The Baroque Period Essay

The Baroque Period Essay

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The fascination with the concept of light (both physical and metaphysical) is one of the distinguishing features of the Baroque period (1600-1750).
Baroque painters from Caravaggio (insert dates) to Rembrandt (insert dates) and Vermeer (insert dates), all found inspiration in the symbolism of light, and relied heavily on light effects to animate their subject matter. In architecture the desire for theatrical effect and illusion was helped and achieving through lighting.

Renaissance buildings were based on simple proportions and relationships; and their beauty lay in their unified harmony. All that was required of light was to make these harmonious proportions clearly visible. The ideal effect was that produced by monochrome, uniform lighting. This was replaced in the Baroque era by the desire for theatrical effect – achieved through lighting by focusing it on one area while keeping other areas in darkness.

The different effects that light produces when striking surfaces of different textures were also exploited by Baroque architects. For example, surfaces were broken up by alternating marble or plaster walls with ones of large, rough stones. Surfaces could also be broken up by combining projections and overhangs with abrupt, deep recesses. Smaller-scale carved elements were also used, which gave an effect of movement to the building’s surfaces – architectural decoration of this type sometimes covered every feature – especially at joins so that the surfaces of appeared to continue uninterrupted.

Baroque churches used light as a ‘visible manifestation of the supernatural’ with magical chiaroscuro (the technique of modeling form through gradations of light and dark) effects. In the Baroque church, the light is woven into...


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...ed a sleepy village outside Paris into a huge palace-town that served as a fixed seat of government. The dazzling château was surrounded with gardens, reflecting pools, and fountains, which were used to impressive effect during formal ceremonies, festivals, and fireworks displays.

Versailles became the ultimate European palace, not only because of its size, splendour and advanced layout but also because of the ideal manner in which it expressed absolutist power. Versailles was not the court of a humble mortal but the residence of the Sun King.

The impressive complex at Versailles prompted emulative palace-building and city-planning campaigns in Vienna, Saint Petersburg, and throughout Europe. Even Turin and other small state capitals were rebuilt according to Baroque tastes and concerns, with broad avenues, squares, theatres, and bastioned fortifications.

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