Baroque and Rococo

Baroque and Rococo Art Map




Francesco Borromini
Francois Mansart


With its roots in Italy, in the late 16th and early 17th century, a style evolved out of
Mannerism that expressed new ideas about the world, nature, and human relationships.
New concepts of the role of an in relation to civil and ecclesiastical power emerged, as
well as a changed attitude towards the private individual's enjoyment of beauty.


During the l7th century, the Catholic Church, by now fully recovered from the schism of the Reformation and more confident of its power following the meetings of the Council of Trent (1545-1563), began to exploit art as a means of disseminating new doctrines. In much the same way, the great European monarchies entrusted artists with the task of creating suitably magnificent and persuasive images of their grandeur.


Baroque Architecture

The Baroque was a highly theatrical style that relied on illusion, rhetoric, and extravagance for its effects. Over the years, these characteristics have provoked differing reactions: they were rejected during the Neoclassical era. but have been praised in modern times. The basic elements of the style remained fairly consistent during the course of the 17th century and the first half of the 18th century. Though much altered, they were still utilized in a way that can be termed Late Baroque. The essential characteristics of the Baroque architectural style were the transformation of natural shapes; the alteration of classical proportions; methods of shrinking or expanding space; and illusionism. These combined to increase the emotional charge of works of art and create effects of surprise and wonder that were far beyond common experience. Artists strove for an unbroken continuity between internal and external spaces, between painted and architectural space, as well as between artifice and nature. This sometimes led to the use of natural elements, such as water and light, as well as the combination of techniques and effects from different types of art, making the onlooker play the dual role of spectator and actor.


Gianlorenzo Bernini, detail of the Fountain of the Four Rivers, Piazza Navona, Rome, 1648-51.

The four rivers - the Danube, Nile, Ganges, and Rio de la Plata - represented the then-known world and hinted a! the Church's global influence.






Built to the express wishes of Pope Innocent X Pamphili, the Piazza Navona in Rome is typical of the Baroque idea of urban space. It transformed the area in front of the Pamphili family palace and the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone into a suitable setting for public entertainment. Indeed, the large open space is contained within the outlines of the ancient Roman racetrack, the Hippodrome of Domitian. The central focus was the Fountain of the Four Rivers (1648-51) by Gianlorenzo Bernini (1598— 1680), which probably echoes the temporary structure erected as part of the celebrations of Innocent's election. It exemplifies the synthesis of nature and art, with water gushing from a hollow rock, on which sit personifications of the four continents and the greatest rivers then known. From this base soars the obelisk, symbol of man's aspiration towards the infinite, surmounted by the emblem of the Pamphili family. Two smaller fountains in the piazza, also by Bernini, and the facade of the church of Sant' Agnese (1653—57) by Francesco Borromini (1599-1677) provide a balance to the central fountain. The church's high dome and twin bell towers, along with the vertical axis of Bernini's fountain, contrast with the piazza's horizontal planes.


Piazza Navona, Rome.
This view shows Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers and the facade of Sant'Agnese in Agone.

Piazza Navona, Rome. The Fountain of Neptune can be seen in the foreground.




The Place Royale (now the Place des Vosges) was laid out in 1604 in the then aristocratic quarter of Paris on land owned by the Crown. Its understated elegance is a product of both its proportions — it is a true square — and the uniformity of the facades that conceal the individual houses. Variety is provided by materials: white stone for the architectural framework, red brick for the walls, and grey slate for the roofs. Only the roofs and chimneys demarcate the individual buildings, which have shops at ground level, family residences above, and attics for servants. In the centre of the north and south sides, the Pavilion du Roi and the Pavilion de la Reine face each other, providing the square with a central axis: in the middle stands a statue of Louis XIII.

Place des Vosges. detail of one of the houses.



Daumont, Place Royale, Paris (now the Place des Vosges), 18th-century print.



Bernini's project for St Peter's Square was submitted in its definitive form in 1657 and was vigorously supported by Pope Alexander VII Chigi. The colonnaded piazza, linked to the basilica's facade by a small square, is enhanced by the obelisk erected by Domenico Fontana for Sixtus V, as well as two fountains sited at the focal points of the oval space. Bernini's proposal made the most of the grandeur of the great colonnaded semicircles, which are four columns deep, underlining the symbolic power of the square - they are
stretched out towards the city and the world beyond like the arms of the Church. The variety of visual effects and perspectives balances the relationship between the horizontal space of the piazza and Michelangelo's dome on the basilica itself. A planned third section of colonnade was to have closed the square, but this was never built. Instead, the opening of the great boulevard leading from the church in the 1940s has compromised the sense of enclosure that Bernini sought.

Plan of St Peter's basilica and piazzas, Vatican City.


View of St Peter's Square, Vatican City.


Francesco Borromini


Francesco Castelli, known as Borromini (1599-1677), learned his craft working at Milan Cathedral as a pupil of Francesco Maria Richino (1584-1658), the greatest Milanese exponent of Baroque. From at least 1619 onwards, Borromini worked for Maderno and Bernini in Rome, until he received commissions for the convent and church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane (1635-41) and the Falconieri and Spada palaces there. The most memorable of his many buildings in Rome include the Chiesa nuova and Oratory for the Congregation of San Filippo Neri and the churches of Sant'Agnese and Sant'lvo alla Sapienza. Borromini, who eventually took his own life, was one of the most original and inventive exponents of Baroque architecture, which he imbued with soaring upward movement and powerful chiaroscuro effects. He was also one of the finest of a succession of artists, architects, and sculptors, who, from the Middle Ages well into the 18th century, moved from the valleys and foothills of the Lombard Alps into the mainstream of Italian and European art.


The Urban Space

The consolidation of great nation states in which power was centralized, the emergence of capital cities as seats of government and symbols of power, and a growth in population and traffic (both pedestrian and wheeled) all contributed to an urgent need to redefine the city. Baroque planning imposed an ordered structure based on a web of wide, straight thoroughfares, which linked a series of focal points, such as gateways, churches, and palaces. To give the townscape a more orderly appearance, continuous streets were created and the facades of important buildings were integrated wherever possible to form a harmonious urban fabric. Rome led in this process of urban transformation, and Sixtus V, pope from 1585 to 1590, entrusted the task to the architect Domenico Fontana (1543-1607). The project entailed the construction of straight roads directly linking the seven main basilicas of Rome, several of which were situated in the outskirts of the city. Its practical purpose was to revive depopulated districts outside Rome's historic nucleus, and to enliven the holiest of cities. During the course of the century, other building works contributed to the creation of the modern image of Rome: Pope Innocent X (1644-55) commissioned Gianlorenzo Bernini anci Francesco Borromini, to design the Piazza Navona, and Alexander VII (1655—67) commissioned St Peter's Square by Bernini, the Piazza di Santa Maria della Pace by Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669), and the Piazza del Popolo by Carlo Rainaldi (1611-91). As the century progressed, Paris also assumed a more symmetrical appearance. The French capital began to change into a modern city during the reign of Henry IV (1589-1610), who built the Place Royale. This was innovative in its regular geometric shape formed by residential buildings of uniform appearance - such squares were conceived as a setting for a centrally placed statue of the sovereign. Built between 1604 and 1612 in the Marais district of Paris, the Place des Vosges, as it is now called, was the first example of this new urban feature, and was followed by the Place Dauphine on the He de la Cite. Under the Regent Marie de Medicis (1610-17), the interest of the French Court shifted to the construction of imposing buildings, such as the Palais du Luxembourg. Following the accession of Louis XIII (1617-43), work was resumed on altering and enlarging the Palais du Louvre, but it was only under Louis XIV (1661— 1715), when the monarchy felt fully secure, that Paris was transformed into a great capital city. Louis XIV made his chief minister Colbert directly responsible for urban planning, and he oversaw such projects as the creation of the circular Place des Victoires, designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646-1708), and the polygonal Place Vendome. The old city walls were demolished and replaced by concentric rings of boulevards, with avenues and streets radiating out towards the surrounding countryside. Andre Le Notre (1613-1700) laid out the Tuileries gardens and the Avenue des Champs-Elysees, and created the landscape and gardens of the great Palace at Versailles. The Italian city of Turin, capital to the dukes of Savoy from 1563 onwards, underwent similar changes in urban planning; it was transformed by architects such as Ascanio Vitozzi (1539-1615), who created the Piazza Castello and the Via Nuova, and Carlo di Castellamonte (1560-1641), who expanded the city following the grid system used in the original Roman castrum. In 1638, he planned the Piazza Reale, now Piazza San Carlo, which was inspired by the Place Royale in Paris, though here closed by two churches with facades by the later Baroque architect Filippo Juvarra (1678-1736).

Blaeu, Piazza Reale, Turin, engraving. Library of the Royal Palace, Turin.
The great square is notable for the symmetry of the palaces and Juvarra's churches.


Aerial view of St Peters, Vatican City. The Vatican buiidings, parts of which were altered after Bernini's time,
typify Roman Baroque architecture and urban planning.



Frencesco Borromini
San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane
Rome, Italy


Frencesco Borromini
S Ivo della Sapienza
Rome, Italy


Schematic plan (based on that by the modern scholar Giedion) for the prospective reorganization of Rome under Pope Sixtus V (1585-90). The aim was to create wide, straight thoroughfares which linked the most important churches. In this drawing, a solid line denotes work actually carried out.


Aerial view of the Piazza del Popoio, Rome.
On the far side of the square are the churches of Santa Maria di Montesanto (1662-75) and Santa Maria dei Miracoli (1675-81), by Rainaldi, Bernini, and Carlo Fontana. In the foreground is the Porta del Popoio;
the facade facing the square was designed by Bernini (c. 1665).


Francois Mansart (1598-1666) was appointed architect to Louis XIII of France in 1636. He was one of the creators of the style classique, which developed from the cultural renaissance in 16th-century France and replaced the Mannerist style with a more purely classical and distinctively French version of the European Baroque. His great-nephew and pupil Jules Hardouin-Mansart became royal architect in 1675 and built the Palace of Versailles around an earlier building by Louis Le Vau, as well as the dome of the Invalides in Paris (1680-1707). His designs for city squares made him an influential town planner in his day. The Mansarts gave their name to the high, steeply pitched "mansard" roof.



Perelle, Place Dauphine, engraving.
The sguare was planned during the reign of Henry IV as part of a scheme to rationalize Paris.



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