Term Paper: Baroque vs. Rococo

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[. . .] As we will see, the rooms where his characters live and carry on their actions are described in the minute details. Paintings on the walls, books, objects in the house, decorations of the interiors- nothing escapes his acute eye.

The cycle of paintings on Tom Rakewell is an apropriate example of Hogarth's style of painting. The cycle consists of eight paintings that ultimately tell the story of the main fictional character of Tom Rakewell. He is a young man that inherits a large sum of money through the death of his father. His name comes from the old conotation of the word rake, that is a rich playboy that spents his inherited fortune. Hogarth describes in his group of paintigns how the young Rakewell spends the money that his father had carefully raked in luxury and trivialities.

The first painting describes Tom Rakewell being fit for a new suit. The room where the action is being placed is draped in black in memory of the deceased father. We have to pay attention here to the details that Hogarth pictures and that I have mentioned in the lines above: a cat is pictured looking for food, but finding nothing but gold. There are no less than seven characters in the painting, each with a different physionomy, each of a different age (note, for example, the old woman who is making the fire or the old man behind Rakewell, as well as young Tom and the young woman by the door). Hogarth does not resume to painting a brief description of the room, but goes into details when painting the clothes in the closet, all the gold items in the chest, as well as all other insignificant things that populate the room. The character's clothes are also painted in detail.

Another interesting painting from the cycle that is useful for understanding Hoarth's style is the third painting, that portrays Rakewell with women of ill repute in the back room of a tavern. Rakewell's pose and position is so suggestive that we can make out a whole story only from his character: he seems to have gotten into a fight, as shows the rotten state of his clothes. His watch shows 3 o'clock in the morning (notice again this obsession for detail) and he is in a drunken state. He is in fact so drunk that he put his sword in the pendant of his belt instead of its scabbard. Let's observe a bit of the room in which the action takes place. There are portraits of the Roman emperors on the walls, however, their faces have been torn off, all except for Nero, the most depraved of all emperors (notice how Hogarth uses objects that seem totally insignificant in his paintings to make fine innuendos about the moral state of his character). Instead, Julius Caesar's faceis on the floor in front of Rakewell, as an opposite reminder of a virtuous life.

Some of the characters in this painting have actually lived in Hogarth's times (and here we have to refer to Hogarth's characteristic of borrowing some of the characters from real life). One of them is the woman undressing: she seems to have been a novelty stripper, that is, a stripper that would spin around naked on a platter, that is being carried in by someody. This seems to have been a real person as well: the porter of the "Rose Tavern," famed for the strength of his ribs.

We have a comparative look at the two arists, Carracci on one side, representing Baroque painting and Hogarth on the other, as a Rococo painter, we will have a few differences and similarities between the two. The first refers to the choice of subjects. Carracci paints, as a general rule, mythological paintings. As described in the lines above, Carracci's main creation depicts a scene from the Greek mythology, with Bacchus and Ariannna. On the other side, Hogarth paints characters from everyday life: nothing mythological here, in a pure form of anglicism, he paints ordinary people and ordinary ways of life. Even more importantly, while Carracci's works represent idealised human beings in the tradition of the Renaiisance painters, with strong bodies and clearly depicted muscles (notice Bacchus for example in the respective painting), Hogarth's characters have nothing idealised about them. Referring to the cycle of paintings described above, the last painting describes a mad house. How far we are here from idealism, we even tend to lean towards grotesque and masquarade.

Another strong difference between the works of the two is given by Hogarth's acute sense of details. As described above, he is interested in painting all the details of a room or of a character that he portrays. Nothing escapes his keen eye of observation and we are even inclined to see different symbols in each of the objects he paints. There is no such symbollism in Carracci's work: his characters follow a simple line and he insists in the main characters. As is the case with the painting in the Farnese Palace, the main characters, Arianna and Bacchus are displayed in the foreground and all other details seem to escape our eye.

As for the colors used, here we find similarities. Both of them seem to have an inclination for bright, vivid colors and in this sense, Rococo painting has similitudes to the Baroque painting and the use of such colors is a tradesmark of both.


1. The Illustrated History of Painting. Meridiane, Bucharest, 1973

2. La Pittura Italiana. Mondadori, 1997

3. Guide to the Borghese Gallery. Edizione de Luca. 1997.

4. Nouveau Guide Pratique de Rome et Vatican. Bonechi. 1975




http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/carracci / http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/ent/A0856853.html

The Germans refer to it as Gesamtkunstwerk, that is, a total work of art, a full combination of sculpture, painting and architecture to provide a grandious whole.

Eclectic is a term that designates the use of individual elements from a variety of styles and sources. See the definition given on www.dictionary.com

Ruskins, John. The Genius of John Ruskin: Selections from His Writings. Released February 1998. Quotation on http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/carracci/

The stucchis are decorations made of gypsum or cement that were avidly used during the Baroque period as decorations in the form of angelic figures or little Eros.

Hermann-Fiore, Kristina. Guide to the Borghese Gallery. Edizioni de Luca. 1997. Page 89. [END OF PREVIEW]

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