Feminist Baroque and Rococo Term Paper

Pages: 9 (2730 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Feminist Perspective in Baroque and Rococo Art and Architecture

As we explore the notion of feminism in the early 17th century baroque and late 17th century rococo art and architecture, there very quickly and noticeably the absence of a feminist perspective. In the early part of the century, during the period most commonly associated with the masters of baroque, there is no indication of a female strength that asserts itself in the works of the masters; and for good reason: the period of baroque art and architecture arises out of the period of "Enlightenment."

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The "Enlightenment," is that period of time during which science was separating itself from philosophy and religion as an exact and distinct science based on fact, as opposed to religion and philosophy, which emanated from the realms of tradition, superstition, mythology and reliant upon the surrendering of human intellect unto the unknown, the disprovable. The hard facts of science were in direct opposition to the teachings and doctrine and, thus, the power of the Catholic Church. In response, the Church made a move to confront science through the commissioning of art and architecture that was largely symbolic in nature, and would arouse the spiritual side of the beholder. From this stand point, of course, and because the Catholic Church, especially during the 17th century, and continuing into the present, was and remains an organization that raises the male above the female in the order of authority, and because the tradition of baroque style is one encompassing the natural world around the artists, its rendition on canvas, in sculpture, or through architecture depicting the society and the role of those people as they assumed their roles in society; there is, of course, no real "feminist" perspective. Nor do there emerge any notable female artists of the period, either early, middle, or late 17th century; there are no women artists.

Term Paper on Feminist Baroque and Rococo Assignment

The portrayal of women in the art and architecture of the early periods of baroque and the later rococo is one consistent with the image of women as the Catholic Church would have them perceived; the mothers, the nurturers, the vulnerable, she who, even to the divine, is surrendering herself. The later period, the rococo period, women are indeed portrayed in a different light than that in which they are portrayed in the early period; but nonetheless still in the lesser role than that of the men. So, while we find "feminine in the early periods of baroque and rococo, we do not find a "feminist" perspective such that one might consider that term as being defined today; with a few exceptions - and those are in fact questionable and open to debate.

Emerging Artists

To begin with an examination of the works coming out of the 17th century, and the clarity of the masculine nature of the Church is obvious. Beginning with the work of Caravaggio, deemed to be one of the masters of early baroque art, we find that the artist, who produced mostly works of oil on canvas, was true to the stylistic form of the baroque period in his representation of the human form in a realistic look. In fact, Caravaggio's work is considered be of a deeply personal nature, and reflecting his personal circumstances - which were apparently troubled for a period of time such that it may have served to interrupt his studies in art. Looking at Caravaggio's Martha and Mary Magdalene, which the biography associated with the work is one of Mary Magdalene being "reproached," for her vanity." "The religious theme is treated in a profane manner. It is a pretext for making passages of highly intensive painting and for constructing an image that, seen in the context of the usual dichotomy of Caravaggio's early years, is more a genre scene than a religious one." The baroque period, though meant to inspire in the beholder the feelings of religious affiliation in the face of science, use a combination of light and shadow, at which Caravaggio was deemed the master of, to accomplish the earthliness of the human earthbound in the spiritual light of the divine that comes across the divine figures from above.

This particular painting, Martha and Mary Magdalene, which is held in Detroit, at the Institutes of Art, Detroit, is an oil on canvas (circa 1598, 97.8 x 132.7 cm) might be considered a departure from Caravaggio's other works for other reasons too. Here, there is missing the masculine presence or the masculine authority. The painting does indeed reflect the baroque period in that it has the light and dark style of the period with the shadowing on the folds of the perfectly correct folds of cloth in the clothes and figures; however, upon close inspection - here one might suggest DaVinci conspiracy theorists move over - it appears that Mary Magdalene sports a rounded and protruding belly. The painting, according to the Web Gallery, has recently been recognized as the original painting. Was Caravaggio making a statement about the role of women in Christianity and in the life of Jesus; and a statement which, like science, would be contrary to the doctrine of the Church?

Again, in a work from Caravaggio, Madonna del Rosario, (1607), a 364.5 x 249.5 cm oil on canvas, held at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, in Vienna; the female figure, as the Mdonna, bathed in the poignant theme significant light of the style, is seated as "Queen of Heaven." At her feet, saints, to whom she is issuing orders, and for intent and purposes, and by way of her designation as "Queen of Heaven," is the authoritative figure. Here, again, we find a feminist theme arising out of an art style that flowed from the directive of the male authority of the Catholic Church during the period in which it was created. This particular work, again, is reflective of the colorful combination of color achieved with through the use of oils on canvas, and the stylistic shading of the clothes and features of the realistic images of the people is featured in the shadow dark and divine light to convey the spirituality of the work. The "interlocking forms," is yet another stylistic feature of the period.

In comparison, as we consider the body of work of Gianlorenzo Bernini, we find none of the feminist superiority that is suggested by Caravaggio. Rather, it is the surrendering of the woman to the passion of the ecstasy of spiritual, as is the case with the Beata Ludovica Albertoni, a marble sculpture held at the Cappella Altieri, San Francesco a Rippa, Rome. In this sculpture, Bernini, while creating a work that is stylistically the perfection and successfully conveys to the beholder the intent to evoke the spirituality of the beholder, created with this piece one that is reflective of the surrender of the soul to the divine. Noting that Bernini's work was, in large part, commissioned by the Catholic Church - first Pope Urban VIII, and then his successor; it is no surprise that Bernini's work conveys the notion of the male authority of the Pope perhaps more so than does the work of other artists of the period. The greater number of Bernini's works featured male figures of authority; Pope Urban VIII, Daniel and the Lion, Constantine, and Louis XIV. There is perhaps no greater collection of the male authority, male superiority, and ascendancy of male in the hierarchy of the Church reflected than that in the body of work of Bernini.

In considering the work of Giovani Lanfranco, there is a vague suggestion of the feminine role. Clearly women must emerge as part of the tradition of Christendom, however the authority of the male, as the head of the Church in the body of the Pope. Lanfranco's St. Ursula and the Virgins is one of the works wherein the artist acknowledges the female, but surrounds her by virgins, speaking to the notion of purity associated with the feminine presence in religion at the time. St. Ursula, dressed in period costume, is, again, bathed in the light of the divinity that spills over her from the heavens above. The oil on canvas (circa 1622) is in the telling style of the baroque period, using the brilliant colors of red and burnt orange combined with the celestial light created with tones of umber and white to give the radiance of the light in its proper virginal purity form.

The Later Period of Rococo

The majority of the baroque and rococo art and architecture came from the "second phase" period of the 17th century, out of Sicily and Italy, those regions where the artists were closest to the ongoing work at the Vatican, and where, under the direction of Pope Urban VIII himself, much of the work progressed, and is referred to as the second phase in the baroque and rococo tradition because the works of those artists whose names are most associated with the style were of the second and third decades of the 17th century. Still, a small… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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