Baroque Vs. Rococo Term Paper

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Baroque vs. Rococo

The Baroque style in art dates its earliest manifestations to the later years of the 16th century, when the Catholic Church launched the Counter-Reformation. Faced with the growing wave of simple, unsophisticated art style promoted by Protestantism and the Reform, the Catholic Church opposed an opulent style, full of richness and grandeur. In architecture, for example, the constructions dating from the Baroque period are richly decorated, statues, sculptures, paintings, all gathered to meet the final scope of the Baroque style: achievement of a structure meant to bring forward the glory of the Church. As the Baroque swept into other countries, such as France, it gave way to memorable architectural realizations, such as Versailles, used to express royal glory. Baroque predominated in Catholic countries, including here Flanders with the perfect Rubens expression, but never gained ground in Protestant countries such as Holland or England, where at that time, the Civil War and Cromwell leadership never allowed it to express itself.

If we think about Baroque painting, then two names come to mind: one was Caravaggio, the second Annibale Carracci. Inspired by the High Renaissance, both painters borrowed the grandeur and applied it to their paintings. Caravaggio added an additional touch of naturalism to his paintings, by portraying ordinary people in his paintings. Other painters of the Baroque current renounced the usual mythological and religious paintings in favor of landscapes and open spaces. The colors used by the Baroque painters varied, from the chiaroscuro used by Caravaggio especially, to the vivid colors of Poussin or Rubens.

As mentioned before, Annibale Carracci was among the monst influential painters of the Baroque period. Contrary to Carravaggio, he was inclined to use clear, pale colors, as a mean to achieve the elegance and grace that were desired by the commissioners. Influenced by Raphael's Stanzas in the Vatican, Carracci also predicted a return to the fresco style of painting and revealed this in the decoration of the Farnese Gallery in Rome. Carracci formed himself as a painter together with his brother Agostino and his cousin Lodovico at the latter's studio, but it was soon clear that Annibale was the more talented of the three. He was called to Rome in 1595 by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese to paint what was to be his masterpiece: the decoration of the Farnese Gallery, in the Farnese Palace.

Annibale Carracci abandoned the intellectual formula thought of by the Mannierists and perceived a return to a direct and clear form of painting, manifesting itself, among others, in the choice of unusual subjects, such as butcheries or simple people eating. He borrowed from Titian and Correggio parts of the classical, Renascent style of painting and his painting is often referred to as 'eclectic'. In the propitious Roman environment, he studied the classical arts, to which he pays homage in painting the ceiling in the Farnese Gallery, piece of work to which he dedicates his last years of life. In his work here, Carracci used many of his apprentices, most of them from Emilia and around Bologna, who gave life to Carracci's classical ideas. An image of a classical and academic Carracci was kept for many years, only recently the critics keenly observing his taste for naturalism and naturalistic figures. Among other of Carracci's characteristics can be named the extensive use of preparatory drawings, as part of the creation of ambitious history painting, as was the case in the Farnese Gallery. This was to be denied with the outcome of Romantism in the 19th century, when Annibale fell from grace and was to be considered as having 'no single virtue, no color, no drawing, no character, no history, no thought'. He was to be fully rehabilitated in the 20th century, especially with the opening of a great exhibition of his works in 1956 in Bologna.

As mentioned before, his most esteemed work of art is the Farnese Gallery, where he worked from 1597 to 1602. It is interesting to note that the period he spent working here corresponds almost perfectly with the period used for Carravaggio in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, where Carravaggio painted a cycle almost opposite in style from that used by Carracci. Symbolically, these two paintings from the beginning of the century would be a milestone for the 17th century art. The Farnese Palace became during Carracci's work here, a center for classicism and classical art study. Carracci transforms the Gallery into a gathering of classical themes and characters. In fact,
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the ceiling is not made up of one unitary painting, but of several different one, a collection of paintings around the main scene, the triumph of Bacchus and Arianna. Each painting lets out a serene sense of antiquity and the use of colors to provide for light in the painting is a direct influence of Titian, Raphael and Correggio. Typical of Baroque style, we find here around every different painting a colletion of ornamental designs, stucchis and simulations of architectural forms. We are in clear opposition here from Carravaggio simple backgrounds, usually dark.

Resuming some of the characteristics of Carracci's Baroque painting, we can point out that many of his themes are inspired by the Classical antiquity, as he paints mythological subjects, but he also finds subjects of inspiration among simple people and oridinary subjects. His paintings are richly decorated, in a pure Baroque manner, including, besides decorations in the painting itself, painted decorative models and figures around the painting. His coloristic is inspired by Rennaisance masters such as Raphael or Titian: generally pale or vibrant colors meant to bring light within the painting. Generally speaking, Carracci exhibits a 'classical approach and a serene harmony of forms and colors'.

As a continuance of baroque appeared the Rococo in the 18th century. The current started in France, during Louis XV's regency and carried on for almost fourty years, up to arounf 1750, when it began to slowly beacome outfashioned. It was sometimes referred to as the "climax or degeneration of the Baroque (the Catholique Encycolpedia at ( and used more arbitrary ornamentation and decorations in architecture.

The rococo style in painting had several characterisitics of its own. As a first and perhaps, most important, it generally gives up on mythological characters and subjects in favor of aristocratical ones. It portrays the carefree life of the aristocracy (think for example, of Gainsborough: most of his paintings represent family portraits of aristocatic families). Love and romance are used as predilect subjects instead of the mythological or religious ones. There is a graceful movement about the paintings and delicate colors. As an example, one should think about the best known Rococo painter and the most representative of all, the Frenchman Watteau and his series of paintings on arlequins and other characters of the Divine Comedy. His paintings reflect this delicacy I was talikng about in the lines above and a certain grafce of his charcaters. How far away we are here from the strong, masculine bodies used by Carracci in his paintings of the Farnese Gallery. We see but a delicate arlequin, with something between sadness and compassion in his eyes.

One of the most representative artists of the rococo painting in England was William Hogarth. Son of an entrepreneur who had eventually been imprisoned for debt, William Hogarth had a simple and modesst private life, as is reflected in many of his paintings: ordinary characters, with a simple way of life and a satyrical touch. He worked as an apprentice as a silver engraver, which made him take contact with the French art of the time, which was to later influence his work and passion for the utmost details. He worked with Sir James Thornhill, the only true representative of late English Baroque, from whom he learned the mastery of painting. He joint him in popualting the English painting and proved to be fully against those who praised the classical subjects in paintings, such as The Holy Family, Madonnas or Christs. In this way, many critics have referred to him as being a true anglicist: he used almost exclusively subjects from England and London, which were plentiful enough, an immense array of human typologies that would be used by Hogarth either on a poverty or high life background.

After suffering from poverty himself, Higarth painted a series of dramatical paintings, which would be later turned into engravings. These fables have a strong political and satyrical sense to them, with clear intentions of a "moral painting." As one can see from their creation, they are either negligently painted (during the times that Hogarth needed quantity in order to provide for his family), or carefully thought out in the smallest details (as he insisted on the quality of his art). His contribution to aesthetics in his Analysis of Beauty is also notable.

His appartenance to the Rococo style in painting is given by the light colors he uses in people's clothing and the bright colors in his oil paintings, but most importantly, from the fact that Rococo allowed him…

Sources Used in Documents:


1. The Illustrated History of Painting. Meridiane, Bucharest, 1973

2. La Pittura Italiana. Mondadori, 1997

3. Guide to the Borghese Gallery. Edizione de Luca. 1997.

4. Nouveau Guide Pratique de Rome et Vatican. Bonechi. 1975

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