The baroque style was born in Italy and spread throughout all of Europe. It was divided into three periods: Early Baroque, High Baroque, Late Baroque.
The origin of the term
The term Baroque derived from Italian barocco, which philosophers used in the Middle Ages to describe errors in logic schemes. Later on, the word came to denote any contorted idea or complicated thoughts. Another possible origin of this word comes from the Portuguese barroco (Spanish barrueco), used to talk about an imperfectly shaped pearl. This way of using this word still survives in the jeweler’s term baroque pearl.
Baroque architects conceived buildings as a single mass to be shaped according to particular requirements. On the facade elements like columns and pilasters are linked in various ways to the center. The facade looks divided horizontally, it is organized vertically. St. Peter in Vatican City is an important example of this style. It was finished in 1615 under Paul V. It is was projected with a three-aisled Latin cross with a dome at the crossing, above the altar covering the shrine of St. Peter the Apostle. The edifice is a key pilgrimage site.
The interior of St. Peter’s features masterpieces from the Renaissance period and Baroque art. The most famous are Michelangelo’s Pietà, the baldachin made by Bernini over the main altar. The tomb of Urban VIII and the cathedra of St. Peter in the apse are considered relevant too.
Baroque Design Characteristics
Like all other styles Baroque has its features:
- Gilded frames were very used many times in paintings and mirrors and usually featured several cartouches, carved flowers, and sculpted figures.
- Italian furniture of this period featured raised lids, often were decorated with carved leaves and figures.
- Decorations were sumptuous. Carved wood was often gilded with gold or bronze, and legs for example in tables were caryatids or muscular figures, made to show up as if they were sustaining the marble slab put on top.
- Segments and strapwork were used and were also included new key characteristics such as pilasters, panels forming arches, and pietra dura designs. Many religious or mythological themes were painted inside the panels to improve the decorations of the object.
- Commodes, for example, were made of walnut or oak, pearl, jewels, and ivory, to form up allegorical stories. They were decorated, most of the times with angels, animals, leaves. They were also called lion commodes due to their feet at the bottom of the drawer recalling the animal.
- Tables varied greatly during the period but were usually made of gilded wood, oak, or walnut. Large tables were elonged, rich, and grandiloquent, while smaller ones were ornate and featured carved geometrical forms.
The Cornaro Chapel is a famous Baroque Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. It houses one of Bernini’s most ambitious masterpieces: The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. It represents a mini-theatre. Illumination comes from a hidden window at the rear of the altar. Divine light descends upon the agitated Teresa at the apex of her spiritual ecstasy. Sculpted in white marble, she is surrounded by gilt bronze representing the divine light.