You may wonder “what is Baroque art?”
So, lights, shadows, and subject!
This is how I would describe Baroque paintings and their era, because it revolved around intense drama with light subjects and dramatic dark backgrounds.
Even though every painting tells a story, but, Oh, my my, Baroque paintings recited a whole scene from a periodic drama.
‘Baroque’ refers to an art and cultural movement that made Europe stand out from the art crowd after the emergence of Renaissance artists and their art.
This era lasted from the late 16th century to the early 18th century, and due to its portrayal of subjects in a dramatic way, many art collectors called it uneven and just a bizarre art form.
Nevertheless, the Baroque art period produced a lot of painters who worked their best ways with the subjects and shared untold stories about the struggles and pleasures in their life.
So let’s take a stroll through some of the Baroque-style paintings and try to understand “what was Baroque artwork!”
Table of contents
- 1. Bacchus By Caravaggio
- 2. Judith Slaying Holofernes By Artemisia Gentileschi
- 3. Portia Wounding Her Thigh by Elisabetta Sirani
- 4. Gypsy Girl by Frans Hals
- 5. The Night Watch by Rembrandt
- 6. The Abduction Of Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin
- 7. The Lamentation Of Christ by Annibale Carracci
- 8. The Penitent Magdalene by Georges de la Tour
- 9. Woman Holding a Balance by Johannes Vermeer
- 10. Self-portrait by Judith Leyster
- Dat Is Het
- Author’s Note
1. Bacchus By Caravaggio
Bacchus was an Italian baroque art created by Caravaggio in the year 1595.
Speaking of the subject, Bacchus is the Roman name for the Greek god Dionysus.
But in the painting, Caravaggio portrayed the Greek god as an Italian teenager from the 17th century.
This baroque painting by Caravaggio is one of the most famous art examples out there.
In the painting, Caravaggio portrays the Greek god as a half-drunk teenager, offering the viewers wine, rotten fruits, and maybe something more!
This painting is one of the most refined Baroque oil paintings from the era.
This artwork features a basket full of fruits, which depicts the concept of still life in a very well-portrayed way for the Baroque period.
Still, life painting, or vanitas, was a popular art form in Dutch and Flemish Baroque art and Renaissance art as well.
Paintings by Caravaggio have a lot of theories attached to them and are some of the most famous paintings from the Baroque era.
During this era, baroque sculptures started getting some attention as well.
This painting is now housed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
2. Judith Slaying Holofernes By Artemisia Gentileschi
This painting by Artemisia Gentileschi is one of the most terrifying paintings from the Baroque era.
In this Baroque painting, Artemisia has portrayed the heroism of a widow from the city of Bethulia named Judith!
Judith, a young and dedicated widow from the Jewish city of Bethulia, is showcased as a warrior who takes matters into her own hands and beheads Holofernes.
Judith’s city was assailed by Holofernes and his army, he was the general of the Assyrian army.
She wore her best clothes to seduce and trick Holofernes into meeting her without security and in privacy.
Holofernes saw an opportunity and drank until he was intoxicated and had lost his senses.
Just in time, Judith and her maidservant took out a sword and beheaded Holofernes, and a stream of blood can also be seen flowing through his bedsheets.
This was an act of bravery by her and the prayer which she recited before beheading Holofernes was,
“Lord God, to whom all strength belongs, prosper what my hands are now to do for the greater glory of Jerusalem; for now, is the time to recover your heritage and to fight the ones who tried to assail us.”
Artemisia and Caravaggio’s depictions of women’s bravery go side by side, but Artemisia’s depiction was more realistic and involved more effects of light and shadow.
This artwork now rests in Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, Italy.
Suggested Read: Judith and the Head Of Holofernes
3. Portia Wounding Her Thigh by Elisabetta Sirani
Elisabetta Sirani, a female artist from the Baroque art era who actively participated in the art movement and drew women who were portrayed as strong and fierce.
She had created one of the most controversial Baroque paintings, Portia Wounding Her thigh.
In this painting, a lady can be seen sitting in a private room with a small knife.
She can also be seen wounding her thigh several times in the painting. The girl in the painting was Portia.
Portia was the wife of a Roman politician, Marcus Brutus, who was known as the person responsible for Julius Caesar’s assassination.
Portia was very well aware of Brutus’s intentions, and she was impatient to prove her ability to be his advisor.
Portia had a foolproof plan of sending her attendants away and then cutting a gist from her thigh, and when Brutus saw it, he immediately confined her as his advisor.
This was about Portia and the tactic she used to win Marcus’s trust. Her words were quoted, in which she said, “Yet now I have tried myself, and find that I can bid defiance to pain.”
This painting is now in a private collection at Collezioni d’Arte e di Storia della Fondazione della Cassa di Risparmio, Bologna.
4. Gypsy Girl by Frans Hals
It is an oil-on-wood painting, that expresses an exaggerated facial expression and focuses more on the subject, costumes, and effects of light.
Unlike the other paintings by Hals during the Baroque era, he drew this painting in a much more explicit way.
This Baroque painting depicts a young woman with a naughty smirk on her face, also, half of her breasts are out, which makes her cleavage prominently visible.
Her hair was not groomed and was a bit messy, and she is dressed in a pastel orange colored bodice over a white linen dress.
It is assumed that the painting is of a girl from the market is a prostitute, and she is planning on courting a potential customer by seducing them.
Even though the girl doesn’t have attractive features, she has a smirk and depth in her eyes, which make it very easy for her to attract people.
Hals has used softer and smaller brush strokes, which also signifies the feminine hint in the painting.
This famous Baroque painting is at the Louvre Museum, in Paris.
5. The Night Watch by Rembrandt
What if I tell you that the title of this famous Dutch Baroque art is actually not correct?
Yes, that is actually the case with ‘The Night Watch’, a painting by Rembrandt that was not actually named by him either.
This painting showcased a group of civic guardsmen who were out patrolling during the day, but with time, the painting has accumulated layers of dirt.
Due to the deposition of dirt and varnish, the painting now looks like a scene from the night.
Rembrandt rose to fame when he produced this painting commissioned by
It was the guild hall that took care of the Amsterdam civic guard company of arquebusiers or musketeers.
This painting portrays a group of a company of civic guardsmen who were solely responsible for policing and patrolling around the city.
They were also responsible for guarding gates, managing the crowd, putting out the fire, etc., and overall, they were responsible for defending their cities.
This painting is now housed in the collection of the Amsterdam Museum but is prominently displayed in the Rijksmuseum, which is the National Museum of the Netherlands.
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Even the modern day armymen deserve a grand celebration like this. How about adding a special military portrait to their lane of memories!
6. The Abduction Of Sabine Women by Nicolas Poussin
Nicolas Poussin was one of the leading French Baroque artists, even though most of his creations were curated by him in Rome.
He worked closely with Roman culture and mythology, which can be clearly seen in his paintings.
In his Baroque painting, ‘The Abduction of Sabine Women’, he illustrated an incident that is mentioned in Roman mythology as well.
This picture displays a scenario in which the Roman neighbor Sabines were being invited to attend a festival in Rome with the intention of forcibly withholding the young Sabine women as wives.
Chaos started to take place when the leader of Rome, Romulus, raised his cloak from an end and that’s when his soldiers started the ruckus and besieged the Sabine women.
This incident gave Nicolas an opportunity to showcase his command over gestures and also to portray his knowledge of ancient sculptures and architecture.
This painting is an example of a famous French Baroque art that is now housed in the Louvre Museum, in Paris.
Also Read: Famous Baroque Artists
7. The Lamentation Of Christ by Annibale Carracci
This painting by Annibale Carracci, known as The Lamentation of Christ or The Dead Christ Mourned, is an oil painting on canvas that was made in the year 1604.
It is one of the famous paintings of Jesus that portrayed grief in the Baroque era.
Annibale in his painting shows the dead body of Jesus Christ laid on a white loincloth, with his head resting in his mother Virgin Mary’s lap.
Virgin Mary can be seen in her blue robe, and her character is filled with emotions as by looking at her son’s state, she has fainted.
They both are accompanied by three ladies. The first one among them is Mary Magdalene who has held hands in agony.
She has red hair, is wearing a red robe with an embroidered yellow cloak, and is kneeling to the right.
There are two more women on the scene, and one of them is behind Virgin Mary to support her.
Following the group, we can see an entry to Christ’s tomb from the place where the group is mourning, as well as some trees.
This precious Baroque painting was destroyed in the war of London Blitz in 1941.
Suggested Read: The Storm on the Sea of Galilee
8. The Penitent Magdalene by Georges de la Tour
This Baroque painting by the French painter Georges de la Tour is called the Penitent Magdalene.
This painting features Mary Magdalene, who is sitting in a dark room with a skull in her lap and a candle burning in front of a mirror.
The painting makes sure to represent the loneliness in Mary’s life, with the minute details kept in mind by Georges.
The painter has used objects to deliver the message that Mary is staring into deep grief and is looking for something in the dark distance.
This painting is a form of Vanita (still life painting) in which the flickering candlelight represents that life is uncertain.
On the other hand, the skull in her lap represents that nothing lasts forever.
These elements make this painting look like Mary is waiting for someone or something for a very long time.
This artwork by the one of the famous French artists sits in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Another Frenchmen who wrote history with his evocative artworks, Pierre Auguste Renoir created a few mesmerizing paintings as well.
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9. Woman Holding a Balance by Johannes Vermeer
This painting from the Baroque period was one of the most serene in the collections of paintings by Johannes Vermeer.
In this painting, you can sense the stability and peace which Vermeer had while drawing the subject.
Vermeer was known for his blending skills, in which he used to blend in the subject with the source of light with just the right amount of perfection.
In this painting, you can see a woman standing in front of a window which is covered with a yellow opaque curtain which changes the sunlight to a warm yellow tone.
The woman is holding a balance in her hand which represents that she is amid a decision which is solely based on what the balance might show.
Also, in this picture, Vermeer has taken care of the minute details, which have their significance.
The woman is wearing a blue coat with trimmed white fur, and the coat is hooded.
Just like The Milkmaid, this painting also revolves around the woman’s life and her decisions, which are dependent on the balance.
The woman in the painting is looking at the balance with a sense of relief, which also represents that sometimes taking decisions is just balancing the weights!
This baroque masterpiece by Johannes Vermeer is now housed in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
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Suggested Read: Girl With a Pearl Earring
10. Self-portrait by Judith Leyster
During the times when women were not allowed to learn and paint, that was the time when Judith Leyster started painting at the age of 18.
Self-portrait by Judith Leyster is a Dutch Golden Age painting, and also it is also known to be one of the Baroque paintings that gained popularity over time.
She taught students while she worked on her workshop and also used to sell her paintings.
This self-portrait is a Baroque painting which features Judith at her easel, taking a slight turn amid painting a stroke with a brush in hand to face the viewer.
She can be seen sitting in a luxury outfit that is worn during painting or working with oil paints.
The play of light in this painting is beautifully represented as she is wearing a collared dress with minute details of the lace.
Her facial expression says a lot about the portrait as well, her lips are a bit open as if she wants to say something or is about to smile.
The painting was created in such a way that it looks lively and seems like it was a candid photo that was captured by someone.
On the canvas that sits on the easel, she has drawn an animated musician who is dressed in a blue outfit and is playing the violin and is even singing to it.
The painting within a painting further emphasizes Leyster’s self-presentation as a masterful painter of genres.
With time and after her death, most of her works were either credited to Frans Hals or her husband, the painter Jan Miense Molenaer.
This famous Baroque painting is now housed in the collection of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Also Read: Paintings of Women
Dat Is Het
So, this was it from my end about the Baroque painting style and their composition.
The paintings from the Baroque period were drama-centric and also light and shadow play with the subject.
There are indeed many Baroque paintings from the period that have contributed to the era being a hit.
I’ll discuss them sooner or later in the upcoming blogs, so stay tuned!
Thank you for reading this article based on the classic Baroque paintings till the end.
Your thoughts matter to me, so feel free to leave your valuable feedback in the comment.
In the meantime, explore our reproduction paintings, which are specifically crafted to match the perfection of renowned artworks.
Michelangelo Merisi Caravaggio is known as the father of Baroque painting.