Baroque (Art movement)

The Baroque (US: /bəˈroʊk/ or UK: /bəˈrɒk/) 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, architecture, literature, dance, theatre, and music. The style began around 1600 in Rome and Italy, and spread to most of Europe.

The popularity and success of the Baroque style was encouraged by the 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 with direct and emotional involvement. The aristocracy viewed the dramatic style of Baroque art and architecture as a means of impressing visitors by projecting triumph, power, and control. Baroque palaces are built around an entrance of courts, grand staircases, and reception rooms of sequentially increasing opulence. However, "baroque" has a resonance and application that extend beyond a simple reduction to either a style or period.

The French word baroque is derived from the Portuguese word "barroco" or Spanish "barrueco", both of which refer to a "rough or imperfect pearl", though whether it entered those languages via Latin, Arabic, or some other source is uncertain. It is also yields the Italian "barocco" and modern Spanish "barroco", German "Barock", Dutch "Barok", and so on. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica 11th edition thought the term was derived from the Spanish barrueco, a large, irregularly-shaped pearl, and that it had for a time been confined to the craft of the jeweller. Others derive it from the mnemonic term "Baroco", a supposedly laboured form of syllogism in logical Scholastica. The Latin root can be found in bis-roca.

In informal usage, the word baroque can simply mean that something is "elaborate", with many details, without reference to the Baroque styles of the 17th and 18th 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 of the Portuguese 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 in a derogatory sense, to underline the excesses of its emphasis. In particular, the term was used to describe its eccentric redundancy and noisy 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 of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie in October 1733, which was printed in the Mercure de France in May 1734, the critic implied that the novelty in this opera was "du barocque", complaining that the music lacked coherent melody, was unsparing with dissonances, constantly changed key and meter, and speedily ran through every compositional device.

Another hypothesis says that the word comes from precursors of the style: Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola and Federico Barocci.