The Baroque and Rococo 1575 1775 by mifei


									The Baroque: 1575-1700 The word Baroque, derived from the Portuguese word for an irregular pearl, barrocco, and the Italian term barocco, overly-complex pedantry, is synonymous with the expansionist ethic of the seventeenth century; the nations established in the Renaissance traded extensively with one another, and sought new goods and markets throughout the world, with the great political entities of Europe creating inter-competitive colonies in the New World. Made possible in part through scientific developments, the ideas of Kepler, Galileo, Newton, and Descartes encouraged a new practice of science, of empirical study of the material world, separated from theology or philosophy. This new science, based on observation, helped to enable trans-Atlantic navigation and standardized and reliable systems of weight and measure. Descartes, a refugee from the heavy hand of the French Catholic Church, was allowed to publish his work in Holland; he urged the reform of Philosophy, to question all, ”to take as false what is probable, to take as probable what was called certain, and to reject all else.” Only the existence of the mind can be trusted. The Counter-Reformation was born in the late Renaissance, fanned by the heat generated by the founding of the preaching order of the Society of Jesus, The Jesuits, in 1547, and the renewal of the Inquisition. In response to the popular groundswell of support for Protestantism, the Counter-Reformation of the Catholic Church called for a simplification and an appeal to the emotions directly, which parallels the focus and simpler message of the new theology of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Art in general was filled with a new dramatic and realistic intensity, becoming more and more about the emotional response of the viewer. Intensity of international relations encouraged the defining of national character as well as experimentation with new political models. Painters experimented with media, method and narrative content, and architects accomplished complex, undulating surfaces and structures, extending the manner in which buildings occupy space. Great Baroque architecture, sculpture, and painting is not content to stay within its own boundaries, it sallies out into the space of the viewer, overwhelming the mind via the senses. Manipulation of the senses to extremes seems in fact to be a seventeenth-century preoccupation, in the arts, religion, food consumption, business, and other avenues of human activity. Globalization, Luxury, and Slavery The often grandiose nature of Baroque art, its sense of overkill, was fueled by a number of things, not the least of which was a grandiose flow of money. European interaction with the Islamic world had brought new goods north from the Mediterranean since the rise of Islam: sugar, cotton, rice, hard grains, and a variety of other goods had been cultivated for hundreds of years by cultures in India and the near east. Many of these crop products needed a certain reliable schedule of warm temperatures and moisture to flourish, and some of the Islamic world’s most innovative scientific advances were in the realm of irrigation as they transplanted plants native to the tropics to drier areas. Crops of sugar cane, cotton, rice, and wheat were watered by a number of amazing systems, including a complex Persian system of underground tunnels bringing water to fields completely through gravity. Until well into the modern era, cotton was


considered a kind of wonderful luxury fabric, and Europe developed a voracious luxury habit for a number of exotic goods, but in many ways sugar changed the cultural and economic landscape of the West to the greatest extent. Sugar cane was evidently first cultivated in New Guinea in about 8000BCE, diffusing over the millennia to Southern Asia. The first references to sugar as a product are from about 500BCE in India, and at various times and places during the next thousand years the process of refining sugar developed, and finally became associated primarily with the Islamic world. It was said that “sugar (from the Arabic Sukkar) follows the Koran.” Sugar was traded during the centuries of the great Islamic civilizations, until, by the time of the end of the crusades, a large network of production had grown around the Mediterranean by the fourteenth century. The plague, which decimated the labor pool for agricultural production in general, and the demand for luxury goods decline during the 1300’s in Europe, had a devastating effect on the sugar industry. The Portuguese and Spanish, seeing an economic opportunity, began experiments in the cultivation of sugar cane on the Atlantic Islands, Sao Tome, the Canaries, Madeira and others, establishing a prototype of the plantation, using a combination of journeyman and slave labor to economically produce the luxury of sweetness. Spain and Portugal, soon followed by France, Holland, and England, began looking for cheaper and more efficient ways to produce sugar and other non-European crops, and turned to the New World. On Columbus’ second expedition, sugar cane was carried and transplanted to the Caribbean. A cheap labor pool was shipped to the tropical zones, and soon a great plantation was created to serve Europe with sugar, coffee, cacao, cotton, and tobacco. Spain’s preoccupation with precious metals allowed other major European powers to dominate the agricultural market initially, with Portugal choosing the vast agricultural potential of Brazil over the lands occupied by the Inka and Aztec. The vast amounts of wealth flowing through Europe during the Baroque were in large part the result of the huge profits being generated by the sale of non-staple consumables, and, of course, the growing European appetite for them. Although by the nineteenth century these goods had become common to the middle and lower class diet, they were confined mostly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the ruling classes, and the newly wealthy merchant class. Sugar in fact was often combined with other foods such as marzipan and rice to create elaborate sculptures for great banquets and celebration, and continues to be a symbol of riches and plenty to this day. Baroque Religious Experience Ignatius of Loyola Although he lived his life during the apogee of the High Renaissance, Ignatius’ writings, example, and, of course, the order of the Society of Jesus he founded, formed the basis for the religious philosophy of the Baroque. During an extended convalescence in bed interrupting his youthful tenure in the military, (to mend a badly set broken leg), Ignatius became engrossed in reading about the experiences of the saints, especially the graphic tales of their physical austerity. Afterwards he undertook a prayer regimen that sought to elevate the spirit through the depravations of the body. He recorded the fruits of his


experiences, which came to be published as the “Spiritual Exercises.” The order of the Jesuits was recognized in 1540 by Pope Paul III, and under Ignatius’ leadership until his death in 1556 the organization grew and acquired momentum, propelling it into a dominant role in the Baroque church. Known both for intellectual rigor and unrelenting directness in matters of faith, the Jesuits took the church into the New World; the fortitude of the order of teachers both matched the ambitious energy of the new international world of colonies, and allowed for horrific acts of intolerance. His theology was fully integrated into the Catholic countries’ approach to missionary work by the time of his rather rapid canonization in 1622. St. Teresa of Avila Teresa and her young brother Rodrigo became determined at the ripe age of seven to venture into the land of the Moors to achieve heaven through martyrdom. When foiled by an uncle, they built hermitages of small stones at their parents’ house in Avila, Castile, only to be thwarted by their father at every turn. After a tumultuous period of conflict between devotion to her father and passion for convent life, she entered a Carmelite order near Avila. She was drawn more and more into an intensely introspective practice, and began to have visions and communications from God. She came to be guided by various Jesuit priests, who encouraged her in her desire for a much more austere religious life. She reformed the Carmelites, who had acquired a reputation for being more social than spiritual. She pursued complete vulnerability to her God, which led to ecstatic religious experience; this spiritual wreaking of the body in joy almost perfectly mirrors the depravations of the body and lack of social intercourse part and parcel of the new Carmelite practice. In the end, the experience is a completely personal encounter with the Divine, akin in spirit to the personally ambitious entrepreneurship of the capitalist explorers of the new world. San Juan de la Cruz Born into the generation of Cervantes and Shakespeare, another Spanish mystic and younger friend to St. Teresa, Juan de la Cruz, furthered the ideas of Ignatius and Teresa. His spiritual practices made an assault on the world of the divine Trinity by aggressive exploration of the processes of the mind, especially the imagination, much as explorers, Popes, and bankers were exploiting politics and technology to expand their world. Juan helped Teresa establish Carmelite convents, and worked to distribute the ideas of experiential devotion to the greater Church. Brothers in his order imprisoned him for more than year in 1578 for his radical ideas, confining him in a tiny cell with a ceiling so low that he could not stand up during the entirety of his sentence. He mentally composed many of his most famous spiritual poetry during his imprisonment, including “The Dark Night of the Soul”, in which he described the experience of encountering God most intimately only after the soul is totally stripped and disoriented. This, again, parallels the great sacrifices other “explorers” were making in order to experience glory.


Italian Architecture and Sculpture Renovations to St Peter’s Basilica, 1607-57. Shortly after beginning his papal reign in 1605 the first of the great art patrons of the Italian Baroque Church, the Borgese Pope Paul V, commissioned Carlo Maderno to commence elaborations of the home of the Bishop of Rome. The renovations included an elongation of the nave as well as a new façade. Moderno’s embellishments added grandeur and drama, echoing the aggressive spatial dynamics of the Church of Il Jesu. After his death in 1629, he was succeeded by his peer and partner on the project, Bernini. Gianlorenzo Bernini. 1598-1680. Born in Naples, Bernini received early training in sculpture from father, who also encouraged him to sketch the Vatican collection of marbles, which by this time included the “Laocoon and his Sons.” Although he considered himself a respectful student of the art of the Renaissance, Gianlorenzo lent all his projects a distinct and innovative sensibility of dynamic, explosive, and curvinlear movement. He mastered the skills, techniques and ideas initiated by the innovations of the great Renaissance artists preceding him, carrying them into another realm of drama and majesty. He managed a large studio of apprentices, assistants, and journeymen, which enabled him to fill the city of Rome with an impressive number of masterworks. Baldacchino. 1624-33. When challenged by the new Pope Urban VIII to create a dramatic focal point in the new vast space of the basilica, Bernini accented the high altar with his famed canopy over the altar at the crossing of the longer nave, effectively dominating the space creating by the enveloping architecture. Its twisted columns represent the vine of the Eucharist wine climbing the pillars of the Temple of Solomon, and the cumulative effect of the ornate composite capitals, canopy, and crown topped by the orb of the universe represents the triumph of the Baroque Church. Bronze for the massive decorative structure was scavenged from the roof of the Pantheon. The Chair of Peter. 1657-1666. This immense throne houses a relic of St. Peter’s legendary original wooden chair, illustrating the Counter Reformation interest in fortifying the legitimacy of the Papacy. The sculptural backdrop of surging clouds, floating cardinals and golden rays of solid light link the seat of the Pope to a dizzying cascade of radiant energy, pulling the viewer upwards with gentle, metaphysical power. Piazza 1656-57. Typical of Baroque urban design the building aggressively spills out into the city, imposing the grand order of its colonnades into the chaos of Rome; it also represents the Mother Church embracing the world in her two great arms, with the whole complex forming a sort of huge scepter. David 1623. This self-portait of Bernini, captured as he sketched his contorted face in the mirror, explodes into the measured space of the Galleria Borghese, commissioned by a nephew of Paul V. His young hero neither indulges in a victory-induced torpor as did Donatello’s, nor stands gracefully and confidently as in Michelangelo’s contropposto David, but winds himself up taught as a spring, daring us to share in his raw energy. Bernini spares no device in getting the point across; from the spiraling gesture of the


body, to the exhibitionistic ripple of muscle against bone, his David expresses shameless ambition. Apollo and Daphne, 1622-24. Adding tenderness and sensuality to his usual repertoire of dynamism, Bernini renders the Greek tale of the commonality of the desperation of the pursued and the pursuer in sweeping arcs and lilting, incomplete forms. In the myth, Aphrodite becomes infuriated with Apollo’s infatuation with the mortal girl Daphne, and makes him repellant to her. She flees his advances as best she can, but, being only mortal, she is doomed to fail. Both Apollo and Daphne are granted relief from a compassionate Zeus; spared from ravishment, she is turned into a laurel tree. The humbled god gives homage to her by wearing a crown of leaves from the immortal tree. The message, perhaps that opposing passions can only be reconciled in the realm of the gods, is given form by Bernini at the most fleeting of moments, when both are astonished at the transformation. As in the David, we see the invisible moment of dynamic transition, the highly charged moment between opposites. The Ecstasy of St Theresa of Avila, 1645-52. In the midst of his dense Vatican renovation schedule, Bernini was able to design perhaps the prototypical Baroque image for the funerary chapel of Cardinal Frederico Cornaro in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. The Spanish mystic St. Theresa is known, like her friend and contemporary St. Juan de la Cruz, for encouraging the pursuit of a direct, ecstatic union with God. She reformed convents within the Carmelite order, preaching a return to austerity, simplicity, and detachment from the things of this world order to attain intimacy with the divine. She sought a personal “nakedness of the soul” to God, a kind of total submission and vulnerability. We feel the acquiescence to divine love in this depiction of her ecstatic vision. Her naked soul is pierced lovingly by the sensual angel, with her rapturous face and delicate hands and feet swaddled in an ocean of ruffled fabric. This ideal, to be rapt in an emotional experience of God, is the goal of Baroque religious art and the preoccupation of society; artistic expression of the period sought to possess such fleeting moments. Fransesco Borromini, Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Rome, 1638-67. Borromini, nephew of Maderno, used a radical new organic approach to architectural composition, allowing the interior shapes (extravagant ellipses) to determine the shape of the exterior. Filled with extravagant drama, the deeply punctuated façade, dissolves into illusionistic space, with large classical masses floating almost free of the structure. Much like the screened walls of a Gothic cathedral, the walls of San Carlo exist only to deny their existence. The architecture becomes like the clouded “dark night of the soul”, seducing and disorienting the viewers’ senses into the interior of the church, where one may attain an enclosed, womb-like sense of order, an eye within the Baroque storm. Painting in Italy Around 1590, painting in Italy began to go through a revolution as distinct from the prevailing mannerist style as mannerism was from the canon of the High Renaissance.


It was marked by a revived interest in the emulation of nature in art (di natura in opposition to di maniera) and of understandable, emotionally direct, and thematically coherent narrative. For some artists, this meant devotion to the academic approach of the Carracci academy, which emphasized copying of masterworks and facility with complex narrative and figural composition, for some it meant devotion to unflinching realism, for others it entailed painting that aroused empathetic emotion in the audience. Some of the first great patrons of the new style, the Roman Farnese family, were also supporters of the new spectacle of the theatre. Their palace in Rome included the famed gallery with ceiling paintings by Annibale Carracci, and the ducal palace in Parma housed the Teatro Farnese, designed by Giambattista Aleotti, which included the first continuous proscenium opening used in a permanent theater. Annnibale Carracci, Farnese Ceiling, main gallery frescoes, 1597-1601. The most prominent of the Carracci family painters, Annibale is also though of as one of the greatest exponents of a breakthrough into a new movement towards Anti-Mannerism. His absolute mastery of drawing, classical mythology, and illusionistic devices are fully in evidence in the greatest ceiling painting since Michelangelo’s Sistine frescoes. These frescoes celebrate the Greek god of the theater, Dionysus, and his love for the mortal Ariadne in honor of the wedding of the Duke Ranuccio of Parma, a great lover of theater. The paintings celebrate illusion and theatricality in their seemingly infinite tropes of visual subterfuge and flirtation. The powerful Cardinal Allessandro Farnese commissioned the Rome Palace, as well as the great Jesuit church Il Gesu; it could be said that the Cardinal was a great master of cultural theater. The central image of Bacchus rescuing Ariadne is as well an artistic statement, opting for clarity of conception and form over the excessive sentimentality of much late Mannerist painting. Guido Reni, Aurora, 1613-14. Reni can also be considered working in the AntiMannerist style, seeking harmony and grace in his delicate images. He created this piece in a garden house in a Roman palace, exists compositionally by itself in the ceiling, exhibits profoundly graceful, limpid, and elegant movement, with figures and spaces in complete harmony. Pietro da Cortona, Triumph of the Barberini, 1633-39, in the Barberini Palace, is a truly Baroque painting, reveling in restless, overwhelming movement, deep, dizzying space, and grandiloquent conflagrations of pagan images, Christian stories, and contemporary political propaganda. A diadem of is brought through the gushing crowd of celebrants to honor the bees framed by a laurel garland, symbols of the Barberini family. Giovanni Battista Gualli, Triumph of the Name of Jesus, 1676-79 a potent mix of painting, architecture, and sculpture, explodes through the roof of Vignola’s Church of Il Gesu, pushing and pulling the viewer’s emotions and perceptions. Gaulli’s ceiling is a documented case of a new entrepreneurial spirit in art. In an effort to position himself beneficially for future commissions from the new order of preachers, the artist volunteered to undertake the huge project with no commitment of reimbursement. Completed by the artist at his own expense, the only records of payment extant are the paid invoices for the scaffolding. Ironically, the patron of Il Gesu, Cardinal Farnese, was


one of the wealthiest men in Italy. In this overwhelming work, it is difficult to tell when architecture, painting, and sculpture begin and end; perceptual reality itself is overcome by the activity of the Jesuits’glorification of the Name of Jesus. Michaelangelo (Merisi) di Caravaggio, 1571-1610. Caravaggio brought the Lombard style from his hometown to Rome; the ability to paint still-life in great detail, which he learned in his native Lomabardy, earned him a place in the studio of the Cavaliere d’Arpino as a painter of fruits and vegetables. He soon began to attract attention, both positive and negative, in his radical new manner of tenebrism, painting from a dark ground, relying on dramatic impact of volumes rather than the dominant use of delicately graded values and natural lighting. The intense physicality of his painting would seem to echo that of his life. He skirted respectable society evidently throughout his life, preferring the underworld of gambling houses and bordellos to the Salon. Speculation abounds in regard to his sexuality in response to the very sensual renditions of boys, and alleged self-portrait as a rather lurid Bacchus. Eventually he was fled Rome in 1606 after he murdered a man in a gambling dispute, and lived the remainder of his life on the run. In spite of this, he accomplished commissions Naples and Malta before he ran afoul of the Knights of Malta and was grievously injured by agents of the offended Knight. His style was wildly popular internationally, with artists in Spain, France, and the Netherlands emulating the intense humanism embodied in his dramatic compositions. The Calling of St Matthew, 1599-1602. His first major commission sets the spiritual event in a seedy bar, with Matthew sitting among other gaudily dressed tax collectors, gangsters and lowlife. The setting is stark and dirty, and all light comes from one source, Christ. He gestures to an incredulous Matthew, that, yes, he is being called. Through its relentless realism, the painting calls into question the relationship of the now almost ubiquitous wealth of the global era of the Baroque, and its handmaiden, the Church of Rome. Conversion on the Way to Damascus 1600. Caravaggio confronts us with experience rather than narrative, with the calm physical presence of St. Paul’s horse apparently transcending the conversion of Saul. On the road to Damascus, where he intended to continue persecuting the followers of Jesus, he is thrown from his horse by a blinding light, which here fills the scene like radiance from an unseen campfire. While the saint basks in his enlightenment, the gentle, weathered face of the groom attends patiently to the horse’s distress, uninterested in the arrogant soldier on the ground. The artist illustrates both the pain and grace of the physical world in his intensely realistic approach to the life of common folk. Death of the Virgin, 1605. When commissioned by the Duke of Mantua to depict the scene of the end of the earthly existence of the Virgin Mary, he confronted convention and doctrine openly and directly. As was his habit, he hired local people of the street to model, and, when unable to find the right Virgin Mary, he took the opportunity of a prostitute’ drowning death as to use a dead female body as a model. Doctrine, as generally accepted, portrayed the faultless Virgin as not actually dying, but simply going to sleep and being assumed into heaven without corruption. Caravaggio’s Virgin is


clearly dead, with the body still slightly bloated and vacant of color, rendered as freshly pulled from the river. The duke took offence, and rejected the painting. The real subject of the scene, however, is the sincere mourning of the lowest on the ladder of society, grieving over the loss of one of their own. No clear transcendence reigns, with darkness threatening to envelop all. Hope lies only the in the recognition of our own suffering in the tarnished faces of the victims of culture. Bacchus, 1595. Caravaggio seemed to relate to the image of Bacchus, the reveler, but moreover, the magician of reality who takes the celebrant into another realm; the painter would seem to depict himself here, as both saint and sinner. Artemesia Gentelescchi, 1593-1652. One of Caravaggio’s most notable followers in Italy, Orazio Gentelescchi, brought his gifted daughter, Artemesia, into the competitive world of Italian Baroque paining. Active in Naples, London, and Florence, her professional progress was evidently influenced by a sexual assault by one of his father’s contemporaries. He was protected by the guild system, and frustrated any attempts made by her or her father at justice. She continued to produce paintings of great power and intensity, and it is postulated that her fascination with the story of the Jewish Heroine Judith evolved out of her experience. She became a resident of Florence and a member of the academy, and gained the respect of her colleagues in the male dominated Florentine art world. Judith and Holifernes, 1615. Although not the first to take up the story of Judith, she lends an unprecedented quality of truth to the rendition of women to her paintings. As with the story of David, Judith was used as a symbol of Florence and her ability to dominate larger cities through intelligence, cunning, and valor. In the story, the Jewish army faces immanent defeat at the hands of the ruthless Assyrians, led by the brute Holifernes. Judith’s fame as a remarkable beauty infiltrated the camp of Holifernes, and he expressed desire for her, offering to make a deal in exchange for her favors. She feigns acceptance, and visits the general with her maidservant in tow. When Holifernes is good and drunk, she ends the tête-à-tête by slicing off his head. Using tenebrism to evoke the intimacy of lamplight within a tent, Artemesia presents Judith doing the deed with aloof dignity, mildly disgusted by the dirty thing, but tending to her duty faithfully, the calm efficiency of the mistress in her kitchen. A narrative that often degenerated into sadoeroticism in the hands of lesser artists becomes mythic and riveting in her versions. La Pittura, 1638. In this forthright self portrait, she wears a golden chain, a symbol of her solidarity with her father, turning her attention with élan and energy to the work at hand. She addresses us as an equal, elevating the status of her vocation in the elevation of her painting hand, and by the face on the end of the chain, a symbol of representation. She vindicates her relationship with both her work and her father in her depiction of her evident sheer joy in creation.


The Baroque in France Ruling over one of the oldest kingdoms in Europe, the kings of the Ile-de-France had for over a thousand years controlled one of the most significant regions of the continent. Religious civil war dominated France during the tumultuous early Baroque era between 1562 and 1629. The alignment of the ambitious Cardinal Richeleau with Louis XIII, and later his famous son, Louis XIV, abetted the expulsion of the Hapsburgs during the thirty years war, and began the ascent of the Bourbon dynasty. The growth of the French Court under Louis XIII was funded in large part through the innovative and finally burdensome practice of venality---the sale and manipulation of royal offices---a practice which also underwrote the expensive wars being undertaken to gird and expand the hegemony of the French monarchy. In 1648, after the Regent Queen Anne of Austria and the reviled Cardinal Mazarin attempted yet another blackmail of the officers of the judiciary, the royal party, along with the infant king Louis XIV, were driven from Paris in a revolt that came to be known as the Fronde. The civil disruption lasted for five years. After Louis XIV came into his legitimate power in 1651, he was able to absorb the controversial Mazarin into his service as an official royal adviser, and fears of a foreign usurping of the crown subsided, along the alacrity for the regent queen’s policies. The new king began a series of programs designed at consolidating, stabilizing and expanding French royal power. The French monarchy had endured a number of religious civil wars, royal assassinations, and popular uprisings until the dawning of the Bourbon dynasty. Their massive court came to be centered at Versailles, insulating the visiting office holders from their local interests, flattering them by their inclusion in the elaborate rituals and entertainment of the Bourbon cosmos. Local outdoor celebrations, over which the various regional dignitaries normally presided in their home precincts, slowly became replaced for the office holders by the theatrical life of Versailles. Cardinal Mazarin succeeding in the artistic and diplomatic coup of luring the Italian master of Baroque theatrical spectacle Giacomo Torelli away from his position at the great Teatro Novissimo in Venice; he came to be officially commissioned to redesign the Richeleau Theatre in 1645, but was involved intimately in the general dramatization of the French Court. Mazarin’s obsessive ambition to stage the massive “Andromeda” was fulfilled with Torelli’s help; the production was realized with an unprecedented five acts, with full scenery for each. A new genre of painting evolved, the Fete Galante, which commemorated the outdoor festivities taking place in the elaborate formal gardens, and in the elaborately decorated Salons in the palace. France began to lure great artists and craftsmen from all over Europe to dramatize the life of the Bourbons, including masters of the new craft of the flat mirror who were brought in from Venice to help create the Le Brun’s great Hall of Mirrors. The court of Versailles was fascinated in large part by the seductive glamour of its activity of amassing and manipulation of the power of the nation within its sensually intoxicating environment of art and architecture. After Louis XIV’s death in 1715, his regent, Phillip d’Orleans moved the court to Paris, only to have Louis XV move the royal residence back to Versailles. The center of culture, however, began to take root in Paris again, with newly wealthy merchants gaining political power over the nobility in the urban culture of Paris.


The heady atmosphere of lust and influence present in the court came to be expressed most poignantly in the eroticism of what came to be known as Le Monde. In what we might think of as “High Society,” Nobles, Office Holders, Bourgeoisie, and other French men of power mingled and networked, and increasingly were expected to engage in such luxuries as extramarital affairs; proving their prowess as lovers was seen as an appropriate evidence of their power as leaders. Aristocratic French women possessed a high degree of freedom in the society of Libertinism, though their access to power and prestige through an auspicious affair was not equal to that of their male counterparts. In the ever-shifting and complex matrix of political power during the heyday of the Bourbons, these affairs may be categorized as temporary alignments of power that supplant the fortuitous marriage. More seductions of the head than the heart, such fleeting liaisons provided cement for politically advantageous situations of the moment, subject to change as the winds of power changed. The Bourbon dynasty aspired to make the culture of Paris dominant over the whole of France, to impose a grand order centered in Versailles, with cultural power radiating out from this epicenter much like the vast formal gardens surrounding the palace. At the beginning of the seventeenth century a small percentage of the population occupying the geography dominated by the Royalty actually spoke what came to be the French language. Louis XIV regulated and codified the language via the French Royal Academy founded by Richeleau, a brilliant strategy for the solidification of his power. Every area of enterprise became centralized, with Jean Baptiste Colbert, the Sun King’s minister, establishing the Royal Academy of Sciences as an effort to control industry and its innovations to the benefit primarily of the crown. The Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture was established in 1648, ruled with an iron hand by Colbert. The economy underwent massive change, in order to both stabilize the flow of goods, and to bring the growing middle class, the Petit Bourgeoisie, firmly under the royal thumb. France went from a heavily traditional agricultural economy, to a Mercantile system; the guiding principle of this more modern economy was that a nation needed to depend on its supply of precious metals, such as gold, for its stability, and that trade should be focused on the acquisition of greater stores of the precious stuff. France, as other great Baroque empires, began to rely more and more on exports. Cloth was an important French product, and a wide variety of experiments in technology and labor were undertaken in efforts to make the enterprise more profitable. Technology for the modernization of manufacturing of trade goods advanced faster than that used in agriculture, making France subject still to periodic food shortage and famine. Palace of Versailles, Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, 1668-85. The commanding palace looms as an archetypal product of the philosophies of the Royal academy, founded in 1671. Louis XIV enlarged a chateau built by Louis XIII at nearby Versailles, to create the palace, which can be thought of as the world’s first suburban mall; the Sun King spawned a self sustaining enclave of power, money, and entertainment away from the political interests of Paris. Le Vau and Mansart relied heavily on Vitruvius, Palladio, and Vignola for the classical style of the complex. Hall of Mirrors, Charles Le Brun, 1678. The great architect enclosed an open gallery, adding ceiling paintings and panels of mirror to give the impression of great space,


glorifying the reign of Louis XIV. The deployment of such an indulgent quantity of very expensive flat mirrors demonstrated the massive disposable wealth of the court, and give evidence of a coup over the crown of rival Italy’s famous port city of Venice. The titillating environment of the Hall must have contributed greatly to the vanity of the libertine aura of Le Monde, with all the players in simultaneous seductions observing themselves and one another in dramatic counterpoint. Hyacinthe Rigaud, Portrait of Louis XIV, 1701. This infamous portrait of the apparently vain King illustrates much more than simply idle extravagance. The considerable theatricality of the French Royalty here is yoked inextricably to the submission of the courtiers. What is not pictured is as important as what is; the viewer is put into the role of one of the venial office holders in residence as part of the ritual of “The Dressing of the King”, which could be attended by as many as forty admirers and witnesses. He takes on clothing symbolic of all the regions of France, over which he holds sway, as we sit by passively. He displays not only his shapely legs, but the glamorous stockings producing by the silk workshops of Lyon. The town of Lyon, for example, flourished under his reign, with the silk industry employing more than 60,000 people, and often hosted rich celebrations and banquets in honor of frequently visiting royalty. Claude Gelee (known as Claude Lorrain). 1600-1682. After studying under a painter of harbor scenes in Rome in 1613, Claude came to specialize in idyllic, nostalgic landscapes. He made a great number of sketches of the Tuscan landscape, which he used in his studio, often in composites of several sites, to evoke the mood and atmosphere he desired. The grandeur of Ancient Rome presents itself in different times of day, illustrating the passing of time and the presence of history by the use of architectural and arboreal compositional barriers. He worked a great deal for Pope Urban VIII, creating vast, melancholy, and ravishing views of nature, with human subjects dwarfed by the enormity of their situation. Even architecture is threatened, by overgrown or simply scale, by the presence of vast forces. History itself seems a mysterious and nostalgic pursuit, with as much obscured by observation as revealed by it. Landscape with Shepherds, 1625. Often Claude’s work is more of an evocation than a precise narrative enactment; the Roman’s own tendency to romanticize their origins as simple people of the land is given heady nostalgia here, with the decaying Temple lost almost lost in the forest, only perhaps maintaining identity by the discussion of the seated shepherds. Landscape with Hagar and the Angel, 1646-47, the story of the wife of Abraham, Hagar, who, compelled by the jealousy of Sarah, was forced by Abraham into exile in the Mecca Desert with her newborn son, Ishmael, who would be the ancestor of the Arab peoples. With the help of an angel they were saved from death by dehydration by the finding of the well of Zemzen around which the city of Mecca was later built. The artist takes poetic license by placing the subject in a Roman setting, next to a body of water, rather than a well.


Georges de La Tour, 1593-1652. The greatest practitioner of the style of Caravaggio in France, de La Tour, was appointed as one of the Court Painters of Louis XIII in 1639. From his home in Lorraine, he completed many significant commissions in his signature style, creating intimacy, realism, and idealized form all at once. The humanism of his work was overshadowed by the official style practiced by the members of the Royal Academy established by Colbert. Magdalen with the Smoking Flame, 1640. Caught in a moment of mediation, Mary Magdalen seems to share a revelation with the viewer, indicated by the wideness of her open eyes, and slightly parted lips. The smoke from the flame evokes both a precise moment and the volatility of that moment: it will be gone as soon as it comes. Splitting into two as it rises, the smoke represents as well the duality of human nature as opposed to the unity of the light, of God. The softness of her exposed shoulder---apparently we’ve caught her in the process of undressing---is contrasted by the human skull on her lap, and the flog sitting on her table. Scriptures and the whip rest on a wooden cross, which are the closest forms in the picture to the light, and the rope about her waist indicates her state of penitence. In cinematic Baroque style, we witness a breathless moment between emotional states. It appears that Mary is preparing to flog her exposed flesh, to make the change in state from sinner to saved through extraordinary means of penance. The Cheater or The Card Sharp, 1620-40. Like Caravaggio, La Tour also dramatized life on the streets, examining some of the less respectable avenues of society. Here a wealthy lady gets hustled, no less by the servant girl as by the boy exposing his trick to the viewer. Nicolas Poussin, 1594-1665. Arriving in Rome in 1624, Poussin assisted Italian masters and became steeped in the grand Italian style, but departed from its manner in his own work. Although he found no favor in his work on Church commissions, he soon became popular with private collectors and connoisseurs. Later in the seventeenth century his work and writings on art became the standard for painting in the Academy; he is often considered its first president. He established a hierarchy in art, placing historical experience above personal experience, and emphasized the importance of sculptural quality in painting over color or atmosphere. The severe sobriety of his painting reflects the rigidity of class and social role promulgated by the Bourbon monarchy. As an artist, Poussin was concerned first and foremost with stability and clarity, and the continuity of tradition. As a political statement, however, his work constitutes another example of France’s efforts at stealing the thunder of Italy, by magically merging classical wisdom of Greece and Rome with contemporary France. Rape of the Sabines, 1633-34. Some of the sculptural harness of his figures can be attributed to his practice of molding highly detailed wax figures as models for his paintings, searching for some kind of immutable, archaeological truth in his rummaging of the ancient world. The actors in the legendary founding of Rome flail about in an impressive variety of actions and gestures while remaining strangely static. The king of Sabine sits above it all, aloof, seemingly only interested in matters higher than the suffering of his subjects. Given that France was in the throes of almost constant class,


civil, and religious war during this era, we could interpret this painting as a tribute to stoic devotion to duty during the violence necessary to achieve lasting cultural hegemony. Landscape with Diogenes, 1640. Like Claude, Poussin found fascination in the ancient landscape of Rome, but, unlike his contemporary, always had pedantic aims. In this painting, the great Greek Cynic philosopher, who had so little social pretense that he was content to live in a barrel, is known best for his snub of Alexander the Great. When the mighty emperor stood over Diogenes, who was resting in his barrel, and graciously offered to grant him a favor, all that the Cynic asked for was that Alexander move out of his light. Poussin places Diogenes in a lush, untamed landscape, teaching a young follower to scavenge all the acorns they have spilled. The shaded arbor shields them from the harsh, sharp-edged perfection of the city in the distance. The painter celebrates the clarity and economy of the no-nonsense Greek’s approach to life, seeking to emulate it as an artist. Holy Family on the Steps, 1648. Painted at the height of his style, this work aspires not to a realistic rendition of a plausible, even in a contemporary sense, setting. The assemblage of elements attempts to capture human perfection. The viewer is situated a low point of view, gazing up at an unreachable, heavenly scenario, where each detail possesses the clarity of precision, rather than the movement of life. The two families form a stable triangle, with the apex of the heads of Mary and Jesus leading the eye up over the barrier of the “steps”, which are the path to enlightenment. Mary seems to be trying to prevent the infant Jesus from the apple being offered by John the Baptist; with the form of his mother Elizabeth echoing and supporting that of her son. Uninvolved, Joseph seems rapt in calculation, but we would have to step over him to achieve heaven without addressing the central group. The world’s valuables lie at the level below the holy actors, except for a jar of oil under Mary’s left foot. In this superficially quiet and pious painting, complex subterfuges await the viewer, with a variety of possible interpretations. Antoine Le Nain, Peasant Meal, 1642. The three brothers, Antoine, Louis, and Mathieu, all signed their paintings simply “Le Nain,” and shared a fascination with memorializing the downtrodden and common people of seventeenth century France. In spite of their humble circumstances, the subjects all exhibit dignity, forbearance and pride, presenting themselves with an almost royal detachment; they are in no way begging. Scientific Thought in the Baroque Johannes Kepler Assisting the Royal Astronomer Tycho Brahe in Benatky Castle outside Prague, Kepler picked up where the great observer left off at his death. His painstaking records of planetary movements, based on ideas and methods derived from the work of Copernicus and Brahe, led him to the inescapable conclusion that the orbit of Mars must be elliptical. He improved his calculations of the orbits of planets by refining the measuring system of barrels of wine used in shipping, improving both science and international trade.


Galileo Galilei Galileo took up residency in 1591 as Professor of Mathematics at Padua University, a hotbed of controversial scholarship and publishing since the arrival of moveable type in nearby Venice. His father failed in the volatile textile market, leaving the son with less money but more freedom to seek his success in other businesses. The younger Galilei was interested most in solving the problem raised by Tycho Brahe: if there were no crystalline spheres, then why didn’t the stars and planets fall down from the heavens? His most lasting contribution to science was that he posited the radical idea that the forces that govern motion on earth and in the heavens were exactly the same. This idea, which perhaps more than anything else caused his trouble with Church fathers, was assertively described in his infamous The Dialogue on the Two Chief Systems of the World. He shared the status of scientific heresy with others, especially the mystic Giordano Bruno, who stated openly his belief that the universe was infinite. He was burned at the stake for “practicing magic.” Rene Descartes By 1658 all of the Dutch provinces and cities were recognized by Spain and the Vatican as a sovereign entity, and were freed from the rigid control of the Church. Holland came to encourage individual liberty, with each person pursuing their own interests without interference from church or state. This attitude encouraged innovation in a variety of areas, allowing the Dutch to flourish in science and business, and for scholars and artists to explore concepts forbidden in Catholic counties. Descartes found refuge from persecution in his native France in Holland, where his revolutionary book The Discourse on Method revolutionized intellectual discourse in Europe. In his Method, he exhorts the reader to consider that all things in the world were to be doubted, and at the same time that all things could be known. Mathematics, scripture, even the senses were not to be trusted, since all things are susceptible to false perception; only thought itself was certain. “Cogito, ergo sum” declares that only thought proves one’s existence, and that all things need to doubted until such proof is uncovered. He saw the mind as a kind of theatre, which the individual needs to observe and analyze to understand exactly what is “going on.” The modern notion that the mind has a reality separate from the cosmos grew from Descartes work. His critical method led to innovation in science and mathematics: he created the x/y axis graph when he observed a fly during a conversation with colleague Mersenne, and realized that he could plot the fly’s position at any time by the intersection of two lines at right angles. This invention greatly reduced the laborious computations used by Brahe and Kepler, and radically altered European thought on a number of fronts. Isaac Newton The desire to find the universe as a rationally functioning machine was made most clearly manifest in England by Newton. He pursued the question of “How?” rather than “Why?,” inventing a system of calculus to understand the complex matrix of forces at work in his predecessors’ theories. He refined the casting of the prism, the first person to break light


into a series of eight colors. We consider there to be only seven colors in visible light; Newton interpolated an eighth between blue and violet, “indigo”, in concert with the eight notes in the major musical scale. His belief in the possibility of a unified theory explaining all things in the universe overrode the ideal of perfect critical thought.

Flemish Baroque Flanders, unlike its sister Holland, remained under the political dominion of Spain during the Baroque, except for a brief period between 1598-1621 under the Hapsburg dynasty. Tied both economically and religiously to Spain, Flanders was similarly fertile ground for grandiose art celebrating the Church and monarchy, combining an Italian sense of grandeur with the emotional immediacy of Spanish art. Flemish culture shared a great deal with France as well, in politics, trade, and culture. Peter Paul Rubens, 1577-1640. The first of the great Netherlandish painters under the restored Spanish Catholic regime, Rubens was a citizen of the world. He traveled in Italy extensively, and was appointed to the court of the Duke of Mantua, which paved the way for his future diplomatic and artistic careers. The versatile artist had a lively and rich life, relishing his activities in his large studio, in foreign courts, and with his family all evidently equally. He was able to unite a closely observed realism with a sense of sheer physical pleasure and presence in the service of grand ideas and themes. Netherlandish culture took pride in their ability to secure the necessities of life in abundance, and enjoyed a high standard of living. The famous voluptuous curves of his female figures testify to this joy of abundance as much to the symbolism of wealth embedded in it. existence. Raising of the Cross 1610-11. This overpowering triptych’s composition does not sit politely within each respective panel, it flows from one to another as if the divisions do not exist at all. Rubens organizes explosive forms of flesh over a taught, precise geometric grid, adding to the tension and pathos of the moment. The restless and aggressive anatomy of Christ seems about to catapult into the lap of the viewer. Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, 1619. One would be hard pressed to find a starker contrast to the painting of the same subject by Poussin as the explosive, large scale-inevery-way counterpart by Rubens. The youthful softness of the girls is stretched taut over an implied diagonal line between them, as the soldiers coolly and rather smugly observe their spoils. The horses, symbols of aggressive, sexual power, are held in check by small cupids, perhaps telling us that this is actually a scene of love of some sort. It can also be read as a portrayal of national ambition, with the Baroque masters of commerce taking what they will from the world. Presentation of the Portrait of Marie de Medici, 1621-25. Commissioned as part of the celebration of the marriage of Henry IV of France’s marriage to Marie de Medici, this important painting in the cycle commemorates the moment that Henry falls in love with


her portrait. The group of large paintings flatter the otherwise unremarkable woman, in a number of ways, often as a goddess. It is a great political painting, marking the important intimate alliance of France with Italy after a long period of instability in the late Renaissance. The Three Graces, 1638-40. Faith, Hope, and Charity are isolated for our viewing as a message of temperance from the wealthy Rubens; without the morality of these virtues, their richness and beauty are in vain. Anthony Van Dyck, 1599-1641. One of the few of Rubens’ students to succeed in creating a stylle of his own in Rubens’ long shadow, Van Dyck’s technical skill allowed him to experiment with his strongest genre, portraiture. Charles I at the Hunt, 1635. This famous product of Van Dyck’s lucrative career as English court painter to Charles I adds a new sense of ease and casual environment to official portraiture. The king looks over his shoulder at us, who have apparently surprised him as he surveys his domain. Charles faces us, but his eyes are focused to our left, in the same direction as the groom tending the royal mount. Perhaps we, as viewers, are put in the position of being at the head of a group, perhaps visiting dignitaries. The viewer must be presumed to be of some importance, but less than that of the king, who would not interrupt his leisure to greet us formally at his house. The painting suggests a new fashion in the expression of power, that of casualness, of ease, while at the same time giving the ruler more personal dimension; he is a person as well as a position. Holland/The United Dutch Republic The wealth of Holland rapidly grew in the seventeenth century as free thinkers from across Catholic Europe took sanctuary in the libertarian atmosphere of the newly liberated Republic. The Dutch West Indies Company was founded to beat the aggressive Portuguese at their own game in the new world, assertively competing for colonial riches. Amsterdam had become the financial center of Europe, making long-term loans that funded the expansion of Europe into the New World. They had also revolutionized shipping itself with their invention of the Dutch fluytschip, making short-haul movement of goods between European capitals economical and convenient. Although it was home to John Calvin, founder of the most austere of the Protestant movements, the attitude of Holland was essentially live-and-let-live. Descartes found himself at home in this milieu, and artists experimented likewise with form, subject, technique, and marketing in order to survive and flourish in this new land of freedom. This freedom, unfortunately, also meant freedom from lucrative church commissions, and painters in particular often had to take on other sources of income to support their liberty. Frans Hals, 1580/85-1666. Hals benefited from the Catholic traditions of Utrecht, and its experiments in Caravaggesque techniques, in his adventurous approach to portraiture. Hals added a completely unprecedented sense of life to his subjects, with his flying brushmarks completely visible, animating the surface. Even when confronting the


starchiest of sitters, Halls finds a way, with composition, technique, or pose, to make it clear to the viewer that these are living, breathing human beings. Christina Hooft and Her Nurse, 1620. Hals manages to capture fleeting expression and lifelike demeanor in a spontaneous moment of human interaction between the young girl and her nurse. The child, in her resplendent gold dress and stiff collar, is still a child, and we can easily imagine her running off and making a mess of her formal attire at play at any moment. Young Man and Woman at Inn, 1628. Paintings of goings-on at inns became more and more frequent, in part due to an increased interest in depictions of everyday life, genre paintings, and in large part to artists’ need of supplemental income in the new secular economy. It was not unusual for artists to run bed and breakfast inns as a means to pay the rent and make ends meet between sales and portrait commissions. Here Hals captures a jovial couple who seems to have just met at the bar; the eager dog represents not fidelity, but a casual, convivial affection between the two. Full of joi de vivre, they seem to embody the seventeenth century Dutch experience of pure pleasure in good food, good drink, and good company, as well as freedom of association between men and women in an informal setting.

Judith Leyster, Self Portrait 1635. Influenced by the Utrecht school, Leyster excelled in the common trope of conveying moral messages through images of daily life. She achieved sufficient prominences to become a member of the Haarlem artists’ guild of Saint Luke, and competed with Frans Hals for commissions and sales. Confident, relaxed, and self-sufficient, she exemplifies the modern Dutch woman, with, interestingly, the male violinist (her muse?) in a subservient role; she is maestro in her studio. Rembrandt Van Rijn, 1606-69. Originally trained and apprenticed in his native Leiden, Rembrandt eventually settled into a highly successful career in Amsterdam, fetching high prices, especially for his portraiture. He became the primary competition to Rubens in the Netherlands for the patronage of Prince Fredrick Henry, and dominated Dutch art of the period. He experimented a great deal with technique, building up thick layers of oil paint in impasto over soft, luminous glazes, rubbing the surface with a rag or even applying paint with his fingers to achieve the right effect. Rembrandt’s acumen in drawing out a deeply human core in his subjects, registering their pleasure, pain, and life experience in with a compassionate hand would seem to be unsurpassed to this day. With money, however, his hand was less talented. Spending his considerable commissions before they could collect dust in his drawer, he bought and furnished a large townhouse lavishly at the height of his powers, only to go bankrupt while still a popular painter. He died in a small rented room in 1669, without the material success of the most popular painter in Holland. Captain Frans Banning Cocq Mustering His Company (The Night Watch), 1642. Fraternities of local merchants and leaders came to replace the confraternities of Catholic Europe, greasing the wheels of business and politics. These clubs in Holland were


originally formed for community defense, but soon turned to their more central role as social assemblies necessary for the managing of power. Patronage of these groups was one of the most stable forms of income for painter, with the members desiring documentation of both their membership and the noble aims of the club. Rembrandt turns the often tedious fraternity portrait into a dynamic, almost mythological event. Composing the characters in the drama first with regard to compositional interest and not standing in the club, the painter received some initial disapproval for the final piece. The soldiers brandish largely symbolic weapons in largely symbolic armor, and appear to be guarding mysterious mythological figures in the center of the room bathed in golden light. The girl would seem to be angelic, though she has a chicken attached to her belt, and she frolics with a boy (?) decorated by a laurel wreath and a horn. Dogs and other children flit between the legs of the self-important soldiers as well, pointing out that this really is a community, not a military, organization. The accessory figures surely carry symbolic weight that perhaps only fraternity members understood. Supper at Emmaus, 1648. Evidently profoundly affected by the new human tenderness professed by some Protestant sects, Rembrandt often created very personal works of faith. The setting is humble, with each person bathed in the same light as Christ, his surprising appearance as a glorified, resurrected being gently revealed to the apostles. His friends had met him on the road, going home for the evening meal, and were unaware of his identity until the bread was broken. Christ’s miraculous revelation descends upon us gently, without intimidation. The Three Crosses, 1663. Printmaking processes became popular and economically viable in Holland, much like they were in Germany, where humanistic learning and the Protestant emphasis on the written word as equal or superior to the image made works on paper a more permanent statement. Rembrandt reveled in combinations of drypoint and etching on metal plates, which suited translation of his painting techniques into a repeatable format. These methods rewarded physical reworking of layers of lines, values, and forms with rich tonal variation and presence. This famous image was printed in more than one state, letting us experience multiple emotional contexts for the same composition. Jesus is depicted poignantly as a common person, part of the larger crowd, almost anonymous in his suffering. Being able to sell multiples of one artwork was also good business in the market economy of Holland, with disposable wealth spread more equally among a wider population of middle class entrepreneurs. The Jewish Bride 1665. Referring to some esteemed biblical couple, Rembrandt’s tender treatment of the couple is a far cry from the stiff formality of the wedding portraits of the Renaissance. This is about two people, not two families or businesses, coming together. The groom gently touches his wife’s breast in a traditional homage to her fertility, and they seem to be aware of each other almost spiritually, their eyes unfocused in the emotion of the moment. Rembrandt was evidently a devoted mate to both his wife Saskia, and his mistress after Saskia’s death, Hendrikje, so perhaps this compelling image commemorates his own sentiments.


Self Portraits, 1640, 1652, 1658, 1669. We don’t know for certain Rembrandt’s rationale for leaving behind such an extensive documentation of his personality at different points in his life---perhaps they were simply practice between commissions---but the power of this series of engrossing insights into his spirit is certain. Sometimes consciously costumed in a role as a burgher or courtier, sometimes as the bohemian artist, he always reveals his state of mind and emotional tenor at that point in his life. We instinctively identify with the traces of optimism, pride, fascination, humor, grief, and enlightenment that live in the creases and corners of his face. He continued painting himself until the year of his death, where he seems to have reconciled the opposites in his life into a kind of serenity. Jacob van Ruisdael, 1628/29-92. Van Ruidsdael, a popular Haarlem landscape master, takes the symbolic idea of the still life vanitas painting, juxtaposing images of life and death next to one another, but using objects and atmospheres of the environment instead of table-top objects. The Jewish Cemetery, 1655-60. In the foreground we city Jewish tombs on a parallel with a broken tree crossing a rushing creek, which in turn seems to lead into the distance to a rainbow emerging from a stormy sky. We are seeing the scene as revealed just after a rainstorm, with the crumbling cathedral near the rainbow and the tombs illuminated in the widening sunlight. The message would seem to be that hope and resurrection exist beyond the institutions of humanity. Johannes Vermeer, 1632-75. Although he was well known by other Dutch artists as a connoisseur of Italian art, Jan Vermeer lived his entire life in Delft, and painted evidently only for patrons in his hometown. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his output was very modest, with only 35-37 paintings known and attributed to him. In his day, he was referred to as just another painter of genre scenes, a member of the local artists’ Guild of Saint Luke, but is hailed in the modern era as one of the most innovative and gifted artists in Western culture. He lived most of his adult life with his wife Catherine Bolnes and her mother, Maria Thins, using the household as his primary subject. His income was derived from helping to run his father’s textile business, trading paintings, and to a lesser extent, sales of his own work. His wife’s family evidently suffered from financial problems, which he tried to alleviate, but was apparently unsuccessful, finally leaving his wife and ten children in bankruptcy after his death. His bereft estate was settled by a friend, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, a maker of microscopes and lenses; van Leeuwenhoek wrote a treatise expounding his belief that matter and light were composed ultimately of “globules.” Vermeer’s paintings seem to break up light into fragments, and the apparent precision of his work can be attributed in large part to the way he seemed to “see” like the camera, in light, not in line. The precursor to the camera, the dark box known as the camera obscura was known to Vermeer, and he likely used it, as his colleagues did, to study the effects of light. The Little Street, 1657-58. An early painting finds Vermeer out in the open light of the street, exploring the relationship between people engaged in everyday activities and their architectural environment. One of his most successful strategies is in evidence here, his


penchant for presenting things in part rather than whole, inviting us to wonder about the unseen portion of the world in front of us. Even in the straightforward pattern and texture of the brick facades, light and shadow appear and disappear, leading us into the painting and out again. Though the human figures themselves are small, the spaces of the street are “about” them, each place within the picture has the potential for human involvement.. View of Delft, 1662. Seventeenth century Delft was a prosperous but an orderly, provincial city, not given to extremes. Cities were commonly memorialized through painted views published with accompanying maps, but Vermeer’s city goes far beyond such pedestrian representation. The city seems compressed, like a jewel catching fragments of light as the sun breaks through the clouds here and there. Ships come and go from its port quietly, almost magically, while the residents on the banks are oblivious, engaged in conversation. The painter creates a unique push-pull between the atmospheric perspective and the glints of light dancing off of even the distant buildings. The city is conscious, beautiful, and unknowable. A Woman Holding a Balance, 1662-64. Woman with a Pearl Necklace, 1664. The basic set-up here, a woman absorbed in common, yet slightly inscrutable activity, is a common Vermeer composition. Precedents abound in Baroque Dutch Genre painting, with figures or groups illuminated through a window on the left of the picture plane, but none have the powerful unity as painted statements as do the master of Delft. Vermeer’s paintings seem to demonstrate the Cartesian “Theatre of the Mind”, where personal thoughts play out in the head like actors in a play; Jan gives us an offstage view, a privileged and private vantage point on an individual human drama. These two paintings, from the same period in his work, address ideas of beauty and fate very differently. In the first, the woman ignores the pearls and other valuables spilling from cases on the table, and considers an empty balance, while Christ balances the saved and damned in the painting behind her. She seems content with the balance in her own life, with her slight smile placing her out of normal time and space, rather like the divine event in the judgment painting. In the second piece, the woman strains to see herself in the mirror as she fastens the ribbon holding the string of pearls around her neck. Pearls were clear evidence of success in overseas trading, as is the fir-edged coat almost covering her pregnant belly. Often Vermeer depicts women alone, waiting for their husbands to return from trading voyages; the active Dutch Trading Company certainly made extensive travel a fact of life for many citizens of Holland. Allegory of Painting, 1666-7. The artist is costumed in colorful antique clothing as he begins painting the girl (she is Clio, allegory of History, and is crowned with fame) by first laying out her glorious laurel leaves. The map of the United Dutch Republic, establishes this painting as an examination of the relation of the artist, history, and the fame he brings to his country. The oil chandelier represents both the passing of time, and relates to Dutch ingenuity in science; the principles of hydraulics and fluid displacement that make the lamp work are the same that makes Dutch boats float. The Lacemaker, 1669-70. The intensity of concentration necessary for lacemaking are directly related to the impressive focus of Vermeer’s painting. Research has shown that


this constitutes a faithful depiction of the contemporary process of lacemaking, perhaps glimpsed in his father’s business. The image is realized through visual details; threads merge in and out of masses, with highlights precisely focused at areas of high relief. In the end, however, we do not see the lace being made, for Vermeer has shown us that the real miracle is the act of making itself. Rachel Ruysch, Flower Still Life, 1700. One of the highest paid still-life painters in Holland, Ruysch gives us a wonderful example of a“natural science” depiction of nature; the flowers painted here were both assiduously studied and sensually loved by the painter’s hand. The species presented do not naturally bloom at the same time of year, making this painting an artificial document. An international financial crisis came in the wake of “Tulip Mania,” where the ubiquitous Dutch tulip became the subject of economic speculation; many fortunes were made and lost through the humble tulip at the center of Ruysch’s composition. Introduced in 1550 from Turkey, the bulbs of the tulip became a prized and hyped commodity in Holland, much as sugar had become in the rest of Europe. Baroque Spain Ruled by the Habsburg dynasty of Phillip III, IV, and Charles II, Spain ruled a vast though often unstable empire during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, holding sway over Flanders, the Kingdom of Naples, Holland, and Portugal (though the latter two declared independence in 1579 and 1640, respectively), as well as vast tracts of the New World. Concentrating their imperialistic ambitions on the acquisition of gold and precious metals, Spain enjoyed great autonomy and influence during the first flush of the Baroque, with disposable wealth available for the commissioning of artworks under the cultural umbrella of both the Jesuit-dominated central church, and the experiments in personal spirituality of the great Spanish mystics. Through contacts with artists in Naples, the style of Caravaggio became wildly popular on the Iberian Peninsula, the strong chiaroscuro style of El Greco already established and influential for devotional pictures. Francisco Zubaran, 1598-1664. Working much of his life in the heavily Caravaggioinfluenced city of Seville, Zubaran brought a more contemplative mood to the evocation of the tortures of the martyrs. St Serapion, 1628. Serapion was a member of one of the new monastic order developed in Spain, the Mercedians. Following the dictates of his order, he offered his life in exchange for those of Christian captives of the Moors. We see here not tortured pain, but peace and otherworldly tranquility. Jusepe de Ribera, 1591-1652. The church promoted the religious experiences of martyrs, who became closer to God through depravations of the body and poverty in spirit, spurring dramatic renditions of these suffering saints. Saints Andrew, Serapion Bartholemew, (Nathaniel), all suffered dramatic harrowings of the body, and were popular subject for paintings. Barthelemew, one of Ribera’s subject, was flayed (skinned) alive, and subsequently became the patron saint of trappers.


St. Andrew, 1632. The apostle first called by Jesus, Andrew, brought in Peter into the company of Jesus, and whose asceticism was considered to be a good guide for the church of Peter to come back to its roots. Ribera’s work is a strong link between Spanish popular subject matter and the dramatic style of Caravaggio. Diego Rodriguez de Silva y Velazquez, 1599-1660. The greatest artist of the Caravaggesque School of Seville, the well educated young Velazquez, gained early fame with his intensely naturalistic genre paintings. His talent was admired at the Madrid court, and he was subsequently hired by Phillip IV to paint the royal family. His skills as a courtier were clearly as strong as those as painter to have secured such an enviable position. After Rubens’ visit to Madrid in 1628, Velazquez pleaded with his patron for funds to travel to Italy to study the mastery that the Flemish master had described to him. The Water Carrier of Seville, 1619. The hot streets of the city of Seville were served by the necessary water sellers, who brought herb and fruit tinged water to the thirsty public. The artist makes the dignified man visible; such a person occupying this common and very low class occupation would be almost invisible to the aristocratic gaze. A dramatic stacking of viscerally present volumes and masses in this composition makes the tattered man a kind of graceful, living temple. The Toilet of Venus, 1625. The nude female figure was forbidden in Spain, but Velazquez painted the first such nude in Spanish art. Surely intended as a private painting, this work presents a real Spanish woman in the role of a goddess, observing herself in a fashionable, expensive, flat mirror. The artist explores technique freely, allowing fluid brushstrokes to float and play on the surface, coming fully together only at viewing distance. The Forge of Vulcan, 1630. Clearly influenced by his first trip to Italy, this is one of a series of large scale mythological paintings from this period of growth for the artist. We are shown the moment at which Apollo tells Vulcan that his wife Venus is betraying him with Mars. With the exception of the glowing Apollo, all the keepers of the forge are clearly Spanish working men, perhaps even forge workers for his patron. Naturalism is combined with a classical sense of counterpoise seamlessly, creating a vivid evocation of both passing and endless time. The Infanta Margarida, 1655. Velazquez painted the King, his son Carlos, members and attaches to the court numerous times. This, one of several portraits of the young princess Margarida, contrasts the buoyant, childlike presence of the girl with confining layers of formal drapery. Las Meninas, 1656. He paints little Margarida, who will soon be betrothed to Louis XIV of France, again in this later work, but places her more informally as part of the household. She is being dressed by her attendants, being entertained by dogs and dwarfs. Dwarfs had been introduced into the court to cheer Phillip after the death of his beloved son Carlos, and had remained a welcome part of the entertainment of the family. The


setting, a vast room filled with other paintings, gives us a glimpse into the real life of the family. While the artist commands a huge canvas thrusting through space, we see the king and queen reflected in a mirror on the back wall; we are watching Diego paint the royal persons, as the daughter watches. The artist rules this space, the figure around which the vast space revolves. The red Cross of Juan Diego on his chest was added to this painting, which hung in the king’s private room, when he was knighted with the great honor well after the painting was finished.

English Baroque James I 1603-25, ascended to the throne in 1603, succeeded by his son Charles I in 1625, followed by James II in 1449. This catholic dynasty ruled over a united Scotland and England, patronizing the arts and expanding English influence in the New World until the Glorious Revolution of 1689, when Protestant political interests succeeded in a bloodless coup of the English throne. Inigo Jones, 1573-1652. Working under the principles of Palladio, this influential architect and scene designer rebuilt the Whitehall Palace Banqueting Hall 1630-35, in style evocative of classical models. After fire destroyed the original building, he created a unique kind of gathering hall, one that is clearly influenced by his design and organization of court Masques. The façade is deceptive, since it indicates the presence of two stories when in fact the interior is only dominated by one. He uses delicate decorative elements to elegant effect, making the entire building a playful “mask.” The coffered ceiling is graced with large paintings from Rubens’ studio. Christopher Wren, 1632-1723. Wren became the most influential architect in London after Jones. Well versed in a variety of disciplines, including astronomy, and became fascinated by architecture after meeting Bernini in Paris as the Italian visited to consult on work underway on the Louvre. His affection for French Baroque is evident in his design for the rebuilding of St Paul’s Cathedral in 1675-1709 In essence, he brought the expansive drama of St Peter’s to a crowded London street, introducing a new approach to large scale decoration and design to English building. Development of Baroque Theatre All art forms in Baroque Europe underwent expansion, elaboration, or revolution, as society itself went through intense growing pains. The practice of Theatre, in writing, acting, and in physical design and special effects, began to take forms familiar to contemporary audiences. The earliest permanent theatre in Europe, the Teatro Olimpico was constructed in Vincenza in 1585, to a great deal modeled after the recent translations of the Roman theorist and historian Vetruvius, who testified as to some of the specifics of theatrical practice in classical Rome. The architect Palladio, and his partner Scamozzi, used these texts as the basis for residential and official architecture, and for his design for the Teatro Olimpico. For this theatre, they widened the central arch of the Frons Scenae, (the five door façade inherited from ancient Greek Drama) allowing for a


continuous landscape backdrop to be more easily. By 1618 Giambattista Aleotti’s design for the theatre in the Palazzo Farnese merged the five doors of the scenae into one wide space we now refer to as the Proscenim Arch. In 1545 Sebastiano Serlio published his influential Archittetura volume, which interpreted Vetruvius’ texts into the realm of perpecive rendering and scenic painting for the stage. The system of perspective used in scenography depended on the designing of the scene around a privileged audience member’s point of view: that of the Prince. The idea of linear perspective, then, is rooted in class consciousness, especially to the new class of self-made made man exemplified in the Prince. Translation and publication of the Greek Grammarian Pollux’s Onomasticon from the 2nd century CE original published in Venice in 1502 helped to fuel and inform the interests of many artists, such as Leonardo, who experimented with designing sets and machinery for the stage. The Florentine Bastiano da San Gallo (1481-1551) facilitated practical applications of Pollux’s theories in Italian theatre. In particular, he revived the idea of the Periaktoi, rotating, vertical, triangular columns that could provide quickly changing painted scenes. In 1638 Nicola Sabbatini assembled a wide range of experience and knowledge into what would become the standard reference for scenic and mechanical stage construction, the Practica di fabricar scene e machine ne’ teatre, known often as simply the “Practica.” Increased use of large indoor theatre spaces also led to experiments in focused, artificial stage lighting and special lighting effects, that were reflected in the dramatic spotlight effects in Baroque painting. The full force of these innovations came to bear on the Intermezzi, originally light comic acts performed in between longer, serious, and moralistic dramatic works of Commedia Erudite, the frivolous Iintermezzi soon became elaborate spectacles. Great court festivals grew out of these entertainments, which Macchiavelli prescribes in The Prince as useful in encouraging deference and awe for the new secular leader of capitalist society. Galli da Bibiena, Designs for the Stage, late 17th century. Son of the altarpiece painter Giovanni Maria, Ferdinando, came to be a great master of Baroque illusionism, and was in great demand for his designs for theatre and court festivals across Europe. He wrote several treatises on architecture, and was the first designer to “break” the proscenium arch, extending the scenery on stage out into proximity of the audience. His sons Alessandro, Guiseppe, Antonio, and grandson Carlo became leaders in scenography, architecture, and painting in the courts and theatres of Europe through the end of the eighteenth century. Great playwrights emerged in England, Spain, and France; Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in honor of the ancestors of James I of England, performed at court in 1606. Much of Shakespeare’s and his older contemporary Christopher Marlow’s plays explore shifting identities and alliances in human affairs, paralleling the necessary changing of customs, manners, and identities in the fluid world of the late sixteenth and earliest seventeenth centuries. Elizabeth I laid the groundwork for the burgeoning commercial theater industry of London by forbidding religious drama in 1574. In Spain, Cervantes explored the illusions of ambition, identity and prestige, while Lope de Vega affirmed a more traditional social order in reputedly more than 1,500 plays. In France Racine


brought classical Greek principles of drama into contemporary French culture, contrasted by Moliere, who, under the protection of Louis XIV, created the conventions of the Comedie Francais in his send-ups of hypocrisy and aristocratic folly, adapting ideas of the recently imported Italian Commedia dell’ arte.

Music in the Baroque Music, like the visual arts, was marked by the expression of intense emotion and dramatic effect, developing the use of the ground bass line and excessive ornamentation. In Florence, the Society of the Camerata revived elements of Greek drama into Italian, and created the form of the opera, with Monteverdi and Gabrieli reveling in polychoral and exclamatory effects. Musical forms multiplied, with the sonata, suite, concerto grosso, opera, oratorio, and cantata being played in a variety of venues with an increasing variety of instruments. High Baroque composers such as Corelli and Vivaldi in Italy, J.S. Bach in Germany, and Handel in England created grand aural altarpieces. Music for both large scale and intimate settings was written and performed; chamber music’s more personal scale can be thought of as analogous to the interest in direct, personal human emotion of genre painting.


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