with warm tones of colour was her style as the artist evolved. One of the finest paintings of the artist is St. Francis Embracing Christ on the Cross.

Baroque painting Saint Francis embracing Christ on the Cross by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

In Spain’s artistic history, Caravaggio has a vast influence, as his continuous creative innovations contributed to the formation of leading Baroque artists, including Ribera, Zurbaran, and Velasquez. A surprising fact is that almost nothing is known about the earliest phase of Francisco de Zurbaran’s career, and only one of his works dates back to 1625. From the 1620s forward, whatever the artist created was influenced by Caravaggio’s style. St. Serapion is one such painting which comes under the technique and period.

Some of the grandeur baroque artworks belonging to the seventeenth century of Spain are Portrait of the Infante Don Carlos by Diego Velaquez, Descent into Limbo by Alonso Cano, Infant Christ and St. Hon the Baptist by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Vanitas by Juan De Valdes Leal, and Pears and Melon by Luiz Melendez.

Baroque art Still Life with Melon and Pears by Luis Egidio Meléndez
Baroque painting Portrait of Carlos de Austria, infancte de España by Diego Velázquez
Descent into Limbo by Alonso Cano Almansa Baroque artwork


If you want to understand the history of Spanish sculpture, then keep three facts in mind. It was exclusively religious in subject matter, it was primarily popular in orientation, and its essential medium was polychromed wood. In the works of Juan Martinez Montaness in Seville and Gregario Fernandez in Castile, around 1600, a sculptural tradition was developed that combined Renaissance forms with accepted realism.

Pietà (La Sexta Angustia) Baroque Sculpture by Gregorio Fernández
Baroque sculpture Virgin of Sorrows by Mena, Pedro de

Some of the best baroque sculptures are St. Bruno by Gregorio Fernandez and Sorrowing Madonna by Pedro de Mena.

4. Flemish.


Southern Netherlands played an unhappy role in the seventeenth century because of the declining Spanish empire and hostility from the France, which was its neighbor. You must understand that the Dutch shared a common history, culture and language with the Flemish. So whatever their neighbors suffered with, they had some effects on them too. However, even with their adverse conditions, they had a really artistic life. So, you will learn about the prospered baroque art in this section.

Who Was Peter Paul Rubens?

In Baroque era, Peter Paul Rubens played a vital role in transforming their entire culture to be more artistic. Born in Germany to a flemish family, Rubens had his training in Antwerp. He inherited a great admiration towards his work from the Italian Renaissance masters. His wide range of interests never let him down throughout his artistic life. He used to train a school of engravers so that they could reproduce his paintings. For him, colour was a crucial element of expression, so his predominance of brightness in his artworks spread the basic message of beauty and cheer. His choice and treatment of colours were different throughout his artistic life. For instance, at the beginning of his career, he used to commit a juxtaposition of bright local colours, whereas, in the 1620s, he took inspiration from Titian’s paintings and used it to achieve a more colouristic oscillation of great variety and charm. His most crucial artworks, which comes under baroque art of seventeenth-century were Slaughter of the Innocents, Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, Raising of the Cross, Madonna with saints, Apotheosis of James 1, and Judgement of Paris.

The Elevation of the Cross (Rubens) Baroque Art
Baroque artwork Judgement of Paris by Peter Paul Rubens
Baroque art The Rape of the Daughters of Leuccipus by Peter Paul Rubens
Massacre of the Innocents by Baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens

A few other prominent baroque artworks of the time were Mountain Landscape by Joos de Momper, Paradise by Jan Brueghel, Betrayal of Christ by Anthony Van Dyck, The Smoker by Adrian Brouwer and merry Flea Hunt by Gerard Honthorst.

Baroque Art The Flea Hunt by Gerrit van Honthorst
The Smokers by Baroque artist Adriaen Brouwer

5. Dutch.


During the seventeenth century, the dutch accepted Calvinism as its official religion, so there was the least demand for art for the sake of worship. All the churches whitewashed, and there were few artists like Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Gerard Terborch who made their chief source of income in art as portraits. As a result, it was the first time in history that artists dealt with the open market instead of receiving commissions from any institution or government.

So far, you have learned that a province’s culture and situation influence its art and culture. Similarly, the conditions of the dutch allowed its art to shape in another form. In this period, paintings focused on the middle-class population, and the choice of theme is influenced by national consciousness. Further, the fishing boats, warships, windmills and markets were the visible token of their national identity.

Hence one can conclude that seventeenth century for dutch baroque art was all about national patriotism. But, this is not a complete story. Often, unpleasant incidents were given a humorous spin, and cheerful subjects were preferred to disturbing ones. To judge the dutch baroque artworks in a single line, I would say that for them, life was a continuous enjoyment and leisure. Some of the famous Dutch painters, apart from Frans Hals, Rembrandt and Gerard Terborch, were Bartholomeus Breenbergh, Jan Both and Nicolas Berchem, especially functional in Italian scenes.

Some of the overriding works from Dutch baroque period are- Jewish Bride by Rembrandt, Girl Reading a Letter by Jan Vermeer, Guardsman by Carel Fabritius, Balaam and the ass by Rembrandt, Women regrets of the Old Men’s home at Haarlem by Frans Hals, and Boy with WineGlass by Hendrick Terbrugghen.

Girl reading a letter by an open window by Johannes Vermeer Baroque Artwork
Balaam and the Ass by Baroque artist Rembrandt
The Jewish Bride Rembrandt Baroque artwork

The Eighteenth-Century Baroque Art.

1. France.


The French baroque architecture (18th century) had close ties with that of the previous century in terms of traditions. However, this century’s architecture was more about the achievements in domestic architecture.

One of the finest Parisian houses of the first half of the eighteenth century is the Hotel Biron, built between 1728-30 by Jacques v. Gabriel. The garden facade of this structure combines a classical feeling of restraint and elegance of life. While the window enframements are simple and unembellished, the tall windows vary in width and shape, causing a dramatic influence on the structure. Further, the surface of the house achieves rhythmic patterns through the windows, contrasting roofs and rounded pavilions.

Baroque Architecture of L'hôtel Biron by Jean Aubert

Secondly, there is the ambitious baroque architecture project of the era called Chateau La Malgrange, which makes a radical departure from the traditional chateau plan through its close massing of related units. Duke Leopold commissioned it to Boffrand.

Some of the other prominent structures of this period are Place Stanislas in Nancy and Place de la Concorde by Jacques Ange Gabriel.

Sketch of Baroque architecture project of Chateau de la Malgrange


The artistic trends appearing in France in the seventeenth century were partly encouraged by the taste of Parisian society. Because of the heavy and authoritarian formality of Versailles’ court, intellectual independence and elegant intimacy of Parisian social life were on the rise. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, these Parisian tastes were affecting art at Versailles, and in 1715, when Louis XIV died, their ascendency was unchallenged. The situations greatly influenced the French baroque art of the time.

Baroque artwork Saying Grace by Jean Siméon Chardin
Baroque painting The Swing by Jean Honore Fragonard

In the eighteenth century, Antoine Watteau was the most influential character in French baroque art. Born in Valenciennes, a city on the Flemish border, he came to Paris in about 1702. Watteau associated with the Flemish artists there with his early works, including generic pieces in the manner of the Netherlandish little masters. A crucial influence on his early art was Claude Gilloy, with whom he worked between 1704-1707. He basically merged the reality of daily life with a fantasy of the stage to create a subtle psychological range of Commedia in his works. Some famous works of the artist include Pilgrimage to Cythera in 1718, Mezzetin in 1718, Gersaint’s Signboard and Six figures.

Few eminent paintings from other artists of this baroque period are Bathers by Jean Honore Fragon Ard, Chinese Fishing Scene by Francois Boucher, Ars and Venus Caught by Vulcan by Francois Boucher, Benediction by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin and Happy accidents of the swing by Jean Honore Fragonard.

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan by Francois Boucher
The Bathers by Jean Honore Fragonard


As in baroque art, the aesthetic preferences of the eighteenth century encouraged a departure from the heavy formality of the seventeenth century, allowing the creation of gay, lively subjects and of forms and compositions with new freedom, immediacy, and lightness. The primary source of inspiration for eighteenth-century sculptors was the emotion and mobility displayed in Puget’s work of the seventeenth century.

John Baptist II Lemoyne François-Marie Arouet Baroque Sculpture
Baroque Sculpture Child With Cage by Jean Baptiste Pigalle
The Menacing Cupid, a French Baroque Sculpture by  Etienne-Maurice Falconet

The famous baroque sculptures under this period were Mincing cupid by Etienne Maurice Falconet, Child with Birdcage by Jean Baptiste, Mercury by Jean Baptiste Pigalle, Tomb of the Marecha de Saxe by Jean-Baptise Pigalle, Portrait of Voltaire by Jean-Baptise Lemoyne and Faun and Infant Fauns by Claude Michel.

2. Italy.


The eighteenth-century Italian architects rarely introduced themselves to such kind of decorative intelligence in architecture as the French and Germans. Hence, there are not many architectural monuments from the period. Some of the pivotal monuments from the Italian baroque art period are Facade S. Giovanni in Latino by Alessandro Galilei, Air View of The Royal Hunting palace by Filippo Juvarra, Plan and Grand Staircase of Royal Palace by Luigi Vanvitelli.


The seventeenth-century and eighteenth-century Italian baroque art had noticeable differences. A survey of eighteenth-century baroque artworks in Italy revealed that there were few distinctive characteristics from the previous century’s art. It also stressed the importance of Venice during the period. One of the greatest painters of the beginning of the century was Giambattista Piazzaeta, who had the best transitional figures in his artworks. For example, in his Ecstasy of St. Francis, there is a zigzag compositional pattern belonging to the eighteenth-century design. The artist used dark and opalescent colours like deep browns, oranges, greys, blacks and blues in his palette and insisted on forceful contrasts of light and plastic solidity of forms. Piazzetta’s work was a source of inspiration for another greatest Italian painter, Giambattista Tiepolo. In his early works, there is an influence of Piazetta’s dark and heavy manner of paintings. In his late career, he developed a luminous style which showcased the sunlit brilliance of colouring. He had a poetic genius in his works by using a singing colour and dazzling light with airy and translucent freedom of touch, carrying a new world of imagination through his artworks.

Giovanni Bellini's baroque artwork Saint Francis in the Desert
Saint Thecla Praying for the Plague-Stricken by Baroque artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

His crucial works are St. Thecla praying for the plague-stricken, Translation of the Holy House to Loreto, Translation of the Holy House to Loreto and Marriage of Barbarossa.

A few other eminent works from the baroque period are Rhinoceros by Pietro Longhi in 1751, Flea Hunt by Giuseppe Maria Crespi in 1707, Raphael blessing Tobias and Sarah in 1750 by Gian Antonio Guardi, Monks in the refectory by Alessandro Magnasco, and Basin of San Marco by Canaletto.

The Flea Baroque art by Giuseppe Maria Crespi
Baroque art Exhibition of a Rhinoceros at Venice by Pietro Longhi


Gianlorenzo Bernini dominated the entire seventeenth-century sculpture in Italy, and his work was the main inspiration behind the complete eighteenth-century Italian baroque sculpture. It is surprising to know there were no sculptors in Italy approaching a new artistic style of sculpture even after the death of Bernini. The ideal sculptors brought a significant change in the Italian sculptures. However, the baroque art style gradually turned into the version of Rococo as the sculptors tried using lightness and wit in their work.

Baroque Sculpture La Désillusion par Francesco Queirolo
Baroque Sculpture Bust of Pope Benedict XIII I by Pietro Bracci

Some of the crucial sculptures from this period are Allegory of Deception by Francesco Queirolo and Portrait of pope Benedict XIII by Pietro Bracci.

3. Germany and Austria (17th & 18th Centuries).


When Europe faced the Thirty Years War from 1618 to 48, there was a speedy recovery depending from region to region except in Germany. There were losses of life and goods, and the impoverished leaded social groups, concluding in low literacy and artistic standards. The only bright spot of the German eighteenth century was the preservation of craftsmanship skills, capable of translating the boldest ideas into visual form. On german soil, the most significant projects were carried out by French and Italian baroque art masters like Bustelli, Galli Bibiena and Tiepolo.

Appropriately, the german revival started in Vienna. It looked like Vienna had two incredible and original architects- Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. Fischer adopted some ideas from Borromini and Guarini and filtered through temperature, clarity and order. He used to put an oval plan for the chief unit for space in the churches, placing it into the longitudinal axis, like in the Karlskirche or Church of St. Carlo Borommeo in Vienna. The structure has uncluttered spaciousness and war beauty through the selected colours with large arches and superimposed small ones.

State Hall of the Austrian National Library Baroque Architecture

Towards the end of his life of Fischer, he designed a library with the famous Prunksaal (Hall of Splendor), the finest and most substantial library in Austria and German monasteries and palaces.

Lukas von Hildebrandt, the biggest competitor of Fischer, enriched Vienna city with the most secular structure, the Palace of the Belvedere. Built as the summer residence for Prince, it was a full-fledged palace with separate rooms and buildings for servants. It consisted of a garden with many terraces and fountains.

Baroque Architecture of The Zwinger of Dresden in Germany

Some notable examples of baroque architecture structures, which comes under this baroque art are Wallpavillon by Matthaus Daniel poppelmann and Balthasar Permoser, Frauenkirche by George Bahr and Benedictine Abbey by Jakob Prandtauer.

Sculpture and Painting.

Only a few baroque art makers and sculptors were active in Germany in the seventeenth century, so there was a limited level of artistic levels comparable to Italy, France or the Netherlands, as we studied earlier. Painter Elsheimer and sculptor George Petel were two crucial people who belonged to this time. Some of the other eminent artists of this baroque period are Johann Heinrich Schonfeld, known for his highly personal stress on ecstatic gestures, romantic setting and use of flicking light; Joachin von Sandrart, known for his book The Teutsche Academie (the biographies of artists); and Andreas Schluter, a prominent architect and sculptor.

Baroque Sculpture Saint Martin by Donner

The best sculptures of the time were Andreas Schluter’s Dying Soldier of 1696, Equestrian portrait of the great elector by Andreas, St. Martin on horseback by Raphael Donner, and Pieta by Ignaz Gunther.

The best baroque painting of this time was Victory of St. James of Compostela over the Saracens by Anton Franz Maulpertsch.

Baroque art Victory of Saint James of Compostela over the Saracens at the Battle of Clavigo by Franz Anton Maulbertsch

Legends, you have gone through a whole baroque period from different regions concerning their architecture, art and sculptures. I am so impressed by your dedication to reading about such a historical period, so I have decided to put a few more things for you. It is necessary to introduce you the famous paintings to polish your skills in the Baroque period. Let’s start.

Famous Baroque Artworks From Italy.

You might wonder why we are trying to see baroque art only through the Italian masters. It is because of the reason that the period majorly got artistic inventions from the long-standing tradition of Italy of making the place an artistic heritage. If you go through this section, you will know much about baroque art in general. So, let’s start.

1. Saint Jerome by Annibale Carracci.

Jerome was one of the four fathers of the western church. He was much favored in the baroque period when the counter-reformation was at its peak as he was the reminder of the prominent role of regret as a good Christian. In the painting, he beats his chest while looking through his sorrowful and merciful eyes at Christ’s crucifixion. One of his hands holds a book, kneeling on the rocky background and foreground.

The baroque art closely mirrors the stylist phase achieved by the three Carracci as their joint effort on a friezelike fresco, dated 1584.

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness by Italian Baroque Artist Annibale Carracci

2. The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula by Caravaggio.

This baroque art represents the unconventional iconographical formula of the presence of Saint Ursula. According to the Golden Legend, Ursula’s father promised a pagan prince of Britain to let him have Ursula. She secured permission to delay the event for a while and gathered around ten maidens as companions, each attended by a thousand virgins. In the ten ships, she was sailing down to the pilgrimage to Rome, but on return to her journey, they sailed down the Rhine, which killed all the ten thousand. When the king of Britain asked Ursula to marry her, she refused, resulting in slewing her with an arrow.

Baroque art The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula by Caravaggio

Caravaggio significantly chose the personal martyrdom of Ursula as she stands alone before the ruler to whom she refused to preserve purity and faith. Technically, the painting shows signs of a movement away from the more plastic and smoothly shaped forms and a more naturalistic style.

3. The Holy Family by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi.

In this baroque art, Cavarozzi displays the tints of the Caravaggism style, which spread in the Spanish artistic culture of the seventeenth century. There is a subtle usage of colour on one side and possibilities of an illusionistic realism on the objects, fabrics and details in the foreground. The artwork reveals a crucial component of Cavarozzi’s style of illustrated culture, the use of ineluctable mannerists tracing back to the formation when the models available were Roman works. Further, there is a subtle use of delineating the fall of light, making the object appear to be cut out with a beautiful manner of draperies functioning.

Baroque art Holy Family by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi

4. Saint Jerome Comforted by Angels by Rutilio Manetti.

The painting was not mentioned in the art literature until 350 years, though it was one of the most extraordinary of Manetti’s compositions. The piece of still life proclaims through open books, skull in the foreground with a dramatic use of light and shadows, highlighted through a dark background.

The artwork is in an oil-paint medium with an assimilation of the naturalistic styles derived from Caravaggio and his followers.

St Jerome comforted by angels, by Rutilio Manetti

5. Calling of St. Matthew by Giovanni Lanfranco.

The baroque art depicts the moment when Christ chose Matthew as one of the apostles. In the gospel, the story narrates as,

“saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.”

Caravaggio first composed the scene, and as the tradition of Caravaggesque followed, many artists took part in it, resulting in many such paintings from history. For instance, Ludovico adopted it in a canvas produced around 1605-7.

In Lanfranco’s painting, he adopted Caravaggio’s style very closely. There is a shift of figures of Jesus and Peter from right to left, along with the subtle use of light and shadow in the composition. Furthermore, there is an impression of space that expands beyond limits and a good manoeuvre of the quality of illusionism of Corregio.

Baroque art Conversion of Saint Matthew Giovanni Gaspare

6. Saint Francis Consoled by an Angel Playing a Viol by Gioacchino Asserto.

The artist employed a colour palette of warm and earthy brown with a highly pictorial solution in the composition. Here, Assserto shows the still life of the book resting on the skull and a large viol as additional elements except for the figures. There is a sharp contrast between the withered look of the saint and the angel, which Asserto achieved through chromatic brilliance. The theme of this composition is about the saint of Assisi, much favored in the mid-1630s. There is a luminist involvement in this artist’s creation, which in some ways can be defined as Caravaggesque. It belongs to the early maturity career of the Asserto.

Saint Francis Consoled by an Angel Playing a Viol By Gioacchino Asserto

7. The Finding of Moses by Bernardo Cavallino.

A well-crafted elliptical layout draws the eye to its focal point with patches of brighter light highlighting relevant flesh tones or fabrics with a skilful theatrical effect. It is through the highly refined use of colour that the most immediately relevant stylistic influences are concentrated and purified. It is difficult to ignore the mannerist component of Cavallino’s baroque art, which can be seen in the graceful elegance and the sinuosity of the movement in the composition.

Baroque painting The Finding of Moses by Bernardo Cavallino

The painting belongs to the youthful phase of Cavallino’s life, becoming prominent work for pinning down the stylist limits of the artist.

8. Cimmeran Sibyl by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri.

As a third-generation protagonist in Bolognese paintings between the 1610s and 1620s, Francesco stands alongside Guido Reni and Domenichino. In continuing the style of Ludovico Caracci, he increased its elements of popular and domestic naturalism by employing a technique called tocco, which is the skilful alternation of light and dark zones. One can witness the tocco technique in this baroque artwork. A prominent influence on Cimmeran Sibyl’s composition was the two famous Sibyls of Domenichino in Rome’s Galleria Borghese and Capitolina. The pose is elegant with a spacious background and dramatic lighting.

The Cimmerian Sibyl by Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Baroque art

Legends, you have covered it all. I assure you can now grasp Baroque art at a beginner’s level with these paintings. A few other prominent works of this time are Rinaldo and Armida by Alessandro Tiarini, Adoration of the Magi by Simoni cantarini, Madonna of the Rose by Michele Desubleo, Allegory of the Golden Age by Valerio Castello, etc.

Final Words.

It’s great to see you made it all the way through the article, and I’m so admirable that you remain committed to humanities despite social media addiction. Following your successful exploration of the baroque art and period through its various forms, I promise to come up with another such interesting topic next time. The cappuccino you picked up at the beginning of the read is all worth it, right?


1. Historical Dictionary of Baroque art and architecture by Lilian H. Zirpolo.

2. 17th and 18th Century Art by Julius S. Held and Donald Posner.

3. Selected Baroque Paintings by Marsilio Editori.

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is Baroque art?

Developed after Renaissance and Humanism, Baroque art was a result of the emergence of reviving artistry for Churches. It is the art that focused on naturalism, perspective, shadows and light.

When did Baroque art start and end?

According to the historical archives, Baroque art started on Italian grounds roughly in 1580 and lasted until the 1750s in some regions of Northern Europe.

What are the characteristics of Baroque art?

The most common characteristics essentially to identify Baroque art are the perfect implementation of linear perspective, the use of shadows and light similar to or the evolved Caravaggism, and a precise depiction of bodily figures and expressions.

What is the main idea of Baroque art?

One of the ideas of Baroque art was to invoke religious emotions among the population and revive the art form similar to or greater than the Renaissance which was degraded during the Humanism by the influence of Protestantism.

Who is the father of Baroque art?

Caravaggio can be regarded as the father of Baroque art. The artist contributed by teaching several painters of the time, diversifying his technique, Caravaggism and hence spreading the period’s art. Later several disciples of Caravaggio continued to teach young artists and influence their practices to master painting.

What are examples of Baroque art?

Some of the important artworks and examples of Baroque art are Saint Jerome By Annibale Carracci, The Martyrdom Of Saint Ursula By Caravaggio, The Holy Family By Bartolomeo Cavarozzi, Calling of St. Matthew by Giovanni Lanfranco, Crucifixion by Rembrandt, and The Fall Of The Damned by Peter Paul Rubens.

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