chapter
67 Pages

Baroque art

Peter’s in Rome, or the little round portico on the front of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale. Typical of Borromini were extremely complex ground plans and masonry, and the deliberate contradiction of traditional detail - the inversion of volutes, for

instance, or entablatures that no longer rested on capitals but on an extension of them and so on. Many of his ideas were adopted by Guarini, who added a mathematical and technical component that was of great importance both in itself and for its

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influence on Baroque architects outside Italy, especially in Germany. Personal variations apart, Italian Baroque could be said to correspond almost completely to the canons described. The same cannot be said of France, which produced a number of excellent architects, perhaps more than Italy: Salomon de Brosse, Francois Mansart, Louis Le Vau, Jacques Lemercier, and, greatest of all, Jules Hardouin Mansart. In France personality was less significant than the school to which architects could be said to belong. The attempt of the French court to introduce Italian Baroque into France by summoning Bernini in 1665 to Paris and commissioning him to redesign the royal palace - the Louvre - was doomed from the outset. As one critic rightly

observed, a radical difference of temperament was involved. To the French, Italian exuberance verged on the indecorous, if not willful, and was in bad taste. Rather than artists, French architects considered themselves professional men, dedicated to the service and glorification of their

• r iking. At the court of the Sun King the Baroque style developed was more restrained than the Italian: ground-plans were less complex, and facades more severe, with greater respect for

the details and proportions of the traditional architectural orders, with no violent effects or flagrant whims. The textbook example and greatest achievement of French Baroque is the chateau of Versailles, the royal palace built for Louis XIV outside Paris: a huge U-shaped block with two long wings, only slightly disturbed by the small, low arcades on the main facade overlooking the gardens. The great glory of

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French Baroque was to be found not in architecture but in the art of landscape gardening. Until the Baroque era gardens had been of the “Italian” type, small parks with plants and flowerbeds laid out in geometrical or architectural schemes. Andre Le Notre, the brilliant landscape architect who created a new style of garden, supplanted these with the “French” garden, of which the park at Versailles was to become both prototype and masterpiece. In the center stood the palace; on one side was the drive, the gates, the wide graveled area for carriages; and on the

other were lawns and parterres, flowerbeds in geometrical shapes, fountains, canals and broad expanses of water and, beyond this, the dark line of woods pierced by long, wide, straight avenues linked to each other by circular clearings. The imposing and austere architecture created in France, with its balance of Baroque trends and classical traditions, was gradually to become the most advanced cultural model in Europe. When Sir Christopher Wren, in the second half of the 17th century, decided to update his ideas, he went not to Italy, as had previously been the

custom, but to Paris. The Baroque architecture of Belgium and the Netherlands also bears the mark of French inspiration. Closer to the Italian model was the Baroque seen north of the Alps, in Austria and Germany. This was the case, however, only in a restricted sense. Baroque influence came relatively late to the German states, devastated in the first half of the 17th century by the Thirty Years War. Once acclimatized, however, it grew remarkably both in quantity and quality. The great architects of the

practiced at a eiy late time, at the

end of tne 17th and the

beginning of the 18th centuries. They were, however, numerous, exceptionally gifted, and blessed with enthusiastic patronage from the several royal, ducal, and episcopal courts of Germany. All visited Rome and were trained in the Italian tradition: Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach - the most famous and perhaps the greatest - , Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt and Johann Balthasar Neumann, his probably more gifted pupil; to these must be added Matthaus Poppelmann,

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Frangois de Cuvillies - a Frenchman who was active almost exclusively in Germany. The Baroque style created by these men was to spread to Poland, the Baltic states, and eventually to Russia. It had considerable affinity with Italian Baroque, but with an even greater tendency towards exuberant decoration, especially of the interior; it also differed from Italian forms in its avoidance of sharp contrasts of light and shade in favor of more diffused and serene luminosity. These

characteristics also anticipated the Rococo style that was to succeed it, a style that found its widest application in these countries and was sometimes the work of the same architects, for example Poppelmann, Neumann, and Cuvillies. In the two main building types, churches and palaces, the Baroque of the German-speaking countries adhered consistently to a few basic designs. In churches the two lateral towers with which Borromini already had experimented were adopted systematically.