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Baroque Art Essay

This paper will start with an explanation of what Baroque art is. Baroque art is art that utilizes the effects between lightness and darkness. We will begin by looking at three paintings from the Baroque period. The first painting we will be discussing from the Baroque period is Annibale Carracci’s Pieta. A pieta is a sculpture or painting of the Virgin Mary holding Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. This particular pieta was done by the artist Annibale Carracci from Bologna, Italy.

Annibale’s Pieta depicts the Virgin Mary holding her son Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. Annibale used his lighting very well in this painting. Because of the way he used the lighting in his painting it made Jesus Christ the main figure, but still managed to have the Virgin Mary in the center along with Jesus. Annibale painted Mary in a soft blue, which contrasted well with the paleness of Jesus Christ. Annibale painted the look of sorrow onto Mary’s face and out stretched her left hand as if she was questioning how this could happen to her.

This painting has so much detailed to it, along with Mary and Jesus there are also two angels in the painting: one angel scrutinizes the crown of thorns, while the other mourns while holding Jesus’ hand. Annibale Carracci was a well-known and admired painter that helped create the Baroque style. Annibale Carracci, along with his brother and cousin founded the Accademia degli Incamminati, which translates to the Academy of progressives. Later in the 15th century the Carracci family was painting some of the most advanced paintings throughout Europe.

Annibale created a new broken brushwork style to capture movement and the effects of light on form (Christiansen, Keith. 2003). This new style resulted in paintings being put inside churches. The fresco painting on the ceiling of Pope Farnese’s Palace was Annibale’s greatest masterpiece. The second painting from the Baroque Period is The Entombment by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. The symmetry of the group of people in this painting is miraculous . This painting shows everyone bowing down or bending towards Jesus, showing that his death has an impact not only emotionally but physically on them.

The look of terror and shock is remarkably captured in this painting. The group of people look traumatized at the death of their beloved Savior Jesus Christ, however at the same time they look relieved. I love how Caravaggio illustrates these people. He doesn’t make the people beautiful or extravagant looking, he makes them look like ordinary people. Just as Annibale used the lightness and darkness as did Caravaggio, bringing out the drama and suspense of the moment. Caravaggio was a wild and carefree person.

He believed in truth, that not everyone was beautiful or heroic as they are made to seem. He refused to portray the human individual as sublime, beautiful and heroic (Christiansen, Keith 2003). During Caravaggio’s time the Catholic Church had complete control of what was considered to be acceptable art if it wasn’t deemed acceptable by the church then it wasn’t art. Caravaggio disdained the masters of the Renaissance and the mannerist style (Sayre 2010). In the Baroque Period, religion was the best thing you could paint about, this is the only topic that would be profitable.

The third painting from the Baroque Period is Belshazzar’s feast by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. The painting displays King Belshazzar and his visitants feasting while using the holy items from the Jewish temple. Rembrandt depicts a moment when a glorious hand appears in right to the inscription on the wall when transliterated the inscription reads: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN; meaning ‘God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; your kingdom is given to the Medes and Persians. ‘. “Rembrandt | Belshazzar’s Feast | NG6350 | The National Gallery, London”, 2004) .

After that night, King Belshazzar was killed. Rembrandt utilizes the light in this painting to give light more effect the hand. The main figure is King Belshazzar who is struck with fear as the hand continues to write on the wall. Not only is the King and shock but so are all his adversaries. Rembrandt uses chiaroscuro in his painting by outlining the outside of the painting in a dark color. Chiaroscuro is the contrast of light and dark to create atmosphere, drama, and emotion (Sayre, 2010).

Rembrandt was asked what he truly wanted to achieve through his art, he stated “the greatest and most natural movement” translated from die meeste ende di naetuereelste beweechgelickheijt (encyclopedia. stateuniversity, 2010. He didn’t want the subjects of his paintings in poses contrived as was the case in Mannerist style. (Sayre, 2010). His main goal was to portray the naturalness of the human body. In Holland, during the 16th-century at the Utrecht school Italianate architecture continued because of most of its attendance, especially the notable Gerard van Honthorst.

He later traveled to Italy where he met Caravaggio and was inspired by his work. The Utrecht school artists ended up influencing Pieter Lastman with their styles of using lightness and darkness. Pieter ended up becoming Rembrandts, therefore providing a monolithic background for what would become known as Dutch Art. All three of examples I chose are religious; depicting an important scene from the bible. The first two paintings show Jesus Christ after his crucifixion. The third painting is from the Old Testament from the prophet Daniel.

All three paintings used lightness and darkness to add drama to their paintings as well as chiaroscuro. These paintings show characters are very lifelike as well as the difference of chiaroscuro from its very beginning to it being perfected by Rembrandt. There are differences within these paintings. The way emotion is depicted upon each of the characters faces in every painting is different. What shocked me the most was that the The Pieta depicting the crucifixion showed the least detailed emotion.

You see that Mary is grieving and is in sorrow but in the entombment the emotion is really detailed upon the faces of everyone. However, I believe Rembrandts Belshazzar’s feast has most emotional of all three paintings. You can actually see the fear and terror upon their faces. Also, the use lighting is more evident in Rembrandt paintings and his characters look more realistic; whereas in the Pieta the characters are perfect and beautiful when they’re supposed to be mourning the death of their loved one.

In comparison to the Entombment the Pieta was the least dramatic and emotional of the two. Through these paintings you can see how the church has influence over the art and how it changes throughout the centuries. You can also see how each painter understands chiaroscuro. For instance, Rembrandt perfected it whereas Annibale merely understood it. While studying this I learned that art styles progress throughout the years, sometimes getting better and sometimes becoming worse.


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