Baroque Sculpture

Background Information

Table Summary

Summary of Baroque Sculpture
Early Baroque
ca. 1600-25
High Baroque
ca. 1625-75
Late Baroque
ca. 1675-1725
Rococo
ca. 1725-1800
Bernini Versailles statues figurines

General Features

Baroque art is characterized by dynamism (a sense of motion), which is augmented by extravagant effects (e.g. strong curves, rich decoration; see Western Aesthetics). In sculpture, these extravagant effects may include swirling draperies or brilliant gilding. While southern Western Europe embraced the full-blown Baroque aesthetic (full Baroque), northern Western Europe featured a classical-Baroque compromise (restrained Baroque).

phase of the Baroque age leading region
Early Baroque (ca. 1600-25) Italy
High Baroque (ca. 1625-75)
Late Baroque (ca. 1675-1725) France
Rococo (ca. 1725-1800)

The full Baroque aesthetic developed during the Early Baroque period (ca. 1600-25), then culminated during the High Baroque period (ca. 1625-75). Both periods were led by Italy (see Diffusion of Baroque). The restrained Baroque aesthetic culminated during the Late Baroque period (ca. 1675-1725). The Baroque age concluded with the French-born Rococo style (ca. 1725-1800), in which the violence and drama of Baroque was quieted to a gentle, playful dynamism. The Late Baroque and Rococo periods were led by France.

Main Article

Early/High Baroque

ca. 1600-1675

The Early and High Baroque periods were spanned by the career of Bernini, the founder and greatest master of Baroque sculpture.1 His magnificent Cathedra petri ("Chair of Saint Peter"), which consists of a throne (behind the altar at St Peter's) surrounded by sculptural decoration, is the crowning work of High Baroque extravagance. Bernini's statues include Ecstasy of St Theresa and numerous angels.

Cathedra Petri
Ecstasy of St Theresa
Angel with Spear
Angel with Crown of Thorns

Late Baroque

ca. 1675-1725

In the Late Baroque period, Italy was superseded by France as the cultural heart of the West. The architectural masterpiece of the age is the Palace of Versailles, graced with many fine Late Baroque statues. These Versailles statues, which embody the aforementioned restrained Baroque aesthetic, may be considered the collective sculptural masterpiece of the Late Baroque period.

Statue in the Park of Versailles
Statue in the Park of Versailles
Statue in the Park of Versailles

Rococo

ca. 1725-1800

As the final phase of Baroque, Rococo art features a sense of dynamism and extravagance. While Baroque art is overtly dramatic (and often violent), however, Rococo works are gentle and playful. Rococo sculpture, which flourished primarily in France, was especially well-suited to figurines.

Rococo Sculpture
Rococo Sculpture
Rococo Sculpture
1 - "Gian Lorenzo Bernini", Encyclopedia Britannica. Accessed August 2010.
2 - "Baroque Art and Architecture", Encarta. Accessed May 2009.