The Baroque is a period of artistic style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music. The style started around 1600 in Rome, Italy and spread to most of Europe.
The popularity and success of the Baroque style was encouraged bythe Roman Catholic Church, which had decided at the time of the Council of Trent, in response to the Protestant Reformation, that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement. The aristocracy also saw the dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and expressing triumphant power and control. Baroque palaces are built aroundan entrance of courts, grand staircases and reception rooms of sequentially increasing opulence.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word baroque is derived from the Portuguese word "barroco", Spanish "barroco", or French "baroque", all of which refer to a "rough or imperfect pearl", though whether it entered thoselanguages via Latin, Arabic, or some other source is uncertain. A century ago, the Encyclopædia Britannica 11th edition, thought the term was derived from the Spanish barrueco, a large, irregularly-shaped pearl, and it was for a time confined to the craft of the jeweller. Others derive it from the mnemonic term "Baroco" denoting, in logical Scholastica, a supposedly laboured form of syllogism.In informal usage, the word baroque can simply mean that something is "elaborate", with many details, without reference to the Baroque styles of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The word "Baroque", like most periodic or stylistic designations, was invented by later critics rather than practitioners of the arts in the 17th and early 18th centuries. It is a French transliteration ofthePortuguese phrase "pérola barroca", which means "irregular pearl", and natural pearls that deviate from the usual, regular forms so they do not have an axis of rotation are known as "baroque pearls".
The term "Baroque" was initially used with a derogatory meaning, to underline the excesses of its emphasis. In particular, the term was used to describe its eccentric redundancy andnoisy abundance of details, which sharply contrasted the clear and sober rationality of the Renaissance. Although it was long thought that the word as a critical term was first applied to architecture, in fact it appears earlier in reference to music, in an anonymous, satirical review of the première in October 1733 of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Hippolyte et Aricie, printed in the Mercure de France inMay 1734. The critic implied that the novelty in this opera was "du barocque", complaining that the music lacked coherent melody, was filled with unremitting dissonances, constantly changed key and meter, and speedily ran through every compositional device.
In modern usage, the term "Baroque" may still be used, usuallypejoratively, describing works of art, craft, or design that are thought to have excessive ornamentation or complexity of line, or, as asynonym for "Byzantine", to describe literature, computer software, contracts, or laws that are thought to be excessively complex, indirect, or obscure in language, to the extent of concealing or confusing their meaning.
The word was first rehabilitated by the Swiss-born arthistorian, Heinrich Wölfflin (1864–1945) in his Renaissance und Barock (1888); Wölfflin identified the Baroque as "movement imported into mass," an art antithetic to Renaissance art. He did not make the distinctions between Mannerism and Baroque that modern writers do, and he ignored the later phase, the academic Baroque that lasted into the 18th century. Writers in French and English did not...