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Know Your Architecture: Baroque Architecture and 5 Finest Examples

Know Your Architecture: Baroque Architecture and 5 Finest Examples

“A painting is complete when it has the shadows of a god,” said Rembrandt, the legendary 17th century Dutch painter known for his baroque style, describing the essence of baroque art.

The term “baroque” originated from an irregularly shaped and a “perfectly imperfect” type of pearl, which defines most of the natural freshwater pearls. However, baroque is now often used figuratively to describe something overly ornate or complex, and can entail multiple meanings in art.

Baroque primarily refers to a grand and dramatic art and architectural style from the 17th to mid-18th centuries, characterized by curves, movement, dramatic lighting, and rich ornamentation.

This style extends to music, and even dance of the same period, featuring expressive melodies, intricate harmonies, and an emphasis on emotional impact.

5 Details to Recognize Baroque Architecture

Curves and Movement

In baroque architecture, everything flows. Ditch the straight lines and symmetry of Renaissance architecture. Baroque embraces a dynamic flow with curves, scrolls, and undulating forms. Imagine the elaborate flourishes you’d find on a calligraphic masterpiece translated into three-dimensional structures.

Light and Shadow

Baroque architects were masters of manipulating light and shadow to sculpt spaces, highlight key features, and create dramatic effects. Think deeply recessed archways, contrasting colors, and carefully placed windows that bathe specific areas in light while plunging others into mystery.

Illusion and Grandeur

In baroque architecture, the devil is in the details. This style has a certain playfulness to it that might make it easy for those experience it to be fooled or mistaken with the scales. Baroque architects loved to employ trompe l’oeil techniques, which translates from French as “deceive the eye” and forced perspective to make spaces appear grander than they were.

Therefore, look for painted ceilings that extend the building’s height or colonnades that converge dramatically in the distance.

Rich Ornamentation

Subtlety wasn’t in the Baroque vocabulary. From intricate sculptures and reliefs to elaborate moldings and gilding, every surface is an opportunity to showcase opulence and artistry. Success relies on the specifics in terms of the rich ornamentation too: Don’t miss the intricate, ornate elements on doorways or door frames, and even furniture — which brim with symbolism and hidden messages, and even humorous touches.

Dramatic Entrance

Prepare to be impressed from the get-go, and be soaked in exuberance and reverential wonder. Baroque buildings often feature grandiose entryways with imposing columns, sweeping staircases, and ornate sculptures. Think of it as a grand theatrical set designed to captivate your attention.

5 Finest Examples of Baroque Architecture

1. The Palace of Versailles, France

The epitome of French Baroque, Versailles embodies grandeur and theatricality. Located right outside Paris, it’s possibly one of the world’s most famous buildings in baroque style. Its Hall of Mirrors, with its endless mirrored reflections, exemplifies Baroque illusionism.

2. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

This iconic church, designed by Michelangelo and others, showcases Italian Baroque’s grandeur and religious significance. Its vast dome, soaring colonnades, and intricate interior decoration are awe-inspiring.

3. Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City, Mexico

Standing on the site of an ancient Aztec temple, this colossal cathedral embodies the Churrigueresque style, named after Spanish architect José de Churriguera. Its richly decorated facade, featuring twisting columns and elaborate sculptures, is a masterpiece of Baroque exuberance.

4. The San Carlos Church, Vienna, Austria

This church, also known as Karlskirche, is a prominent example of Austrian Baroque. Its oval dome, dramatic facade, and stunning frescoes represent the style’s theatricality and religious symbolism.

5. The Royal Palace of Madrid, Spain

This imposing palace is a showcase of Spanish Baroque architecture. Its grand fасаdes, richly decorated interiors, and vast Throne Room were built to reflect the power of the Spanish monarchy, and to evoke reverence.

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