A Shift in Class Brings a Shift in Art

A Shift in Class Brings a Shift in Art

Although we saw a rise in the middle class during the Baroque era, in the beginning of the 18th century monarchies ruled Europe. Their influence shaped the architecture and the art of the Rococo period. Architecture became light and feminine, with curved lines. The art of the period highlighted the frivolous lifestyle of the aristocrats. Many aristocrats pursued leisure as a lifestyle and created a culture of luxury.

Girl Reclining (Louise O’Murphy), Francois Boucher, 1750, France

This was evident in French art of that time. Francois Boucher, a prolific artist of the time, honed his art in Italy before returning to Paris in 1731. Upon his return, his art had tones of mythological influences. The setting of Girl Reclining was a favorite of his. Girl Reclining (Louise O’Murphy) is one of three that I found with different models. The showing of skin was tantalizing, heightening the sense of romantic intrigue. In this piece, one can practically feel the fluffiness of the pillow, the caress of the silk and velvet against the skin.
As the middle classes started to rise in numbers, there began a shift in the middle class. They became more and more aware that the taxes that they paid supported the expensive aristocracy, whom did nothing to contribute to society except to lead a frolicsome life. The middle class soon started to question the rule of monarchy and the dogma of the Catholic Church. They felt that their voice and opinion was equally as important. Individualism started to rear its head. Anything that smelled of aristocracy started to be ridiculed.

John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera as a satire to the lifestyle of royal courts. By creating a musical, he ridiculed Italian opera, which was very popular with the royal court. With popular tunes of the times, lyrics were changed to convey his message within the piece. He dramatized the common man without judging their moral lapses. The show was an instant hit, the equivalent of a rock opera today.

Across the Atlantic, the colonist of America started to notice the shift, now known as the Enlightenment, toward individualism and the common man. Art shifted from one of frolicking play and romantic intrigue, to pieces that conveyed moral virtues, patriotism, and Roman ideals.

Who better to convey these newfound principles than the “Father” of the United States of America? Gilbert Stuart, the most prestigious portraitist of his day, painted many portraits of George Washington. The Lansdowne portrait is one of the most iconic of all.

Landsowne portrait
George Washington (Lansdowne portrait), Gilbert Stuart, oil on canvas, 1796

Stuart surrounds Washington with items that convey a Roman setting – red velvet draped on the golden table, the Grecian columns outside the window. While the setting shows wealth, it is not luxurious as in the Rocco period. It is more subdued. Washington’s outstretched hand welcomes one to want to be in his presence.










Works cited:

Stein, Perrin . “François Boucher (1703–1770).” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bouc/hd_bouc.htm (October 2003) Accessed February 25, 2016.

Harris, Beth and Zucker, Steven. “A Beginners Guide to Rococo Art.” In Monarchy Enlightenment. Khan Academy. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/monarchy-enlightenment/rococo/a/a-beginners-guide-to-rococo-art. Accessed February 22, 2016.

Zucker, E.. Cedars, S.R. ed. “The Beggar’s Opera Study Guide”. GradeSaver, 21 July 2013 http://www.gradesaver.com/the-beggars-opera Accessed February 25, 2016.

Unknown. “George Washington (Lansdowne portrait) by Gilbert Stuart.” http://teacher.depaul.edu/Documents/SmithsonianNationalPortraitGalleryWebpageonLansdownePortrait.pdf. Accessed February 22, 2016


Evangelism through the Arts

Evangelism through the Arts

In reaction to the Protestant Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church assembled the Council of Trent to counter many of the accusations that Protestants made against the Catholic Church and to try and woe back many of the followers that left the church. Pope Paul III convened the Council of Trent in 1545 and the Council disbanded in 1563. While it appears that the Council met for 18 years, discussions were actually held for four and a half years during three separate meetings.

During the last session held in December 1561, the Council of Trent defined the role assigned to art to further the mission of the Catholic Church. In opposition to iconoclasm, the Roman Catholic Church not only welcomed, but supported the use of religious imagery to support their teachings. In fact one passage of the decree demands that

“by means of the histories of the mysteries of our Redemption, portrayed by paintings or other representations, the people is instructed, and confirmed in remembering, and continually revolving in mind the articles of faith; as also that great profit is derived from all sacred images, not only because the people are thereby admonished of the benefits and gifts bestowed upon them by Christ, but also because the miracles which God has performed by means of the saints, and their salutary examples, are set before the eyes of the faithful; that so they may give God thanks for those things; may order their own lives and manners in imitation of the saints; and may be excited to adore and love God, and to cultivate piety.”

From this declaration, art took a turn that embraced

  • Dramatic use of color, with dramatic contracts between light and dark/light and shadow
  • Images that invoked emotions to stir the viewer into participating emotionally into the piece
  • An overlapping of figures and elements to create tension

A noted piece that incorporates all of these principles is within the Jesuit Church of Gesù in Rome. Gionvanni Battista Gaulli (known as il Baciccio) was commissioned to decorate the interior of the church in 1672. Bacicco was a student of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, a well-noted Baroque Roman artist. With Bernini’s help, Baciccio’s career flourished.

The Triumph of the Name of Jesus
The Triumph of the Name of Jesus, 1676–79 Oil on paper, laid down on canvas, 163 x 111 cm. (64 3/16 x 43 11/16 in.), frame: 175.9 x 123.5 x 6 cm. (69 1/4 x 48 5/8 x 2 3/8 in.) Museum purchase, Fowler McCormick, Class of 1921, Fund and Laura P. Hall Memorial Fund, 2005-34 (Princeton University Art Museum)

Baciccio’s Triumph of the Name of Jesus covers most of the nave ceiling of the Church of the Gesù. The work uses the technique of trompe-l’œil to create an illusion that the ceiling is open at the center and the damned are being cast down to hell. Figures spill over the edge of the frame to move into the space normally thought to be reserved for the viewer.

Personal Reflection

I see Triumph of the Name of Jesus as a classic piece of Baroque art. The technique of tenebrism draws our draws me into the piece. The lighter area emitting from IHS (the first three letters of the Greek spelling of the Holy Name of Jesus) giving the illusion that the piece is never-ending within the light. The expression of reverence on the figures the ascend to light counter the expressions of anguish on the figures that are falling from grace. The fallen figures fall outside the framework of the piece to give the illusion that they are falling onto the audience below. The emotion of never sharing in God’s glory pierces to the heart.

Difference Between the Periods

My last blog shared how Cranach used art to share Martin Luther’s theory on the plan of salvation, which is counter to the Roman Catholic Church’s plan of salvation. Cranach used art and the printing press to further Luther’s teachings to broader audiences.

Cranach’s works, in comparison to Baciccio’s, are simplistic pieces that may convey a message, albeit without the emotions to drive the message. His pieces are heavy on symbolism. The woodcutting to the right, IndulgencesIndulgences, depicts the Pope Leo X as the lion in the center of the picture. Without someone helping to interpret the piece the work may not get its message across clearly. Whereas, Baciccio’s Triumph of the Name of Jesus provokes emotions without interpretation to the meaning of the piece, Jesus is the way to salvation.


Works Cited:

C.N. Trueman, “The Council of Trent”. historylearningsite.co.uk/the-counter-reformation/the-council-of-trent/. The History Learning Site, 17 March 2015. 17 December 2015. Accessed on February 11, 2016.

Stephen Beale, “Lessons from the Council of Trent”. catholicexchange.com/lessons-trent. December 4, 2013. Accessed on February 11, 2016.

Rudolf Wittkower, “The Council of Trent and the Arts: Rom 1585-1621”. witcombe.sbc.edu/art-theory-baroque-Fall-2008/style3.html. Accessed on February 11, 2016.

“Giovanni Battista Gaulli.” Encyclopedia of World Biography. 2004. encyclopedia.com/topic/Giovanni_Battista_Gaulli.aspx. Accessed February 11, 2016.

Father Ryan Erlenbush, “What does HIS stand for? The meaning of the Holy Name of Jesus.” The New Theological Movement. newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2012/01/what-does-ihs-stand-for-meaning-of-holy.html. January 3, 2012. Accessed on February 14, 2016.