The Pearls of the Baroque
The Baroque was a period of counter- reformation where the church and its teachings became the new focal point of praise in works of art, sculpture and architecture. Spanning the 17th Century, which ranges from 1600-1720, the Baroque was a platform to celebrate spirituality. Those who were artistically inclined during this period made it their goal to express their love of religion and classicism through extravagance and restraint of the figures, clothing and emotions in works created. The Baroque spread from Italy the birthplace of the Renaissance and then throughout Europe. The Baroque that started in Italy or the Italian Baroque gave rise to a great female painter by the name of Artemisia Gentileschi (July 8, 1593 – c.1656). Gentileschi came from an era where women were not welcomed with open arms into the artistic community however she still managed to become the first female member of the Accademia di Arte Del Disegno or the Academy of Art and Design, in Florence. One of Gentileschi’s greatest painting is that of an improvement of a fellow Italian painter, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s (1571-1610) extravagant Judith Beheading Holofernes (1598-1599). Gentileschi’s remake (1611-1612) expresses the strength of women via Judith but also an insight into Gentileschi’s thoughts on herself as she expresses her emotions after being raped. Though the Baroque period was a return to religious fervour that was widespread, some artists decided to stick to depictions of neoclassicism. The French artist Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) characterized the neoclassical restraint that influenced the Baroque but further defined Rococo as the artistic styles of the Enlightenment period (Jenne 34). Poussin’s Et in Arcadia ego (1638-1639) show the inquiry of the unknown by shepherds but also the mysticism that surrounded the Greek region Arcadia.
The word baroque is the French translation of the Portuguese word borrocco, meaning misshapen pearl. A speculated interpretation on why the “misshapen pearl” is affixed to a period of artistic and spiritual prosperity can be derived from understanding when the Baroque period started. The period of the Baroque occurs after the Renaissance, which was a period of evolved thinking which focused mainly on the accomplishments of man outside of the church. The Baroque highlights a period where mankind came back to the values of the church and made skilful creations to show devotion to religion. The beauty of the Baroque can then be seen as tainted or misshapen by the back track to the confines of religion. The back track to religion can be retraced to the early seventeenth century as the Roman Catholic Church wanted to regain the “strength of following” it lost to the Protestant Reformation of the earlier sixteenth century. To regain strength, the Catholic Church implemented a new way of living called the Counter Reformation which was aimed at remedying some of the abuses challenged by the Protestants earlier in the century (Varriano 4). This symbolizes the start of the Italian Baroque period which gathers works of different Italian artist who have returned or expressed a devotion to the church through their works. Italian artists were very potent in the fight against the Protestants by using an art style, the Baroque style, which was powerful, dramatic, muscular, and able to move the viewer into the rifts of emotional contemplation.
One artist who was able to implement this style tastefully and extravagantly was Artemisia Gentileschi an Italian Baroque painter. Art by Gentileschi depict women in very raw and powerful positions that rivalled the misogynistic beliefs of the Italian Baroque. Through her paintings, Gentileschi allowed herself to escape the repression of being a female artist in the Italian Baroque society. In a society where women were entering the workforce but still treated with inequality, Gentileschi surmounted these social stigmas through her art....
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