If it's not Baroque, Baroque it

Zohra Abdullah

Drama, suspended motion and animated sensations. Life is big in the world of Baroque.


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Originally a product of the anti-Reformation efforts of the Catholic Church in Rome, the Baroque started as an expression of religious ecstasy. Painting, sculpture, architecture and music all expressed movement, sforzandi, joy and divine glory. Baroque churches also mastered the art of trompe-l'œil frescos with stunning perspectives. Façades became a perversion of classical principles, with music and emotions suspended in stone. In one word, drama.


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Although the style of Protestant countries at the time lack a fundamental Baroque effect, the Baroque was employed for secular purposes in Catholic countries as well. Palaces and especially their libraries in Austria are a testament to the splendour of Baroque. The cartouche as well the cornucopia basket or urn motifs are all owed to this style. Though there remained an Anglo-Saxon disdain for the Baroque style, the aesthetic is found even on the East coast of the US.

While Baroque motifs were characterised by asymmetry, the form of the whole should be symmetrical. In furniture, the features of one half were always strictly replicated on the other side. Despite the heightened emotions, an imbalance in the outward form of a piece would have been offensive. This is one of the few classical principles that were consistently appreciated, even through the Rococo. 

And of course, the colour of gold unmistakable evokes the Baroque.


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The exuberant Italian Baroque was vehemently offensive to French sensibilities. Instead, French Baroque overlapped with the French Classicism of Louis XIV. French Baroque was much more orderly, focusing on grandeur and intimations of power. The style was slow and smooth, lacking the movement and animation of Italian Baroque.


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In Spain, the Baroque became the ultra-Baroque in the Churrigueresque. The uncomfortable Baroque of Latin America focused on agony and ache. As the styles became more intense, they were almost tiring to the eyes. It is no wonder then that the Rococo promptly followed.


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What are your thoughts on the Baroque? Excessive chaos or exuberant splendour? Let us know.

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