[Partly revised and edited 10/3/07 and 9/23/15.  The links to material at the Baroque Composers and Musicians site and the Web Museum site should be particularly helpful.}

Baroque Art, Music, and Literature

Generalization: The great Baroque artists did an excellent job helping people find order and assurance amid the chaos of the 17th century.

Italian painter who helped develop the Baroque style with its strong lighting and dramatic themes.  The filmstrip emphasized religious works included The Calling of St. Matthew and several martyrdom stories.  Caravaggio's work would certainly have helped out in an era of growing religious doubts.  His religious paintings help make the Bible come alive.  The calling of St. Matthew seems to stress that even the most unlikely sort of person (a tax collector in this case) might be called to God's service.  The martyrdom scenes might have encouraged those who were persecuted to stand fast in their faith.  See these Caravaggio paintings at the Web Museum.

Italian composer, a pioneer in the field of opera.  The filmstrip stressed L'Orfeo, an opera that tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice.  Operatic works deal with the big issues of life, and this particular opera might have been well suited to those like Orpheus who had lost loved ones.  Opera also provides a lavish spectacle, and operatic entertainments would have had a tendency to reinforce the prestige/solidarity of the opera-going nobles.  Also did madrigals (before the operas).  He later became a priest and wrote church music that prepared the way for Bach and Handel.   There were actually strains of his  "Vespers" in the video we watched in class.  I suspect many of you will be really impressed.  Music to study by!

Painter from the Spanish Netherlands (today's Belgium) who studied in Italy and whose work led to the spread of the Baroque style beyond italy.  Rubens did religious paintings similar in impact to those of Caravaggio, i.e., they would have helped the Bible "come alive."  Rubens also did secular works.  The filmstrip talked of his "hearty, full-blooded attitude toward life."  Rubens is a generally optimistic painter, affirming life's goodness.  He is also important for his work for Marie de' Medici.  His paintings of scenes from her life show her accompanied by gods and angels.  Such works would have helped prepare the way for the acceptance of stronger royal authority, perhaps even the absolute monarchy that Louis XIV would establish.  Quite a few Rubens paintings at the Web Museum.

Italian sculptor and friend of Pope Urban VIII.  The filmstrip empasized his "David" and his  work on St. Peter's.   The first shows David, having cast aside Saul's armor, flinging a stone at Goliath.  It's impressive for its ability to "capture the action" and for it's dramatic qualities.  With determination and God's help, you can lick any giant that comes along.

The decorations for St. Peter's are important because of the way the enhance papal prestige.  The Pope claims authority as the "vicar of St. Peter."  Catholics argue that Jesus gave authority over the earthly church to the apostles, and particularly to Peter.  Peter was given the "keys" so that whatever he bound on earth was bound in heaven and whatever he loosed on earth was loosed in heaven.  Where did this authority over the earthly church go when Peter and the other apostles died?  Catholics argue it went to the bishops of the churches founded by the apostles, and particularly to Peter's successor as the bishop of Rome, the Pope.  That idea had been accepted in Europe for a long, long time, but the Reformation (and the poor character of some of the Renaissance popes) had greatly reduced papal prestige.  At a time when the papal image badly needed rebuilding, Bernini's work emphasized the basics of the Pope's claim to power.  A 90 foot high bronze canopy over the tomb of Peter and a splendid setting for a wooden chair thought to have belonged to Peter help.  Likewise helpful are the monuments to past popes, as is the impressive colonnade Bernini designed for the approach to St. Peter's.  Good  Bernini information and links at the Web Gallery of Art.

Italian violinist and composer, a pioneer of the Baroque style in music.  Corelli's violin performances featured much improvisation--but improvisation within strict rules.   Perhaps this gives the listener that, beyond the complexity and tension of life is an underlying order, just as in Baroque music complexity and tension are contained within a larger sense of order.  Corelli likewise helped develop the concerto grosso format where solo instruments  "compete" with the whole orchestra.  The fact that eventually the tension/complexity eventually resolve may help explain why such music has a positive effect on us.  A sense of order and assurance for the listener?  Perhaps.  Here's another attempt to explain Corelli's work.

Dutch painter working in the Baroque style.  Rembrandt does many religious works: another of these artists who helps the Bible come alive.  Particularly touching is his portrayal of the Prodigal Son, a great painting especially for those who sense a need for forgiveness--or perhaps to do some forgiving themselves!  Rembrandt's work featured members of the rising middle class, and would have supported the general political direction of Holland: away from noble control and toward a "bourgeois"-dominated government.  The filmstrip also emphasized Rembrandt's portraits, especially his many self-portraits.  Very good  Rembrandt material at the Web Museum.

German musician and (extraordinarily prolific!) composer.  Among other things, Bach did lots of religious music, at one point writing a new cantata every week for church performance.  His "St. Matthew Passion" is a good example of what music does for order and assurance.  The filmstrip compares this to Rembrandt's etchings: the music help makes the Bible come alive.  For more on Bach, see the great links at the Baroque composers and musicians site.

Also a German composer, but he also spent time in Italy and lived much of his life in England.  The filmstrip empasized his operas (a German composer writing operas sung in Italian for an English audience).  The operas featured arias, a character "caught in the grip of a single emotion."  Later, Handel shifted to the oratorio, a form similar to that of the operas but on sacred themes and sung in English.  The filmstrip mentioned Esther and Samson as Handel oratorios, but focused most on Handel's most famous oratorio, the Messiah.  Handel puts to music scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, and there's clearly a strong emotional appeal in this work.  If Pascal is right in saying our problems are in our heart rather than our head, then it's obvious that this kind of thing is very important in an era of growing religious doubts.  "King of king, and Lord of Lords, and He shall reign forever and ever."  For more on Handel, see the links at the Baroque composers and musicians site.