Roman Baroque (1623-1667)

Baroque, describes a complex idiom. The style originated in Rome and embraced painting, sculpture, and architecture.

Ecstasy of Saint Teresa stature: a white stone piece of art surrounded by gilded bronze.
Ecstasy of Saint Teresa-Bernini, Rome, Italy.

Image source: by vharjadi

Roman Baroque: When and Why?

Baroque architecture originated in the Counter-Reformation when the Catholic Church launched an emotional appeal to the faithful through art and architecture. In the 17th century, Rome became a statement of Catholic majesty, and expressed this triumph through the arts. Baroque architects, artists, and urban planners gave power to the ecclesiastical traditions of the city. Further, Rome became the capital of the European art world.

The courtyard of a white-castle like structure. There are two levels with arched windows placed symmetrically throughout. Moreover, a pointed tower sits in the center of the photo.
St. Ivo alla Sapienza, Rome

Image source: by rjhuttondfw

Famous Baroque Artists

To the papal reigns of Urban VIII, Innocent X, and Alexander VII. The three main architects of this period were sculptors Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini, and painter Pietro da Cortona. Each of them developed their own architectural expressions. Ceilings and vaults of palaces and churches were a communication medium to fulfill propagandistic goals through different ways of expression.

  • Baroque painting: illustrated key elements of Catholic dogma
  • Baroque sculpture: marked by a similar sense of dynamic movement
  • Baroque architecture: designed to be spectacular
Interior photo of Chiesa Nuova in Rome. A gold-accented double domed room with various religious imagery.
Interior of Chiesa Nuova, Rome

Image source: by Fagerjord

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Gian Lorenzo Bernini dominated Roman art in the 17th century. Under Pope Urban VIII, Bernini gained popularity after he was commissioned to build a symbolic structure over the grave of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The immense gilt-bronze baldachin represents the first truly Roman Baroque monument. Further, it perfectly proportioned, and as tall as a four-story building. The moving upward to the crown with its dark colors and burning gold, resembles a living organism. It is an unprecedented fusion of sculpture and architecture.

Photo of St. Peter's Baldachin: Bronze Canopy over the High Altar
St. Peter’s Basilica (1624–33) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Image source: by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D.

Francesco Borromini

Borromini worked with Bernini to realize Barberini Palace and the Baldachin of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Later on, he had an independent commission of the church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. The building is considered a masterpiece of Roman Baroque architecture. For the facade, Borromini used two orders: one upper and one lower. He featured a succession of concave surfaces on the lower one and, on the top, there are three concave parts and a newsstand convex. The facade was finished with an concave, oval medallion giving a sense of dynamism.

Front of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane Church in Rome, which is a big light stone structure with three statues in the center and 4 columns along the front.
Facade of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome, Italy.

Image source: by Carlo Raso

Borromini also worked on the construction of San’Ivo alla Sapienza. It is circled with the alternation of concave and convex-ending cornices, leading to a dome decorated with linear arrays of stars and cherubs. The plant forms a six-pointed star. Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza fused excesses from Baroque and some forms of rationality to create an innovative concept.

Floor scheme of Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza with a triangular center and six circles along the edges and straight sides.
Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, Floor scheme. Rome, Italy

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