Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Rococo Across the Disciplines

The Rococo was a style of not only visual or decorative arts, but also music, literature, theatre, fashion, and garden design. Rococo interiors were characterized by ornateness, pastel colors, curving lines, and shell, pebble, and floral motifs. Indeed, the term "Rococo" comes from the French rocaille (stone) and coquilles (shell) ( Other art forms followed the lighthearted spirit of visual Rococo elements; for instance, Rococo literature and theatre have themes of sensuality, frivolity, and wit.

Several widely known Rococo works are worth mentioning before explaining Rococo influence in the other art forms. Jean-Honoré Fragonard's painting "The Swing" epitomizes the flirtatious nature of the Rococo as well as pastel colors and floral motifs. Furthermore, the Wieskirche in Steingaden, Germany (shown below) is a prime example of an ornate Rococo interior. Chippendale chairs were also a trademark of Rococo furniture design.

 Jean-Honoré Fragonard's "The Swing",


Chippendale chair,

Rococo music was also elaborate, lighthearted, and playful, with major tonality. You can hear a Rococo musical composition at http:// (Tchaikovsky, Variations on a Rococo Theme").

Correspondingly, the aim of the "rococo philosophy of literary production...was to innovate, to bring pleasure, and to create communities" (Amazon review of Allison Stedman's "Rococo Fiction in France, 1600-1715: Seditious Frivolity (Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture, 1650-1850)"). In Stedman's book (the first chapter of which is available online), the author explores these sensuous, often experimental literary pieces. She also covers women writers of the Rococo like d’Aulnoy, Lhéritier, Murat, and Durand. http://

As for Rococo theatre, "the book The Rococo states that no other culture "has produced a wittier, more elegant, and teasing dialogue full of elusive and camouflaging language and gestures, refined feelings and subtle criticism" than Rococo theatre, especially that of France" (The Rococo - Google Libri,, retrieved from Adaptations of Italian Commedia dell’Arte theatrical works were prominent during the Rococo period. These plays features stock characters such as "separated lovers...the arrogant soldier...the tyrannical guardian and often a deluded older woman" ( Theatre buildings themselves during the Rococo were flowery and ornate, such as the Residenztheater in Munich, Germany, which compares to (a more heavily decorated) Teatro alla Scala in Milan.


The video trailers at show the types of theatrical plays recently performed at the Residenztheater as well as plays coming up in the current season (although the website is in German, the videos still display the visual experience of these plays). Although some of these dramas seem lighthearted, others seem more serious and intense and have strayed from this Rococo theater's original intent!

Rococo fashion was likewise ornate and decorative. Women wore wide skirts to emphasize curvaceousness; sometimes these skirts were so wide with hoops and layers of fabric that women had to pass through doors sideways. The Metropolitan Museum of Art website explores Rococo dress in depth and has images of the fashions and textiles of the Rococo. "The elegant life of the eighteenth century was lived among mirrors that reflected the immediate, and some would say ephemeral, radiance of fashion" (Oriole Cullen, Victoria and Albert Museum,

Ironically, one of the most well-known Rococo gardens is in England, although largely the English stayed away from the Rococo style (they thought it too French) or produced less frivolous Rococo designs. The Painswick Rococo Garden in Gloucestershire, however, epitomizes the ornate, organic beauty of Rococo garden design. As can be seen in the two pictures below, Rococo garden design is far more free and winding than the orderly Baroque.

The video at provides a virtual walk around the lush, beautiful Painswick Rococo Gardens.

And a reference to the Rococo in pop culture...Madame du Barbie, 1997.


Summary of Helpful Links:



10: Appearances of the Baroque on Imgur and Reddit.

Let's end this blogging session with a flourish.

Top Comment: Enough of the jokes, we need to bring the economy BACH

Top Comment: And to think he started out Baroque

Top Comment: If its not Baroque, don't fix it.
Top Comment: This pun Baroque my will

You also get this: Imgur Art History PT 2
And this: Imgur Art History PT 1

Baroque Salzburg: "These Are a Few of my Favorite Things"

Salzburg, a stunningly beautiful city in the Austrian Alps, is known across the world as the spectacular setting for the iconic film The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (Salzburg is also the birthplace of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). However, the city of Salzburg is also a triumphant monument to the beauty of Baroque architecture. The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and The Sound of Music highlights numerous Baroque marvels in the city.

Stylized image from The Sound of Music,

During my study abroad semester, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to the beautiful city of Salzburg and take the official Sound of Music tour! I saw a multitude of the city's Baroque sites including Residenzplatz Fountain, Mirabell Palace and Gardens, and Leopoldskron Palace. At the beginning of Julie Andrew's song "I Have Confidence" in The Sound of Music, Andrews splashes her hand in the Residenzplatz Fountain. The Salzburg Travel Guide website provides a description of the fountain: "four snorting horses seem to spring forth from the spouting rock. Giants rooted in the rock carry the lower basin, in which three dolphins balance the scalloped upper basin. The upper basin holds a Triton, a jet of water shooting into the air from his conch-shell trumpet...It is considered to be one of the most significant baroque monuments in Europe today. The work is attributed to the Italian sculptor, Tommaso di Garone" (

Residenzplatz Fountain,

Residenzplatz Fountain, 

Mirabell Palace and Gardens can be seen in the film as well. This clip from the movie shows the "Do Re Mi" song in which Julie Andrews and the children sing and dance in the memorable scene (the part in the Mirabell Gardens starts at 3:57 in the video):

Leopoldskron Palace is another Baroque structure in Salzburg. The Palace was actually not depicted in the film, but the view from the Palace's yard facing the lake was used in the scenes facing the lake (such as when Julie Andrews and the children fall out of a fishing boat, to Captain von Trapp's chagrin). A different palace was used for camera shots of the "Von Trapp villa," so certain dialogues in this back yard were filmed in two different locations.

Schloss Leopoldskron,

The UNESCO website at offers a breathtaking gallery of high-quality images of Salzburg architecture.

Furthermore, offers a complete concert by the Vienna Philharmonic performing Mozart's compositions in Salzburg. Perhaps Mozart was inspired by the breathtaking surroundings in his city.

Summary of Helpful Links:

9: AV Mapping of the Ruins of St. Paul's Macao

In class, as the sole example of the colonial baroque in East Asia, we discussed the ruins of St. Paul's in Macao (the former Portuguese trade hub on the pearl river delta, long since supplanted by Hong Kong in importance), and the fact that there is an active Catholic following that still utilize the standing facade as a processional gateway.

If the building had belonged to a much larger complex I would have been satisfied with this answer, but it is not much larger than the stairwell plus the original groundplan of the church. And so I went searching for other uses.

As it turns out, the facade is occasionally used as a backdrop for theatrical performances and for AV display lightshows. Now I had seen such things done with facades in Europe, but never before in Asia, so dont ask me what the following means.

8: Discussion of the Banqueting House, Whitehall

The Banqueting House at Whitehall is the last remaining vestige of what some sources note as the first *neo-classical* building to be built in England. Other sources note it as Palladian. Others still as Rococo because of certain features such as the pilasters, dual towers at each gate, and processional interior space arrangement.

Uncertain as this is, the building ought not to be ignored, even perhaps only for its historical significance. This courtyard, and the window from the upper story of the banqueting hall, was the location of the scaffold that was used in the public execution of King James I in the aftermath of the English civil war.

The path Inigo Jones took in designing it trumped Versailles, Schonnbrunn, and all other palaces in Europe in size, and allegedly brought England up to date architecturally with the forefront of European post renaissance architectural sensibilities. English architecture up until this point had, except in private residences and the occasional church, been neo-medieval by primary influence.

Part of this quick jump forward was Inigo Jones' brilliance, and part of it was his decision to import several artists, such as Peter Paul Reubens, from the continent to contend with the decoration.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

7: Diffusion within the Habsburg Realms: Facades Exhibiting Selective Ornamentation Outside the Ibero-American Sphere.

One of the most iconic features of the B/R era in Spain and in Spanish colonial possessions is selectively ornamented portions of especially exterior facades, separated by relatively large expanses of empty space. In the colonial variants, this tended to affect the interiors as well, particularly in Brazil.

But one of the things I noticed was that in studying the B/R churches, particularly in Germany and Bavaria, but also in Austria, the exteriors of the buildings tended to, in their own way, use the same patterns. For example the pilgrimage church at Kappell, St. John Nepomok in Zdar, and the pilgrimage shrine of our lady of Lorezo, Prague.

Although it is the general style in the Germanic sphere to simply adorn the planes of the building, the punctuated courses or highly contrasted areas do resemble Iberian styles.

One commonality between these two areas was, despite their geographical and in places religious sectarian disparity, they were ruled for a fashion by the same dynasty: The Habsburgs. It is not inconceivable to believe that they would have exercised some personal sensibilities and personal preferences.

6: Comparative Scale: Respect for human scale in B/R churches

Despite the artistry and brilliance that certain B/R churches exude, one thing I did notice over the course of the semester was that, with only a precious few exceptions, human scale was not respected except perhaps in plan. In my opinion, and in the university's opinion, a work of architecture is incomplete and flawed unless it respects human scale.

So I wanted to explore churches in this post, perhaps more generally by examining national styles and regional variants, on the B/R, as well as the circumstances surrounding the construction.

The Italian baroque style tended to produce a myriad of smaller churches for which it was much easier to respect human scale, although in fairness here a much more urban environment exists in many more locals than in Northern Europe and as such planners and architects ought to have been working more with the site than with their users.

The English and French baroque produced numerous churches that, although in equally urban environments, were larger by far. This opportunity was sometimes afforded them by good civic planning or fire, but usually just meant occupying large swathes of cheaper land. Generally larger congregational churches, in my opinion do not respect human scale.

The Germanic baroque certainly offers us a better alternative. Despite the fact that across the empires churches were constructed at all scales, the internal decoration tended to respect human scale.

 Privately constructed and patronized churches, that is to say, churches that did not have a papal or church order for their construction, too, as above here with Asamkirche (St. Johann Nepomuk) tended to work within their context more fluidly.

5: Comparative Contrast: The Experience of Palatial Architecture Viewed from Afar

Certain facades are meant to communicate different things. Country homes and palaces, a very common thing to study from the B/R era, are meant to be beheld from afar, and to be approached. As such, one of the most powerful tools to accentuate the size and grandeur of the palace is contrast between light and shadow, creating complication within the main monotonous form and a dialogue with the natural elements and with the ground.

This is sometimes accomplished by overhanging porches, roof extensions, or columns, which interrupt the dominant horizontal features in key places, and from afar are well suited to way finding (as well as being comfortable).

It is also sometimes accomplished by material accentuation and rustication, where formal accentuation would not do (such as Germany and England). Larger and less well cut stones were often arrayed in palaces in such a way that they created the desired lines from afar but not up close.

4: Comparative Point of View: Extremes of Viewer Utilization in Baroque Era Painting

Throughout paintings in the B/R era, a unique set of circumstances afforded painters the chance to both paint in a style of realism and to paint with quickly changing social mores. As the B/R era encompasses the better part of two centuries there were quite a few to tackle, and very few techniques do better at invoking empathy with the painted scene than directly involving the viewer in an implied role in it, with all the consequences therein.

Caravaggio, The Entombment of Christ

Here we have a spiritual example, where you, the person, stand to lift the stiffened Body of the now dead Christ and hoist Him and carry Him into the tomb. It would take a seriously spiritually disenfranchised person to miss the mark on that one. Though we discussed this in class I felt it was particularly powerful.

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp

 Here we sit at an early anatomy lesson, quite eloquently laid out for us by Ellis in her final presentation. Notable here are those that look not at the lesson or the teacher but at us, with eyes that are not embarrassed but anticipatory.

3: Comparative Adornment: Subjective thoughts on a Religious Experience

3: Comparative Adornment: Subjective thoughts on a religious experience

To this I pose a question, to which the answer would be entirely subjective. What sort of space best supports a religious experience. Religious experience encompassing the spiritual and the metaphysical and the mystical and the personal. Different peoples and orders, have, over time, posed their own philosophies dictating very different ways of worshiping God.

Romanesque churches and the stave churches of Scandinavia tended not to emphasize light, not to emphasize art, and not to produce unnecessarily grand or opulent spaces. Not even elegantly unadorned, simply bare. The space was for the express purpose of facilitating the practicing of the sacraments and for the worship of God, anything else detracted from that purpose and as such was not welcome. This mentality is a liturgical one, and an old one, and it reflects a very secure and tepid relationship with The Trinity.

The Baroque creates a very different feeling. Having passed through the renaissance, art was much more at home in the newer spaces. Architectural decoration became not only present but expected and the duality of mentalities expressed were that they were for both the Glory of God and for the salvation and prestige of the patron. To both ends they were opulent. Here we begin to see incredible representational art, some of which are instructional and as such utterly welcome, and some of which can be disingenuous and can create the feeling of opulence for opulence's own sake.

These spaces were for far more than the worship of God. They became pilgrimage sites, baptisteries, schools, landmarks. In this plethora of uses a community seems much more at home, and they seem to be much more encouraging spaces overall. The relationship with the Lord is a bit more positive and healthy with respect to human nature and interactions but still carries the same undertone that pervaded in the Romanesque, but for a different reason: nervousness, produced by ornament for ornament's sake.

But if nervousness was an understandably pervasive feeling in both the prison block Romanesque and in the buzzing with activity baroque, the rococo smacks you in the face with it. I, personally, could not grasp a full appreciation of spiritual matters in a vermiculous space. It smacks you in the face in the same way a medieval gothic church stomps on you with its size. It *humms* and, quite frankly, implies that you ought to leave.

All subjective, all the time.

2: Comparative Stratification: The Experience of Literal Representations of Heaven

Within the B/R era churches, and in religious architecture in general, the concept of heaven can be represented figuratively or allegorically, entrusting the viewer with the finer details whilst focusing on one aspect of the concept, such as the ascent. Or it can be represented literally, as the artist and/or patrons imagine it, invoking the power of figural expression whilst risking isolating viewers whose ideas of heaven do not conform.

Here is Turin again as our example of a figural and formal presentation of the relationship between the Shroud and its owners current address. Because the primary shapes utilized are radial as opposed to axial, one point gains a superior moment.
And here is Asamkirche in Munich as our example of a literal representation of the building opening up from the altarpiece to heaven. The transition takes place from floor to ceiling, gradually opening up as the lines become more irregular going upward. The most powerful axis can be seen to be through the pughs upward through the vertical elements of the rear of the church  and transitioning into the horizontal elements which take on the effect of wings. Because these lines permeate the entire space there is less mysticism here, but the power of the space is overbearing in other ways.

The difference in primary mode can be attributed to the difference in usage of the spaces. One is a reliquary, meant for ambulatory visitation, prayer, and occasional service. The other is meant for regular service. The differences in the quality of space seem to stem from one space wanting to be a space that envelops you with its universal opulence, whereas the other space wants to keep you reverent and not inquisitive.

1: Comparative Mysticism: The Experience of Domes at their Nexus

As an ENDS major who is looking to become a practicing architect, there are a variety of situations where I can envision myself attempting to imbue an open space with character. Experiencing a space takes on another character entirely when one attempts to intertwine the spiritual and the sacred with architecture, and the dome architecture of the B/R era is uniquely potent in that its mystical experience (your words, Caffey. I like them, but they are yours) may be replicable without direct religious imagery in secular architecture.

The Church of The Holy Shroud, Turin 

`Here we notice the feeling of separation between the viewer and the heavenly light allegory above created by the concentric rings of hexagonal levels, from which there is a contrast of light and shadow. Because of the smooth transition between the coffered ceiling, which is not of a standard shape, and this ovoid void, a sense of a literal connection pervades, as if the artifact is not of this world.

Santa Chiara, Bra

Here we notice an association of a less metaphysical sense. One feels compelled in fact to allow one-self to daydream within the space, imposing your own abstractions that remove you from the earthly plane and place you squarely in a position to imagine yourself in relationship to the heavenly sphere. But on a more concrete level, it is the surreal bending of the space that happens within the architecture that is instrumental to that effect, not the oculus, not the window. But the ribbons. The primary lines within the space play with the eye.

The two domes share some things that are simple and reproducible: They utilize primary lines that accentuate shapes within the space that are inherently not at home within architecture and as such guide us into examining the subtle imagery of the space. Their sacred geometry focuses on a singular point within the intended space and from there the lines unfold.

Würzburger Residenz, Culmination of the German Baroque Period

(Top): Würzburg Residence from the front. (Bottom): garden facade of the Residence

The Würzburg Residence (German: Würzburger Residenz) is a palace in Würzburg in Southern Germany. The principal architect of the Residence was Balthasar Neumann, Court Architect of the Bishop of Würzburg. Also involved in its design were Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, Maximilian von Welsch, Robert de Cotte, and Germain Boffrand. Construction was begun in 1720 and lasted until 1744, but interior artworks were in progress through the 1750s.  Venetian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and his son Domenico painted the building's frescoes. The pictures of the Residence above show the striking similarities of the structure to Versailles, highlighting yet again the crucial role that Versailles played in shaping the Baroque style throughout Europe.

This video at UNESCO's website takes the viewer on a virtual visit of the magnificent Würzburg Residence, beginning with its context in the urban fabric of Würzburg and continuing to its architecture and detailed frescoes.

The high-definition images at allow the viewer to see high-quality photographs of the interior of the Residence. The interior styles are a combination of Baroque and the more ornate Rococo. The main staircase of the Residence (also depicted below) can be seen at the site; the staircase gained prominence as part of a formal reception space for the Bishop of Würzburg ( The ceiling frescoes (allegorical paintings of Europe, Asia, America, and Africa) decorating the vault of the staircase are some of Tiepolo's noteworthy works. The clip at provides Colin Bailey's expert commentary on Tiepolo's Empire of Flora fresco, which gives the viewer insight into the style and technique of Tiepolo during the peak of his career.

The main staircase of Würzburg Residence, gianbatt/5wurzbur/index.html

Ceiling fresco detail over the main staircase, 5wurzbur/index.html

Summary of Helpful Links:

St. Paul's Cathedral: Then and Now

St. Paul's Cathedral,'s_Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral is perhaps London's most important historical church. The structure was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was under construction from 1675-1720. Much like St. Peter's in Rome, the Cathedral has largely been the center of religious life of the city (as well as its political life - the Cathedral was the setting for Jubilee ceremonies for the Queen, the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, and for the funerals of public figures like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher).

Also paralleling St. Peter's, St. Paul's Cathedral stands on the site of an older cathedral (Old St. Paul's), which was already in decline before being destroyed in London's Great Fire of 1666. The Wikipedia page at has digital renderings reconstructing the old structure, as well as floor plans and drawings of the Cathedral's interior, which was widely known as one of the most beautiful in Europe.

A 1916 engraving of Old St Paul's.

(Old St. Paul's) John Franklin's illustration of Paul's Walk for William Harrison Ainsworth's 1841 novel Old St. Paul's.

Today, Christopher Wren's St. Paul's is an active church that is also open to contemporary art. The video at the link showcases artist Gerry Judah and his World War I memorial sculptures installed in St. Paul's. The artworks are also a call for justice, as they reference Syria and Afghanistan as well as the countries ravaged by WWI.

Summary of Helpful Links:

An Exploration of El Escorial

El Escorial,

The Escorial is located in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, near Madrid. Commissioned by King Philip II, the complex houses a burial place for Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, a Hieronymite monastery, and a palace.  Construction of El Escorial began in 1563 and ended in 1584.

Architect Juan Bautista de Toledo "designed the ground plan on a gridiron scheme, recalling the grill on which San Lorenzo, the patron of the building, was martyred" ( Juan de Herrera began work on the project after de Toledo's death. The complex is uniquely Spanish, although it has Moorish and Italian influences (

One magnificent feature of the complex is the library. The "collection consists of more than 40,000 volumes, located in a great hall fifty-four meters in length, nine meters wide and ten meters tall with marble floors and beautifully carved wood shelves" ( The vast library contains numerous illuminated manuscripts, including the Ottonian Golden Gospels of Henry III (pictures and links below).

El Escorial Library,

Folio 3 from the Ottonian Golden Gospels of Henry III, und_Agnes_Speyer.jpg

Link to more information on  the Ottonian Golden Gospels of Henry III: wiki/Golden_Gospels_of_Henry_III. 

The fact that the Spanish King had such a vast collection of significant writings points to the wealth and power that he had at his disposal. is a link to a virtual tour of the Escorial Palace, in which this wealth and power are made even more evident.

Summary of Helpful Links: wiki/Golden_Gospels_of_Henry_III 

The Life and Works of Guarino Guarini

Guarino Guarini (1624-1683) was an Italian architect, priest, mathematician, theologian, and writer. His major spheres of influence were in Northern Italy and Central Europe. Turin, Italy is home to Guarini's San Lorenzo church with its Cappella Sindone, or Chapel of the Holy Shroud. In the centrally planned space, an intricate lattice of masonry arches seem to rise infinitely upward. This structure references Spanish Moorish elements with its geometric star patterns as well as the French Gothic with its emphasis on verticality.

 San Lorenzo, Trip Advisor,

Another of Guarini's famous works is the Palazzo Carignano (1679), also in Turin. It has a distinct "billowing" facade ( and a magnificent staircase, shown below. The patron of Guarini's designs was "deaf-mute Prince Emanuele Filiberto Amedeo of Savoy-Carignano (1628–1709), descendant of a cadet branch of the ruling dynasty but at that time heir to Victor Amadeus II, Duke of Savoy" (Guarini from Oxford Art Online, provided on eCampus).

Palazzo Carignano,

Scala del Guarini (Guarini Staircase), Palazzo Carignano, 6783508767/

The following helpful links display a 3D animation of the Cappella Sindone, a virtual tour of the San Lorenzo church, and a comprehensive timeline on the life and works of Guarini.


Pietro da Cortona

Pietro da Cortona was one of the geniuses of the Roman Baroque and was well known for his painting and architecture, although he never painted frescoes in a building he designed. Some of his notable buildings are Santa Maria della Pace in Rome (pictured above) and SS. Luca e Martina (shown below in context of its proximity to the ancient Roman Forum).

Pietro da Cortona was well-known for his fresco paintings as well, including the Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power in the Barberini Palace and Allegories of Virtues and Planets fresco in the Pitti Palace in Florence. Both of these works seek to emphasize the power and importance of the family for which they were painted (the Barberini family and Medici family, respectively). The Pitti Palace frescoes particularly masterfully combine painting and stucco work to provide a seamless unity between the art and the architecture. Pietro da Cortona's skill in combining painting and stucco work were especially influential in Italy and France (Web Gallery of Art, biograph.html).

Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power,

Ceiling fresco with Medici coat of arms, part of the Allegories of Virtues and Planets series,

A team of scholars from Villanova University and the University of Delaware have taken up the project of restoring Pietro da Cortona's 12'x19' David and Goliath painting. Cultural heritage science and conservation are truly multidisciplinary - the project includes students and professors from the art, chemistry, biology, and even engineering departments of the schools. The process is painstaking yet rewarding. After months of specialized techniques including photo-documentation, humidification, and inpainting, the team will have restored the vibrant colors of Pietro da Cortona's brilliant artwork. offers a video that explains in more detail the step-by-step work of the restorers to recover the former glory of this painting.

Summary of helpful links: