The Philadelphia Museum of Art has been organinizing an exhibition: Baroque: The Art of Drama. You will experience the grandeur and theatricality of the Baroque style and see how painters and sculptors of the 1600s incorporated dramatic forms and subjects into their work.
From the founding of the Kingdom of Prussia in January 1701, the emphasis of artistic, political and economic life moved from Southern to Northern Germany. The wars and unrest resulted in the impoverishment of the masses, the middle classes and even the nobles. In addition, the wars brutalized customs to such an extent that there was no place for the arts. Only the princes still living in its pomp and splendor could afford objects of art. Their example was the French Court; the residence cities of the princes envied the French and their opulently magnificent buildings with beautiful artistic treasures.
In the later years of this epoch, the influence of the North with its cooler, more thoughtful style became clear, while in the South a more imaginative and possibly also warm-hearted expression ruled. Protestantism was of inestimable importance for the development of this art. Whereas the protestant churches were rather modest and undecorated, the Catholic Church attempted to convince its mostly poorer believers of its power by means of rich decoration and great displays of pomp in its churches.
Developments in Italy followed almost the same scheme. With the exception of Venice, the city republics became principalities which set the pace for the arts. Also in Italy the princes were the only ones who, after the impoverishment of the country due to the loss of leadership in world trade, could still afford a display of luxury in architecture and the decoration of buildings.
In France the situation was completely different. While a devastating war reigned in Germany, depopulating whole swathes of land, the French King was able to tighten his hold, enlarge his country with new lands and take over the leading role in Europe. France was spared the of religious wars due to the application of state power. In Catholic France, the Edict of Nantes (1598) assured the Calvinistic Protestants, the Huguenots, religious tolerance and full citizen rights but fixed Catholicism as the state religion. The unity of the French people and the centralized power gave France a leading position on the continent and influenced the development of the arts. The whole of Europe now emulated the French court and French tastes were decisive for all European Courts.
Spain with its rich colonies had already risen to a world power in the sixteenth century and, due to its wealth, was able to erect magnificent buildings filled with valuable works of art. Later, in the eighteenth century, a branch of the French royal house ruled in Spain and with it French artistic tastes took root, even if, once again, they did not spread among the population. Despite its wealth, Spain lost its dominance of the oceans after the defeat at Cadiz in 1607, and thus also lost its leading position in world trade.
Eighteenth century England, despite internal political problems resulting in the weakening of the monarchy and the development of a parliament with representation by the population, became the leading trading power and, as the leading world power, the wealthiest country in the world. This wealth supported the production of many works of art, and an independent national style emerged from the French-dominated artistic style…
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