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Chapter 10 The Counter-Reformation and the Baroque. Emotion, Inquiry, and Absolute Power. The Council of Trent. The Council of Trent met in three sessions and spanned the careers of four different popes over 18 years: 1545—47, 1551—52, and 1562—63

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chapter 10 the counter reformation and the baroque

Chapter 10The Counter-Reformation and the Baroque

Emotion, Inquiry, and Absolute Power

the council of trent
The Council of Trent
  • The Council of Trent met in three sessions and spanned the careers of four different popes over 18 years: 1545—47, 1551—52, and 1562—63
  • Concentrating on restoring internal Church discipline, the Council called a halt to the selling of Church offices and religious goods, required bishops to live in their dioceses and to preach regularly and interact with their parishioners, and required bishops to maintain strict celibacy
  • Subsequent treatises on art, written by clergy, called for direct treatment of subjects, unencumbered by anything “sensuous,” from brushwork to light effects to even polyphony in music. Further, they insisted on the use of religious imagery
michelangelo and the rise of mannerism
Michelangelo and the Rise of Mannerism
  • The Counter-Reformation’s demand for clarity and directness did not constrain so original an artist as Michelangelo
  • In the Last Judgment fresco for the wall of the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo took enormous liberties with the figure, rejecting the classicizing tendencies of the High Renaissance and manipulating and distorting the conventional figure
  • His Saint Bartholomew, who was martyred by being skinned alive, sits just below Christ’s feet, holding in his right hand a knife, the instrument of his torture, and in his left hand his own flayed skin. Many scholars believe the face on the flayed skin is a self-portrait of Michelangelo
mannerist arts
Mannerist Arts
  • As long as painting confined itself to depicting nonreligious subjects for nonreligious venues, it was more or less free to do as it pleased
  • In the private galleries of the princely courts throughout Europe, this more indecorous but highly inventive imagery thrived
  • Jupiter and Io, painted by the northern Italian artist Correggio in the 1530s, seems almost intentionally the embodiment of what the Council of Trent would label “lascivious or impure”
correggio jupiter and io oil on canvas 69 29 early 1530s
Correggio, Jupiter and IoOil on canvas, 69"  29½", Early 1530s
  • Jupiter appears in a dream to Io, daughter of the king of Argos, and seduces her disguised as a cloud
  • In addition to the unabashed sensuality of the presentation, the juxtaposition of Io’s fully lit and well-defined body with Jupiter’s dark and amorphous form is fully Mannerist in spirit
el greco
El Greco
  • Born Domenico Theotokopulos, El Greco (“The Greek”) traveled from Crete to Italy to Spain in 1567 where he wedded Mannerism with the elongated, iconic figures of Byzantine art
  • In his Resurrection, Roman soldiers rise and fall in figura serpentinata pose around Christ like petals on a blossom, with Christ himself as the flower’s stamen
  • Resurrection celebrates raw physicality even as it presents the greatest spiritual mystery of the Christian faith
the baroque in italy
The Baroque in Italy
  • As the seventeenth century began, the Church felt a need to attract people back into its fold, and the arts took a sensual turn, an appeal not just to the intellect but also to the range of human emotion and feeling
  • This appeal was embodied in an increasingly ornate and grandiose form of expression that came to be known as Baroque
  • Attention to the way viewers would emotionally experience a work of art is a defining characteristic of the Baroque, a term which may derive from the Portuguese barroco, literally a large, irregularly-shaped pearl
  • By the middle of the seventeenth century, artists were increasingly comfortable working in the innovative and exuberant style that had been inaugurated by Mannerism Baroque, while, at the same time, they still followed the edicts of the Council of Trent
baroque sculpture bernini
Baroque Sculpture: Bernini
  • Gian Lorenzo Bernini conceived the Baroque as a compromise between religious propriety and the exuberant style of Mannerism
  • Probably no image sums up better the Baroque movement than Bernini’s sculptural program for the Cornato Chapel
  • Bernini’s theme is a pivotal moment in the life of St. Teresa of Ávila
  • The sculptural centerpiece of his chapel decoration is Teresa’s implicitly erotic swoon, the angel standing over her, having just withdrawn his penetrating arrow from her “entrails,” as Teresa throws her head back in ecstasy
master of light and dark caravaggio
Master of Light and Dark: Caravaggio
  • Baroque painters, seeking to intensify the viewer’s experience of their paintings, sought to manipulate light and dark to great advantage
  • The acknowledged master of light and dark, and perhaps the most influential painter of his day, was Michelangelo Mensi, known as Caravaggio
  • Time and again his paintings dramatize the moment of conversion through use of a technique known as tenebrism
  • Tenebrism makes use of large areas of dark contrasting sharply with smaller brightly illuminated areas

The Calling of Saint Matthew

Oil on canvas, 11‘ 1"  11‘ 5", ca. 1599-1600

Conversion of Saint Paul

Oil on canvas, 90½"  68-7/8", ca. 1601

artemisia gentileschi
Artemisia Gentileschi
  • One of Caravaggio’s most important followers, and one of the first female artists to achieve an international reputation, was Artemisia Gentileschi, the daughter of one of Caravaggio’s closest friends
  • She was raped at 19 by Agostino Tassi, a Florentine artist who served as her teacher. Her father filed suit against Tassi, and during the trial Gentileschi was tortured with thumbscrews and subjected to examinations by midwives
  • During and after the trial, she painted five separate versions of the biblical story of Judith and Holofernes, suggesting that in this series she transforms her personal tragedy into her painting. In all of them, Judith is a self-portrait of the artist
artemisia gentileschi judith and maidservant with head of holofernes oil on canvas 72 55 ca 1625
Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Maidservant with Head of HolofernesOil on canvas, 72½"  55¾", ca. 1625
venice and baroque music
Venice and Baroque Music
  • In the sixteenth century, the Council of Trent rejected the use of secular music, which by definition it deemed lascivious and impure, as a model for sacred compositions
  • The division between secular and religious music was far less pronounced in Venice. Venetian composers felt freer to experiment and work in a variety of forms
  • Venice became the center of musical innovation in Europe, home to the harmonies of Giovanni Gabrieli and the concertos of Antonio Vivaldi and birthplace of Claudio Monteverdi’s new, text-based musical form, the opera
the secular baroque in the north
The Secular Baroque in the North
  • A more austere Baroque style dominated northern Europe in the seventeenth century, with Amsterdam at its center
  • The city’s thriving economy led to a tendency to excess that was balanced by the conservatism of the Dutch Reformed Church, whose Calvinist fathers found no place for art in the Calvinist liturgy, by and large banning art from its churches
  • But the prosperous Dutch populace avidly collected pictures, the most popular of which were still lifes, landscapes, and genre scenes
still lifes
Still Lifes
  • Still lifes are paintings dedicated to the representation of common household items and food
  • Example of vanitas painting – reminder that earthly pleasures do not last
  • Vanitas works reflect righteous Protestant principles

Johannes Goedaert, Flowers in a Wan-li Vase with Blue-Titca. 1660

  • Landscapes such as this one may reflect Dutch national pride at reclaiming extensive lands from the sea (similar to God’s re-creation of the world after the Flood)
  • The religious undertone is symbolized by the great Gothic church rising over a flat, reclaimed landscape, lit by an almost celestial light

Jacob von Ruisdael,

View of Haarlem from the Dunes at Overveen

ca. 1670

genre paintings
Paintings that depict events from everyday life were another favorite of the Dutch public

One of the masters of this type of painting was Jan Vermeer, whose works illuminate—and celebrate—the material reality of Dutch life

The woman portrayed here brims with self-confidence, and nothing in the painting suggests that Vermeer intends a moralistic message of some sort

Genre Paintings

Jan Vermeer,

Woman with a Pearl Necklace

ca. 1664

rembrandt van rijn
Rembrandt van Rijn
  • In the seventeenth century, Rembrandt was the leading painter in Amsterdam and by far its most sought after portrait painter
  • His work was distinguished by his ability to build up the figure with short dashes of paint or, alternately, long fluid lines of loose, gestural brushwork. The result, paradoxically, is an image of extreme clarity
  • One of his most important contributions to the art of portraiture is his use of light to animate the figure
rembrandt the anatomy lesson of dr tulp 1632
Rembrandt, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp1632

This painting was commissioned by Dr. Tulp to celebrate his second public anatomy demonstration performed in Amsterdam on January 31, 1632.

baroque music in the north
Baroque Music in the North
  • Like Baroque art, Baroque music sought to be new and original, as Catholic and Protestant churches constantly demanded new music for their services
  • The Baroque era produced more new instruments than any other. Even traditional instruments were almost totally transformed. This was the golden age of the organ, a very ancient instrument dating from the third century BCE
  • Perhaps the greatest northern composer was Johann Sebastian Bach, while in England, the music of German-born George Frederic Handel defined the Baroque style
polyphonic texture in music
"Polyphonic Texture in Music"

Video will play automatically.

From Bach to the Future (length: 4:02). Item #34807

absolutism and the baroque court
Absolutism and the Baroque Court
  • By the start of the eighteenth century, almost every court in Europe modeled itself on the court of King Louis XIV of France
  • Louis, who thought of himself as Le Roi Soleil (“the Sun King”), so successfully asserted his authority over the French people, the aristocracy, and the Church that the era in which he ruled has become known as the Age of Absolutism
  • He also was the absolute judge of taste at the French court and a great patron of the arts, believing that championing the greatest in art would establish himself as the greatest of kings
  • From the moment that Louis XIV initiated the project at Versailles, it was understood that the new palace must be unequalled in grandeur, unparalleled in scale and size, and unsurpassed in lavish decoration and ornament
  • The Hall of Mirrors, begun in 1678, shows in 30 paintings framed by stuccowork on the ceiling Louis as a Roman emperor, astute administrator, and military genius
  • The methodical, geometrical design of the gardens has come to be known as the French garden

Hall of Mirrors

North flowerbed

the painting of peter paul rubens
The Painting of Peter Paul Rubens
  • One of Louis’s favorite artists was the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens
  • Ruben’s style, almost literally a “fleshing out” of the late Italian Renaissance tradition, is so distinctive that it came to be known as “Rubenesque.” His nudes are notable for the way in which their flesh folds and drapes across their bodies
  • In keeping with his northern roots, Rubens gave a painting such as The Kermis moralistic undertones. The couples’ base, animal instincts mirror the posture of the dog with its nose in the cloth-draped tub at the bottom center of the canvas
the painting of nicholas poussin
The Painting of Nicholas Poussin
  • A debate raged at Louis’s court as to who was the better painter—Rubens or Nicholas Poussin, a Frenchman who had spent most of his life in Rome
  • Advocating a classical approach to painting, he believed that subject matter should be drawn from classical mythology or Christian tradition, not everyday life
  • There could be no loose brushwork, no “rough style”; restraint and decorum had to govern all aspects of pictorial composition
  • Most typically poussiniste is the compositional geometry of horizontals and verticals
music and dance at the court of louis xiv
Music and Dance at the Court of Louis XIV
  • Louis admired in particular comédie-ballets—part opera, part ballet
  • These performances often featured the king himself, who had considerable talent as a dancer
  • Louis’s Royal Academy of Dance soon established the rules for the five positions of ballet that became the basis of classical dance

Louis XIV as the sun in the Ballet da la Nuit. 1653

the english court
The English Court
  • In England the arts were dramatically affected by tensions between the absolutist monarchy of the English Stuarts and the much more conservative Protestant population
  • Civil war from 1642 to 1648 resulted in Charles I being executed for treason and Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Puritan faction. Cromwell soon dissolved Parliament, assumed the role of Lord Protector, and imposed “godly” laws: no swearing, drunkenness, cockfighting, or commerce on Sunday
  • The tension between the Catholic-leaning English monarchy and the more Puritan-oriented Parliament is clearly visible in works by Flemish artist Anthony van Dyck, court painter to Charles I
anthony van dyck charles i at the hunt oil on canvas 8 11 6 11 1635
Anthony van Dyck Charles I at the HuntOil on canvas 8‘ 11"  6‘ 11", 1635
  • Charles I at the Hunt flatters the king, presenting him as a full head higher than the grooms behind him
  • The angle of his jauntily cocked cavalier’s hat is echoed in the trees above his head and the neck of his horse
  • He is the embodiment of the Cavalier, as his royal supporters were known
Anthony Van Dyck, Alexander Henderson, Presbyterian Divine and DiplomatistOil on canvas, 50"  41½", ca. 1641
  • Alexander Henderson was one of the most important figures in the Church of Scotland
  • With his short-cropped hair and dark, simple clothing, he is presented in contrast to Charles
  • His sole prop is a Bible, which he holds as though he had just been reading it
the arts of the spanish court
The Arts of the Spanish Court
  • The Spanish court understood that in order to assert its absolutist authority it needed to impress the people through its patronage of the arts
  • Philip IV hired Rubens to paint a cycle of 112 mythologies for his hunting lodge
  • In the spring of 1623, Diego Velázquez was summoned to paint a portrait of the king. An appointment as court painter quickly followed, and Velázquez became the only artist permitted to paint the king
diego vel zquez las meninas the maids of honor oil on canvas 10 9 1656
Diego Velázquez, Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor)Oil on canvas, 10' ¾"  9' ¾", 1656
  • Las Meninas is a life-size grouping and Velázquez’s last great royal commission
  • It elevates the portrait to a level of complexity almost unmatched in the history of art
  • The source of this complexity is the competing focal points of the composition—the Infanta Margarita, her attendants, a spot outside the painting
the spanish baroque in the americas
The Spanish Baroque in the Americas
  • The Americas were Spain’s greatest source of wealth, and Spanish culture quickly took hold in both North and South America
  • Indigenous native populations Indianized the Christian art imposed on them, creating a unique visual culture, part Baroque, part Indian
  • An extremely popular technique among the painters of Peru was brocateado, the application of gold leaf to canvas, used especially for creating elaborate brocadelike effects on saints’ garments
Luis Niño, Our Lady of the Victory of MálagaOil on canvas overlaid with gold and silver, 59½"  43¾", ca. 1737