Mannerism & Baroque
The Absence of Stylistic Unity
From Mannerism to Baroque
The Passions of the Soul
The Allegorical Tradition


p. 19 ['style' indefinable]
  • personal style (e.g. Rembrandt, Poussin, Rubens, Bernini, etc.)
  • period style (e.g. High Renaissance, Mannerism, Baroque)

pp. 19-26
Mannerism and Baroque

(image source Carol Gerten)

  • Rubens, Descent from the Cross, 1611-12
    1. grandeur of conception
    2. power of feeling
    3. both unite to produce an air of epic tragedy
    4. actions of figures are natural and appropriate
    5. grief and horror of those closest to Christ
    6. physical strain and effort of those lowering the dead body
    7. night scene [evening?]
    8. but the compact group around cross is illumined by a supernatural light
    9. contrasting colours
    10. livid, bloodless colour of Christ's body
    11. vivid red of St. John's mantle

Roger de Piles [Conversations sur la connaissance de la peinture, 1677, p. 135]: "the painter has entered so fully into the expression of his subject that the sight of this work has the power to touch a hardened soul and to cause it to experience the sufferings endured by Jesus Christ in order to redeem it."

(image source: Minor, 1999)

  • Agnolo Bronzino, Martyrdom of Saint Lawrence
    S. Lorenzo, Florence, c. 1545-50

    (image source Carol Gerten)

    • Agnolo Bronzino, The Deposition, c. 1545-50
  1. elegant conception
  2. strangely inexpressive and detached
  3. agitated composition, full of incidents
  4. but, little sense of dramatic unity
  5. figures elongated and have energetic, angular postures
  6. arranged to create a decorative pattern
  7. no strong emotions
  8. shallow space
  9. forms tend to adhere to the vertical plane
  10. removes the event from the realm of flesh and blood
  11. Mannerist refinement and artifice prevail over nature and feeling

(image source: Chris Witcombe)

  • Gianlorenzo Bernini, The Fountain of the Four Rivers, 1648-51
    1. robust naturalism
    2. free deployment of forms in space
    3. River Gods disposed in lively attitudes on an irregular, deep-cut rocky base
    4. craggy mass appears inadequate to support weighty obelisk on top
    5. complexity and multiplicity of parts
    6. but, possesses a powerful unity
    7. spectacular, exuberant monument
    8. also served as symbol of universal triumph of the church

    (image source Web Gallery of Art)

    (image source Web Gallery of Art)

  • Bartolomeo Ammanati, Neptune Fountain, 1560-75
    1. gigantic marble Neptune standing on a high pedestal in centre
    2. bronze figures on smaller scale placed around perimeter
    3. lacks impressive visual unity of Bernini's fountain
    4. figure of Neptune flat and ungainly, to be seen primarily from front
    5. Neptune appears unrelated to bronze figures
    6. bronze figures "best parts of work"
    7. slender, graceful, elegantly posed, extravagant attitudes
    8. typical products of Mannerist fantasy

    Defining Some Stylistic Terms (Blunt [1980])


    • elegant
    • refined
    • artificial
    • courtly style
    • origin in the art of Parmigianino, Madonna del Collo Lungo, 1533-40

    (image source Carol Gerten)


    • art created in Rome roughly in the period 1620-1680, then spread elsewhere
    • 'rhetorical'
    • aim was to strike astonishment and admiration in the spectator

    in painting:

    Pietro da Cortona, Glorification of the Reign of Urban VIII, 1633-39
    1. dynamic composition
    2. irrational lighting and chiaroscuro
    3. dramatic gestures
    4. ecstatic poses
    5. miraculous effects

    in sculpture:

    (image source Mark Harden)

    Bernini, Ecstasy of St. Theresa, 1648-52
    1. same kinds of poses and gestures
    2. sometimes combined with coloured marbles and trompe l'oeil imitations

    in architecture:

    • Bernini, S. Andrea al Quirinale, 1658-70 (ext.)
      1. effects of movement by means of curving walls and incomplete spaces
      2. preference for ovals or polygons
      3. dramatic and concealed lighting
      4. effects of false perspective

    • Bernini, S. Andrea al Quirinale, 1658-70 (int.)
      1. lavish introduction of coloured marbles and gilding
      2. skillful siting


    in architecture:

    (image source AICT)

    Maison Carrée, Nîmes

    Bramante, Il Tempietto, Rome

    Maison Carrée, Nîmes and Bramante, Il Tempietto
    1. correct employment of the Orders according to ancient practice
    2. pursuit of certain qualities of clarity and simplicity
    3. preference for regular forms (circle and square)
    4. preference for plane surfaces
    5. clearly defined masses
    6. simple materials (stone and stucco rather than marbles and gilding)
    7. static and monumental result

    in sculpture, compare:

    (image source Web Gallery of Art)

    Alessandro Algardi, Beheading of St. Paul, 1641-47 (Bologna)
    1. direct imitation of Roman models
    2. either types of figures or forms of drapery
    3. preference for frontal views or low relief
    4. (rather than 3-D movement, high relief, and deep undercutting)

    (image source Mark Harden)

    Bernini, Apollo and Daphne, 1622-25

    in painting, compare:

    (image source Carol Gerten)

    Poussin, Arcadian Shepherds, c. 1640
    1. figures based on ancient sculpture
    2. both in types and in treatment of drapery
    3. designs sometimes taken from ancient reliefs
    4. direct imitation of antiquity accompanied by symmetry in disposition of figures and clarity in the construction of space
    5. preference for static (rather than violent) poses
    6. explicit (rather than evocative) expressions and gestures

    in contrast in painting, compare:

    (image source Carol Gerten)

    Rubens, Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus, 1618

    1. generally a use of clear daylight
    2. (rather than dramatic or supernatural lighting)

    (image source Carol Gerten)

    Caravaggio, Death of the Virgin, 1605-06

    1. emphasis on idea of decorum
    2. (i.e. making the style of the painting suitable to its theme)

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    ART AND THEORY IN BAROQUE EUROPE is produced by Christopher L. C. E. Witcombe, Professor of Art History, Sweet Briar College in Virginia, 24595 USA (phone: 804-381-6194 / fax: 804-381-6494). For more information, please email him at

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