The Baroque Era was between the time period 1600s-1700s. This era brought about many changes to the arts. The influences on art, music, and theater changed the way arts are perceived in our culture today.
A main influence in the Baroque Era was the Catholic Church. In 1517, Martin Luther started a movement that would challenge the church, this was called the Protestant Reformation. Due to this movement in 1545 the church started a movement of their own to preserve the Catholic Church, this movement was called the Counter-Reformation. From the Counter-Reformation, the Council of Trent was established by Pope Paul III. The Council of Trent was created to help the Catholic Church counter the attacks against the church from the Protestant Reformation movement.
The Council of Trent had an effect on the art that was created in the Baroque Era. A goal of the council was to educate the members of the church about the faith. To educate the members, the council decided that art could show and teach about the faith. Thus from this decision, there were rules and guidelines on the religious artwork that was created in the era. The guidelines given by the Catholic Church on religious art has a connection to the style of painting called “tenebrism” that was popular in the Baroque Era.
The connection between the painting Crucifixion by Alonso Cano and the Council of Trent is clear. During the Catholic Counter-Reformation, they used art to promote the faith, which in turn made “tenebrism” become an aspect of Spanish Baroque art. Alonso Cano (1601-1667) was a popular figure in Spanish Baroque art, thus connecting himself and his art to the Council of Trent.
Tenebrism is a style of painting that consists of contrasts of light, dark and deep shadows. An example of dramatic tenebrism is the painting by Alonso Cano, Crucifixion (1636-1638) The Hermitage, St.Petersburg.
The painting by Alonso Cano is a dramatic form of the style “tenebrism”. The black background allows the viewer to focus on the individual in the center. Alonso’s use of dark colors mirrors the feeling of sadness. The dark shadow across his face, and the blood on his body add to the darkness of the painting. As the scene is dark it reflects death, a common theme found in art from the Baroque Era. The theme allows us, as the audience to experience the painting as if we were there, due to the realism in the art.A factor that contributes to the realism in the painting is the shadows both light and dark.
Northern Renaissance vs. Baroque Era
When looking into the different techniques used in the Northern Renaissance and the Baroque Era, there are quite a few differences. I would like to compare two paintings, one from the Northern Renaissance and the other from Baroque Era that both have a religious connection.
A popular piece of work from the brothers Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck is the Ghent Altarpiece in the Vyd Chapel in St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent. The altar was the first of its kind in 1432. The painting Adoration of the Lamb is the lower middle panel of the altarpiece.
When observing Adoration of the Lamb you can see the incredible detail work. Another factor that stands out in the painting is the use of vibrant colors. The artwork is not as realistic as Crucifixion, however, it does display a hint of realism. When placed next to Crucifixion by Alonso Cano, one can explore the difference of techniques used by the artists. In the painting Crucifixion, the technique “tenebrism” is used by Alonso, from this technique, it creates a depth and realism to the painting. Compared to the lightness of Adoration of the Lamb, Crucifixion is dark and dramatic with less detail. Crucifixion has a notable difference in color palette and technique, yet the connection between the two paintings remain the same.
As both of the paintings have a religious context, it is not unrealistic to understand that both artists were influenced by the church. The connection between them is undeniable, yet they contain different techniques and styles.