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Baroque Art Paintings and Sculpture Essay

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Updated: Jul 11th, 2020

Gentileschi’s “Judith and Holofernes” vs. Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Theresa”. Expression of the goals and interest of the Baroque

The Baroque Period was characterized by the ability to use specific knowledge to open new ideas, demonstrate a kind of extraordinary imagination, and an amazing creativity. Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa” and Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes” are the two bright examples of how painting and sculpture express the main idea of the Baroque, its uniqueness, and unusual understanding of the Biblical reality with its cruelty, fascination, and explanation of the details that fulfill a human life.

If in “Judith Slaying Holofernes”, Gentileschi uses painting with its lighting, coloring, and dramatization in the most effective ways to promote the tension of the scene and explain the audience the peculiarities of death, then, in “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa”, Bernini considers the importance of the divine joy and physical satisfaction by means of white heavy marble that seems to lose its weight due to the characters’ placement on a white cloud.

Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa” defines the main idea of the Baroque due to the use of controversial concepts: on the one hand, it is a heavy and definite material of the sculpture that proves its connection to people, their problems, intentions, and even a kind of human uncertainty. On the other hand, the combination of a cloud and the golden lines above the figures or even the distance between an angel and a woman proves the heavenly soaring serenity.

In its turn, Gentileschi’s “Judith Slaying Holofernes” painting represents the idea of female recalcitrance, desire to have equal rights and opportunities, and necessity to emerge from the male shadows that was inherent to the Baroque. The artist pays a certain attention to the human bodies’ color and leavers some their parts in the shade to prove that the Baroque period did not focus on the surroundings but on the particular details, actions, and thoughts.

Rigaud’s “Louis XIV” vs. Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus”. Reflection of the priorities of the audience of that time

The Baroque paintings like Rigaud’s “Louis XIV” and Caravaggio’s “Supper at Emmaus” speak to the priorities of the audience in their own particular ways. Though the audience for painting is usually minuscule, the Baroque was the period, when the artists tried to involve each spectator into their works and prove that their roles were still influential and important. These two works have different addressees; still, they contain a number of the Baroque characteristics like the play of light and shadow, focus on a human body, and attention to the details that represent a story.

Rigaud paid much attention to the audience of his “Louis XIV” and wanted to retell as many facts from the king’s life as possible using not many shadows that was not inherent to the Baroque. It is a well-known fact that the artist created the painting for the Spanish king; this is why it is not a surprise to observe the work prepared in a calm, definite, and clear tone.

This full-sized portrait introduces the life of a French king with his duties, interests, and abilities. The goal of the work is not to make the spectator think about the reasons of why something takes place on the painting, but to learn better the life of a particular person, enjoy the things that surround him, and demonstrate the beauty of the life using red, white, and gold colors.

Caravaggio chose another attitude to the audience in his “Supper at Emmaus”. There is no certain person, the work is addressed to. This is why it seems that the painter’s main intention was to provide people with an opportunity to observe one moment from the history and learn the details of the Biblical miracle portrayed. The mimics differently used for each character, the hands’ position, and even the location of the bodies introduce the audience a kind of excitement. The audience performs the role of a valuer, who should say his/her “I do/do not believe” the author, the event, and the work in general.

Van Oosterwyck’s “Vanitas” vs. Vermeer’s “Geograpger”. Representation of the distinctly Northern European interest in the middle-class, education, and science

“Vanitas Still Life” by Oosterwyck and “The Geographer” by Vermeer are the Dutch examples of how the artists saw the world, identified the priorities, and promoted the scientific progress the most. It is not enough to say that the main proof of the Northern European interest in education or the middle-class representatives is the choice of such subjects like a globe, the hourglasses, books, a map, insects, or flowers. Of course, when people look at such pictures, they think about the styles of life preferred during the chosen period. However, it is more interesting to observe the light and the chosen colors to comprehend how these works could represent the scientific interest inherent to the period.

Vermeer’s “Geographer” is a powerful collection of the ideas and different ways of interpretation of the scientific and educational interest of the Dutch. For example, the painter uses the light that comes from the window (the symbol of something undiscovered and new) to enlighten a map and the dividers (the symbols of science and the desire to get an education) in the hands of the geographer wearing rich still moderate clothes and focus on his face implying the intellectual passion and inquiry.

Oosterwyck’s “Vanitas Still Life” seems to have too many subjects that have a particular goal – to show as many proofs of people’s desire to focus on science, discoveries, and education as possible. Still, the analysis of the painting helps to comprehend that a whole story is hidden behind all these subjects and colors. Each subject has its function: flowers and a butterfly (the importance of nature), the globe (the passion for adventures), maize residues (the middle-class attachment), etc. All these subjects have their own levels of lighting that underlines their roles in the society and the attention people pay to them in regards to their interests.

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