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The 15 Most Iconic Paintings of the Baroque Era

An art movement that emerged between the 16th and 18th centuries was a great rebellion against the classical art understanding of the Renaissance. This new understanding of art, called the “Baroque” art movement, affected many fields from painting to architecture, from sculpture to music. This movement got its name from the Portuguese word “barrueco” meaning “raw pearl”. The prominent feature of Baroque art was the enthusiasm, excitement and dramatic structure it brought to European art. However, Baroque artists used the contrast of light and dark in their works. Thus, extremely impressive works emerged, both in terms of image and meaning. In addition, they treated the biblical stories in their works as if they were depicting a theater scene. For this reason, the paintings of painters who produced works in the Baroque style adorned the walls of many religious institutions at that time.

The possibilities brought by the Baroque understanding of art gave artists the opportunity to produce more enthusiastic and dramatic works than ever before. As a result, the Baroque art movement continued to exist throughout Europe for centuries. We have listed 15 iconic paintings that will allow you to get to know the Baroque period better…

1. Caravaggio, The Call of St. Matthew

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One of Caravaggio’s most famous works, The Call of St. Matthew is among the most well-known works of the Baroque period. The Calling of St Matthew is located in the Contarelli Chapel in Rome. The people in the painting are depicted in contemporary clothes. Thus, what is described in the painting evokes what happened on the theater stage rather than a religious story. But Caravaggio’s true mastery lies in his ability to use light. The famous painting of Caravaggio was designed in accordance with the architecture of the chapel where it was made. When sunlight enters the chapel, the hand of Matthew pointing at Christ is illuminated! The enthusiasm and excitement that Baroque art wants to arouse in the audience is met with great response in this work, which is produced perfectly both artistically and technically.

2. Annibale Carracci, Domine, Quo Vadis?

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Annibale Carracci is considered one of the leading Baroque painters of the 17th century. “Domine, Quo Vadis?” The bright colors and detailed facial expressions of the characters clearly reflect Carracci’s Baroque understanding.

3. Annibale Carracci, The Lamentation of Christ

Another work that reflects the flawless technique of the Baroque period has the signature of Annibale Carracci! In this work, which depicts the murder of Jesus Christ, 4 different women are depicted, primarily the Virgin Mary. The lamentation of the figures in the painting over the lifeless body of Jesus is described in a very impressive way.

4. Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath

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This psychologically intense painting was made after Caravaggio was exiled from Rome for a murder he committed! The work, which is one of the most famous paintings of the Baroque period, depicts the young David who cut off the head of the giant Goliath.

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One of the most remarkable painters of the Baroque period is Artemisia Gentileschi. Gentileschi is a very important figure with his incredible artistic talent as well as his ability to exist in a completely male-dominated world. Gentileschi, in his work “Judith Kills Holofernes”, in a way refers to male-female relationships. However, the main theme of the painting is still based on a religious story. Gentileschi, who wants to increase the effect of the painting, highlights the elements of violence in this painting.

6. Peter Paul Rubens, The Rape of Leucippus’ Daughters

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Peter Paul Rubens was also one of the leading artists of the Baroque period. However, he did not increase the dramatic effect in his works with plays of light and shadow. Instead, he used a vibrant color palette and dynamic movement in his works. The rape of Leucippus’s Daughters is considered one of the most important works of the movement, although it does not fit the general understanding of art of the Baroque period.

7. Francisco de Zurbaran, Martyrdom of St. Serapion

Zurbaran, one of the greatest representatives of the Baroque period in Spain, is known by the Spanish nickname Caravaggio! The painter, who usually depicts religious figures with a high dramatic effect in his works, continues the same approach in the Martyrdom of Saint Serapion. This painting features a black background and a male figure in a white suit. The simple yet powerful compositional technique in the painting makes it one of the powerful works of the Baroque period.

8. Peter Paul Rubens, The Judgment of Paris

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This painting by Rubens focuses on one of the leading themes of the Baroque period. The painting depicts a voting moment on which of the goddesses from Ancient Greek mythology is more beautiful. Paris, another character in Greek mythology, decides which woman is more beautiful. The voting moment with Hera, Athena and Aphrodite is depicted in Rubens’ detailed and colorful style.

9. Georges de La Tour, Mourning Mary Magdalene

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The French painter of the Baroque period, Georges de La Tour, is famous for including figures illuminated by candlelight in his works. The Mourning Mary Magdalene painting is a work that continues this style of the artist. The painting depicts a simple but impressive “moment”. Moreover, the skull in the center of the composition makes the painting much more symbolic than it seems…

10. Rembrandt, The Night Watch

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Dutch painter Rembrandt uses only light and shadow in his works with great skill. Another element that reveals Rembrandt’s talent is that he can reflect many human figures in his works with almost real dimensions. The Night’s Watch showcases the artist’s mastery in two different fields. On the other hand, The Night Watch reflects Rembrandt’s personal skill, as well as the artistic understanding of the Baroque period.

11. Nicolas Poussin, Abduction of the Sabine Women

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In The Abduction of the Sabine Women, Nicolas Poussin deftly paints multiple human figures simultaneously. Moreover, Poussin’s dynamic and lively style highlights the dramatic nature of the painting.

12. Charles Lorrain, Departure of the Queen of Sheba

Charles Lorrain is one of the first painters that comes to mind when it comes to landscapes in the Baroque period. The Departure of the Queen of Sheba, like many Baroque paintings, tells a biblical story. However, the technique Lorrain uses in painting is quite interesting. The painter does not resort to plays of light and shadow to strengthen the dramatic structure of the work. Instead, it creates a magnificent harbor scene with pastel colors and perspective.

13. Diego Velazquez, Portrait of Pope Innocent X

The portrait of Pope Innocent X, drawn by Diego Velazquez, is considered by many to be the best portrait ever! Spanish painter Velazquez was commissioned to paint a portrait of Pope Giovanni Battista Pamphili, known as Innocent X, on a trip to Italy. For this important task, he made portraits for a long time. Velazquez managed to finish the painting, after long studies. The resulting painting was so realistic that even the Pope himself found it too realistic!

14. Diego Velazquez, Bridesmaids

Bridesmaids is one of the most striking and interesting paintings not only of the Baroque period, but of the entire art history! This iconic painting by Velazquez holds many mysteries that only the watchful eye can discover. Because the painting, which is considered the masterpiece of the Spanish painter, is highly layered. In the focus of the painting, King of Spain IV. Felipe’s daughter and her bridesmaids. However, the other characters in the picture are much more interesting. In the left corner of the painting, Velazquez himself is depicted looking at the audience during a painting effort. There is a depiction of the king and queen in the mirror behind the painter. However, there are many more details in different layers of the picture. In addition, many art historians are of the opinion that the painting depicts a truly lived moment. After all, one of the most important names of Baroque painting, Valezquez’s Bridesmaids is still mentioned centuries later.

15. Elisabetta Sirani, Portia Wounding Her Thigh

Elisabetta Sirani was one of the important female painters of the Baroque period, just like Artemisia Gentileschi. The main theme of his works was the events about women. Portia Wounding Her Thigh, on the other hand, describes how Porita injured himself to prove to his wife that he was his equal.

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