Baroque Era

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.

Aesthetic Appreciation

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.




4 thoughts on “Baroque Era

  1. Thank you for that great example of tenebrism. It truly is dramatic, you can hardly see half of his face. When compared to the Northern Renaissance painting you show, the difference is obvious. The Renaissance painting has some shadow work in it but nothing as dramatic as in the Baroque painting. It is as if the Council of Trent realized how in danger their faith was and decided that they had to dial the drama up to 100. That said, they do manage to make their point. The painting communicates a grave sadness and no doubt would make the faithful contemplate how Jesus died on the cross for them and made a great sacrifice.


  2. What a wonderfully put together post. I really like the pieces that you chose they really do exemplify the Baroque period. The altarpiece is stunning and I like that you compared it to Alonos’ crucifixion. They are very different but both come from a the influence in the church. I really admire the van Eyck’s altarpiece, its beautiful and warm and quite a cheery scene, especially when you compare it to the Crucifixion with its use of tenebrism. It was nice to have the background history aspect first very much set the stage for your analysis of the two paintings.


  3. Such a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading your blog and your description of the artwork. You chose very interesting pieces that I think represent the era’s perfectly. I also like the way you compared the two pieces shows a great reflection on how The Council of Trent influenced the Baroque period, and that you stated there is “a notable difference in color palette and technique, yet the connection between the two paintings remain the same.” I find it very interesting that a pair of brothers collaborated on a piece of art work together! I think during this time era it was mostly singular artists being named in famous works of art. I rarely hear about collaborations, or maybe it just isn’t something I am familiar with! Either way, I think it is very cool that they collaborated this piece and it turned out so beautiful, and that they created something that was the first of its kind.


  4. Reblogged this on Life is a Journey of Learning and commented:
    I chose to comment on Nicole Lindsay’s Baroque blog because I thought her blog did a great job of summarizing how the Catholic Church influenced the Baroque Era as the Catholic Church responded to Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Nicole’s blog outlined how the Counter-Reformation movement implemented by the Catholic Church was a calculated response to inform members of the church and move them to be more devoted to the church and a religious life through their experiences with art. Featuring the painting by Alonso Cano, Crucifixion (1636-1638) The Hermitage, St.Petersburg as her aesthetic portion of the blog aligned well. This image definitely leads me to think about religious teachings and the Christian belief that Christ died on the cross to pay for the sins of man. The use of light and dark colors create the dramatic effect, it is Cano’s use of Tenebrism in painting this piece that brings your eyes to focus on Christ, the blood streaming from his chest and the thorns piercing into his head.
    I also appreciated the final section of the blog where she compared the Northern Renaissance to the Baroque Era using a drastically different painting from that of the Crucifixion (1636-1638) by Alonso Cano. The use of the painting The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Hubert van Eyck and Jan van Eyck was well selected because the bright colors and fantasy like appearance was a distinctly different experience to view than that of the somber tone of the painting with Christ on the cross by Alonso Cano. Another painting that would contrast the styles in the Northern Renaissance to the Baroque Era would be Jan Van Eyck’s painting Christ on the cross between Mary and John because it is a depiction of Christ on the Cross but again very different in the emotions it evokes with the bright colors and green and lavish lands in the background.



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