English 233:  Introduction to Western Humanities -- Baroque and Enlightenment




An intrinsic logical property of art-historical concepts is that they are contrastive

The notion, for example, of "baroque" (and more specific varieties of the baroque, such as "Roman ecclesiastical baroque," "French baroque" [alias "Louis XIV style" ], or "Dutch Protestant baroque") makes sense only in distinction from other recognizably different period styles, like the rest of those listed.

[This means that if we introduce new period concepts, the meanings of those already in existence will necessarily undergo some change.]

These differences will turn up "at all levels" within the complex that makes up the comprehensive period style concept --

enabling conditions,

both remoter

and more immediate effects aimed at

(favored thematic preoccupations,

inclinations to seek certain sorts of emotional and attitudinal impact),

characteristic choices in subject matter


"High Renaissance painting"

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper (1495-98)

Raphael's The School of Athens (1510-11)

"Late Mannerism"

El Greco's The Burial of Count Orgaz (1586)

Tintoretto's The Last Supper (1592-94)

"Roman ecclesiastical baroque"

Caravaggio's The Supper at Emmaus (c.1597)

The Calling of St. Matthew (c.1598)

The Conversion of St. Paul (c.1600)

Bernini's contributions to St. Peter's Basilica:

the Piazza & Colonnade, the Baldacchino, the Glorification of the Chair of St. Peter (1624-76)


Watteau's Departure from Cythera (1717)

Boucher's Nude on a Sofa (1752)

Fragonard's The Swing (1766)

"French Neo-classicism"

David's The Oath of the Horatii (1784),

The Death of Socrates (1787), and

Brutus Awaiting the Delivery of the Bodies of His Sons by the Lictors


Note:  The tables that follow are best read from the bottom upwards.



in the Surrounding Social Context

Cultural assumptions about how the world works and how the world ought to be, giving rise to

ethical disputes

political conflicts

religious institutions

and thus to:

Prevailing "Causes" (to enlist in, or to oppose, resist)

often identified with the furtherance or preservation of some identifiable "way of life" inconsistent from other "ways"




Engagement in, consolidation in, recruitment to OR opposition to, resistance to prevailing causes.   




[some particular complex of specific elements of the following:]

Thematic Intentions:  reflections prompted
  • Issues raised
  • Thoughts provoked

    Positions suggested, solicited--------------->

emotional impact

Feelings evoked

Attitudes sponsored

<--------------Dispositions encouraged

[Note the overlap, or at least complementarity.]



[the evident facts of the work, some particular complex of the following:]

Subject matter choices

What to represent:

Which events, episodes, stories

Which instant, moment within these

Which "facet" or "aspect" of it ------->

"stylistic" decisions

Manner of representation of what is represented:

Handling of space, color, texture

Construction of scene, treatment of details

 <------Angle of approach (point of view)

[Note the overlap, or at least complementarity.]


Note that the term "style" appears on three occasions here, in three different senses.  This is because the term is actually used this way.  Hence, whenever we hear the word, we need to ask ourselves whether it is conveying the sense of

an overall practice involving a complex of means and ends within a particualar social-cultural context
(The most comprehensive sense: this is what it means in the phrase "period style concept.")
or a complex of technical decisions concerning subject matter and techniques of representing it aimed a certain effects (these effects lying "outside" stylistic matters themselves in this sense of the term)
(This is what it means in the phrase "stylistic features" embracing the last two lists, above.)
or technical details in the handling of whatever is represented (when representation is attempted).
(The narrowest sense of the term:  this is what it means in the phrase "stylistic decisions" used to label the rightmost bottom list.)

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      Contents copyright 1997 by Lyman A. Baker

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  This page last updated 13 September 1999.

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