BAROQUE—a period in western culture from the end of the sixteenth century to the middle of the eighteenth century (between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment).
The term appeared in the seventeenth century, but its source is uncertain. Some think that it comes from the names G. Barozzi da Vignola and F. Barocci, or from “baroco” (Portuguese—a misshapen pearl), or from “Baroco”, the name of a complicated and incorrect syllogistic scheme that belongs to second figure, or from an Italian word that means deception. Initially, the term Baroque was applied to art that had irregular or even strange features. Historians in the nineteenth century (J. Burckhardt, W. Lübke) developed the idea of periods in modern art. They made a distinction between the Renaissance and the Baroque, and thereby Baroque became the name of a period. C. Gurlitt and H. Wölfflin in their works in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century gave a positive and independent meaning to the Baroque that includes western culture, chiefly that of the seventeenth century. At that time, however, the classical, academic, and mannerist movements were current in the west along with the Baroque.
Baroque art is characterized especially by magnitude, richness, liveliness, fantasy, and marvels. Especially in contrast with the Renaissance, we can perceive many opposing features such as clarity—obscurity, economy—extravagance, the static—the dynamic, the finite—the infinite, and realism—illusion. The baroque was most completely expressed in states such as heroism, mysticism, eroticism, and cruelty.
The Baroque may be considered not only from an aesthetic point of view, but also from a religious and philosophical point of view. By elaborate use of figures, the Baroque was the Catholic response (the Counter-Reformation) to the iconoclasm of the Reformation, hence it was particularily characteristic of Catholic lands. From the philosophical point of view, the Baroque designates a shift of the center of gravity from object to subject. This was facilitated by the subjectivization of the philosophical problematic, the relativism that developed from it, idealism, and agnosticism. Beauty is not based in showing the objective and rational harmony, proportion, or measure (antiquity, the Renaissance) that are an ordered imitation of the reality around us, but beauty is the living expression of the subject and includes primarily the imagination and emotion that aims at evoking a great impression. Beauty in the Baroque is treated as a mystery that cannot be translated.
H. Wölfflin, Renaissance und B., Mn 1888, J. Wiengartner, Der Geist des B., H 1925; B. Croce, Storia dell’età barocca in Italia, Bari 1929; W. Tatarkiewicz, Historia estetyki [History of aesthetics], Wr-Wwa-Kr 1967; J. Sokołowska, Spory o b. [Controversies about the Baroque], Wwa 1971; Cz. Hernas, Barok [The Baroque], Wwa 1973.