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It’s hard to make a distinction in which the beginning of the Baroque period is clearly distinguished from that of the late Renaissance. Nonetheless, Baroque art is emotional, decorative and a direct result of the Counter-Reformation movement in Europe. During the Baroque period, there was a dramatic religious split in the Church with the formation of Protestantism. Catholics reacted with the Counter-Reformation to revitalize Catholicism. They needed to attract viewers with religious art that more significantly impacted onlookers.
Protestant areas (in the North) responded with a lack of religious art, concentrating, for example, on genre paintings that taught their viewers moral lessons.
Compositions tended to have more open space. The Baroque style originated in Italy and spread north, profoundly affecting the rest of Europe as it spread. In his survey of art history text, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History, Fred S. Kleiner asserts that the term Baroque is “problematic” because the era encompasses a broad range of genres and styles.
At the same time, it is effective in describing the art of the 17th century, a style marked by dynamism and movement, drama and greatness. Since the masses could not read, there could be no better way to feed them religion-Catholicism’s particular view of it-than through grand pictures depicting Biblical lessons and the dominance of Catholicism, figured the Church. One of the most interesting examples of art as propaganda for the Catholic Church is Caravaggio’s Conversion of Saint Paul, painted ca. 1603. In 1600, Caravaggio was commissioned to paint two pictures.
One is Crucifixion of Saint Peter, a dramatic and unconventional work.
The other is Paul’s Conversion, which hangs across the chapel from Saint Peter in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome. Also known as Conversion on the Way to Damascus or The Road to Damascus, this depiction of Paul’s conversion is known as the most intriguing of the two paintings. In this grand picture Caravaggio portrays the moment described in the Bible, in the Book of Acts, when Paul (then Saul) falls to the ground in an epiphany from the Lord. The egocentric, Christian-hating Saul is on his way to Damascus, on a mission to witch-hunt Christians there.
In Acts chapter 22, verses 6-7, Saul describes the moment: “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me? ‘” This information is important to consider when studying Caravaggio’s representation of the event. Caravaggio, who, in his personal life, was known to have an erratic disposition and not long after painting this scene, he fled Rome after killing a man (Encyclopedia Britannica) clearly was a revolutionary in his art.
In this scene’s it perhaps showed the mystery in the man that represents Caravaggio’s sarcasm, his sardonic version of Jesus, who, after all, is the one who knocked Saul senseless. If so, what is it that Caravaggio is secretly saying about Jesus? We will never know, but the possibility is at least entertaining. Summary While Baroque art arose out of an effort to manipulate the masses through propaganda tactics, it changed and evolved as it spread throughout Europe. Today, the style can be appreciated for its many accomplishments, everything from its realistic renderings to its grand drama and its larger-than-life grandeur.
Baroque art has an intensity and immediacy not seen prior. The exquisite attention to detail and the realism of the style are part of what defines this age. Many masters emerged from this era, masters whose styles are widely varied and whose intentions were just as varied, and much can be learned from them and the legacies they left behind in their art, music, literature and architecture. Combined, these characteristics make the Baroque style one of the most compelling periods in the history of Western art.
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