The baroque, the period between the Renaissance and Neoclassicism, has lasted a century and a half and is often the indication for something exaggerated or exalted, something with unnecessary frills.The indication for the lavish style, that after 1600 especially in the Catholic countries of Europe arose, was derived from the Iberian word barocco and means oddly shaped pearl which was not intended flattering. This negative notion changed at the end of the 19th century by contrasting the Baroque with the Renaissance and to highlight the openness, dynamism and the overwhelming theatricality of major works such as the Trevi Fountain, the steps of Augustusburg Palace in Cologne or the facade of the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela (*).

In the arts, the Baroque was a Western cultural period, starting roughly at the beginning of the 17th century in Rome, Italy. It was exemplified by drama and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music (George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Bach).

The popularity and success of the Baroque style was encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church which had decided at the time of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) 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 around an entrance of courts, grand staircases and reception rooms of sequentially increasing opulence. In similar profusions of detail, art, music, architecture, and literature inspired each other in the Baroque cultural movement as artists explored what they could create from repeated and varied patterns.

(*) end point of the Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way of St. James, a network of pilgrims' ways or pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saints are buried there. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth. It is also popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts and organized tour groups.


Some traits and aspects of Baroque paintings that differentiate this style from others are the abundant amount of details, often bright polychromy, less realistic faces of subjects, and an overall sense of awe, which was one of the goals in Baroque art.

The Baroque was also associated with the Counter-Reformation. The call for reform within the Church after the Council of Trent concerned after all also the arts. Sculptures and paintings should be understandable for everyone and were allowed to spread the message quite thick on top.

By preference for Gesamtkunstwerke (churches and chapels in which all the arts came together and were matched) and contrasts between light and dark (chiaroscuro) were artists like Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi seen as pioneers of the new movement.

Baroque architecture was there to impress and was as such first used by the popes in Rome, who served as the principal patrons during the seventeenth century. The aristocracy in other parts of Europe followed their example and in this way Baroque and Rococo (the latter even more exuberant phase of the Baroque) became the house styles of absolutism.

Trevi fountain

August der Starke had build the perfectly symmetrical and ultra baroque Zwinger in Dresden; Philip II ordered the equally immense as stringent Escorial (the historical residence of the King of Spain) over Madrid; Tsarina Elizabeth I made a start with the Winterpalace in St. Petersburg; the prince-bishop of Würzburg invested an unexpected fortune in a residence and (not to walk across Europe) Louis XIV contributed to remodel his father's hunting lodge at Versailles. But it was Rome that most changed by the Baroque. And the most gifted and notable artist of the papacies of Urban VIII and Alexander VII was Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), by the late Robert Hughes, his biggest fan, referred to as 'the marble megaphone of papal orthodoxy'.

Bernini was a Neapolitan child prodigy who had already developed into uomo universale - painter, sculptor, architect - around the age of twenty and thus ideal to provide the decoration of the Michelangelo and Maderno built St. Peter's.

Bernini designed the elliptical square before the Basilica, with the imposing colonnade that symbolize both arms of the Mother Church as the key of St. Peter. He gave form to the Holy See of Peter in the apse of the church, a baroque sculpture of a throne that is garlanded by blasting and upheld by four bronze church scholars. And he processed according to legend the bronze lining of the Parthenon in the giant baldachinaround the altar in the middle of the church - not only famous for its flowing forms and detailed decorations, but especially by the four twisted columns. Bernini also designed more restrained pieces of art, which can be admired for example in villa Borghese. There are white marble sculptures that he made around the age of twenty for his first patron, the papal secretary Scipione Borghese.

Three are based on ancient mythology and the way latin authors such as Virgil and Ovid had made their poems: Aeneas, and Ascanius Anchinses is a famous episode from the fall of Troy and at the same time a study of the three phases of a human life. The abduction of Proserpina shows how Persefone is kidnapped to the underworld by Hades; Apollo and Daphne shows the moment when the water nymph changes into a laurel tree.

The sculpture was the last of a number of artworks commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, early on in Bernini's career. Apollo and Daphne was commissioned after Borghese had given an earlier work of his patronage, Bernini's Pluto and Persephone, to Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi. Much of the early work was done in 1622–1623, but a pause, quite possibly to work on the sculpture of David, interrupted its completion, and Bernini did not finish the work until 1625. Indeed, the sculpture itself was not moved to the Cardinal's Villa Borghese until September 1625.
Bernini did not execute the sculpture by himself; he had significant help from a member of his workshop, Giuliano Finelli, who undertook the sculpture of the details that show Daphne's conversion from human to tree, such as the bark and branches, as well as her windswept hair. Some historians, however, discount the importance of Finelli's contribution.

While the sculpture may be appreciated from multiple angles, Bernini planned for it to be viewed side on, allowing the observer to see the reactions of Apollo and Daphne simultaneously, thus understanding the narrative of the story in a single instant, without the need to move position.

When Phoebus (Apollo), fated by Cupid's love-exciting arrow, sees the maiden daughter of Peneus a river god, he is filled with wonder at her beauty and consumed by desire. But Daphne has been fated by Cupid's love-repelling arrow and denies the love of men. As the Nymph flees he relentlessly chases her—boasting, pleading, and promising everything. When her strength is finally spent she prays to her father Peneus:

'Destroy the beauty that has injured me, or change the body that destroys my life.' Before her prayer was ended, torpor seized on all her body, and a thin bark closed around her gentle bosom, and her hair became as moving leaves; her arms were changed to waving branches, and her active feet as clinging roots were fastened to the ground—her face was hidden with encircling leaves.

Phoebus loved the graceful tree, clung to it and kissed the wood:

But since thou canst not be my spouse surely thou shalt be my tree. Thee O laurel my hair, thee my lyres, thee my quivers shall always have ... And as my head is youthful with unshorn locks, do thou likewise wear always evergreen honours of foliage. The laurel nodded assent with its branches lately made

David is a life-size marble sculpture by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The sculpture was one of many commissions to decorate the villa of Bernini's patron Cardinal Scipione Borghese – where it still resides today, as part of the Galleria Borghese. It was completed in the course of seven months from 1623 to 1624. The subject of the work is the biblical David, about to throw the stone that will bring down Goliath, which will allow David to behead him. Compared to earlier works on the same theme, the sculpture broke new ground in its implied movement and its psychological intensity.

The sculpture shows a scene from the Old Testament First Book of Samuel. The Israelites are at war with the Philistines whose champion, Goliath, has challenged the Israelite army to settle the conflict by single combat. The young shepherd David has just taken up the challenge, and is about to slay Goliath with a stone from his sling: "When Goliath arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone and slung it and struck the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground."

David adorns typical shepherds attire. At his feet lies the armour of Israel's King, Saul, given to David for battle. The armor was shed, as David was unaccustomed to it and he can fight better without. Also at his feet is his harp, often included as an iconographic device of David in reference to David the Psalmist and being a talented harpist.

Bernini stood in high esteem. No wonder the eternal city is filled with its monuments, from the chapel with the ecstasy of Saint Theresa to the fountains in Piazza Barberini. All Baroque at its best: the dynamics flies in your face, the illustrated characters are exalted but lifelike.