Sculpture in the Baroque Period

During the Baroque era, Europe experienced significant political and religious upheaval. This had a profound effect on art and culture as well.

In addition to architecture and painting, sculpture during the Baroque era also reflected these changes. Many sculptors rejected straight lines in favor of depicting movement and emotion.

Characteristics of Baroque Sculpture

Sculpture in the Baroque Period was inspired by Renaissance and Mannerism art movements, drawing inspiration from classical Greek and Roman sculpture. This important artistic movement spread throughout Europe and its colonies in America during the 17th century.

During the Baroque era, many notable artists and sculptors created works. Gian Lorenzo Bernini is particularly well-known for his dramatic sculptures that could be viewed from multiple points of view, which had a lasting impact on European sculpture.

Baroque sculpture is distinguished by the figura serpentina, an artistic technique in which figures or groups of figures are arranged in an ascending spiral. This technique was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, giving Baroque art its unique appearance.

Baroque sculpture often highlighted the contrasts between youth and age, beauty and ugliness, men and women. Additionally, Baroque works featured chiaroscuro techniques – which use light and dark to produce dramatic effects.

Baroque sculpture is an essential aspect of architecture and art history, distinguished by its distinctive character that sets it apart from other styles. It features granduracy, drama, contrast (especially in lighting), curvaceousness and an array of rich surface treatments, twisting components and gilded statuary.

Baroque style architecture was also prevalent in religious buildings, palaces, and other public areas during the 17th century. This form of cultural and artistic expression served to popularize religion and Christianity during this period.

Some of the finest examples of Baroque sculpture can be found in museums around the globe, testament to its influence on European culture. For instance, Rome’s Trevi Fountain serves as an exquisite example of baroque art and architecture at its most stunning.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was born in Naples and, according to his son Domenico, “his first lessons in plastic art were given by his father Pietro.” A gifted carver, he quickly mastered marble carving techniques from ancient Greece as well as Michelangelo’s (1475-1564) and Giambologna’s (1529-1608) masterpieces.

His career included commissions for churches and public structures in Rome as well as theater work – writing, directing, acting in plays. Furthermore, he designed stage sets, theatrical machinery, and other decorative arts objects.

Bernini was one of the greatest sculptors of his era and masterful at capturing emotions through his artwork. Together with his contemporaries in Rome, he transformed traditional portrait busts into something new: they called it a’speaking likeness’.

He drew on his extensive knowledge of theatre to accurately capture the emotions portrayed in his sculptures. Particularly, he used facial expression to engage viewers and create an intense emotional experience.

He also took inspiration from ancient Greece and Rome’s myths. For instance, his sculpture of Apollo and Daphne, depicting the meeting between heaven and earth, serves as evidence. As viewers circle around it, her hair gradually transforms into a laurel tree as it flutters around her.

Over his long career, Bernini continued to explore and experiment with sculpture. His pieces often incorporate materials like rope, cloth, and skin while mastering light-and-shadow techniques. Unfortunately, some criticised his creations; neoclassical writers frequently attacked them for being overly sensual and emotionally charged.

Techniques

In the Baroque Period, sculpture was employed to express emotions, passions and tension. It took inspiration from both Renaissance and Mannerist periods as well as classical antiquity.

Roman Catholic Churches encouraged this style as a response to Protestant Reformation. By the 17th century, it had spread throughout Europe and America’s colonies.

Many sculptors created works of art based on religious subjects and themes, including biblical epics. Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the most renowned sculptor during this era; his depictions of biblical scenes like David and Goliath were filled with movement, emotion and drama.

One of his earliest works, David and Daphne, exemplifies this style perfectly. Here we see the biblical hero in a moment of triumph as he swings his sword with both feet spread apart as if gazing ahead at Goliath who stands within his line of vision.

Baroque sculpture relies heavily on this technique to convey dramatic and emotional moments. Through delicate drapery, viewers are able to witness the saint’s exhaustion and surrender to divine love.

One key technique in Baroque sculpture is the use of light. The artist uses various light colors to give figures an aura of mystery and mysticism.

One outstanding example is the fresco in the Church of Saint Ignatius, which depicts action and drama with numerous figures floating up towards the heavens with Saint Ignatius at its center.

In Europe during the Baroque era, political and religious tensions existed between catholic and protestant countries. As such, it is no surprise that this style became a powerful propagandistic tool for both sides.

Materials

Baroque sculpture was often made from luxurious materials like colorful marble, bronze or even gold-gilded. It featured vibrant angels flying, people engaging in battle, crowds cowering with fear and saints ascending into the heavens.

In the Baroque era, sculpture reflected cultural and intellectual trends of its time. At this point in Europe, where Catholicism had taken hold, artists created work that was more embellished than what had been seen during Renaissance or Mannerist periods.

Artists also adapted traditional techniques to modern media. For instance, painters began using quadro riportato (frescos that create the illusion of being composed of multiple framed paintings), quadrature (ceiling painting) and trompe l’oeil (an art technique which creates the illusion that two separate things are occurring simultaneously).

These techniques created a more dramatic effect than the previous style of painting, which sought to capture calmness and objectivity. Furthermore, Baroque sculptors often employed multiple ideal viewing angles in their artworks.

The Baroque period was a time of cultural awakening that resulted in many iconic works of art. Whether you want to view some of history’s most iconic sculptures or just learn about this period, these pictures are sure to pique your interest. So take some time and choose your favorite sculptures!

Symbolism

Baroque artists utilized symbolism as a medium to express their artistic ideas. This included depicting plants, animals and people using metaphors or with attributes of gods and goddesses; the most frequent symbol motifs being flowers, fruit and foliage.

Plant symbolism was inspired by ancient texts and classical mythology. Certain plants, like grapes and corn, were seen as representations of Bacchus and Ceres while others served as emblems of virtue such as clover or hemlock.

Another popular motif among saints was those who experienced ecstasy and conversion. The Virgin Mary is often depicted as a white lily, symbolizing purity and chastity; she may also be accompanied by a rose symbolizing charity and love.

Our collection features a late 17th-century tankard decorated with lavish floral decoration. It showcases running scrolls of leaves and an acanthus leaf, both emblematic of baroque art.

Contrary to Renaissance art of the prior century, which relied more on representational and static sculpture, Baroque artists employed an overly dramatic approach. Their works featured emotional scenes with fallen objects, actions in motion, and melodramatic faces.

These characteristics can be seen in architecture as well. The Baroque period brought energy and movement through circular forms, concave and convex walls, twisted columns, and dramatic exterior projections.

Baroque art relied heavily on light to achieve dramatic effects and contrast in structures and artworks. To accomplish this effect, they employed the Chiaroscuro technique which employed interplay of light and shadow to achieve desired intensities.