Baroque Art: 1600s

When Martin Luther tacked his 95 theses to the doors of Wittenburg Cathedral in 1517 protesting the Catholic Church’s corruption, he initiated a movement (the Protestant Reformation) that would transform the religious, political, and artistic landscape of Europe. For the next century, Europe would be in turmoil as new political and religious boundaries were determined, often through bloody military conflicts. By the end of the 16th century, the Catholic Church was once again feeling optimistic, even triumphant. It had emerged from the crisis with renewed vigor and clarity of purpose. Shepherding the faithful—instructing them on Catholic doctrines and inspiring virtuous behavior—took center stage. In the art of this period, stone becomes flesh and ceilings dissolve into the infinity of heaven—artists such as Bernini, Caravaggio, Rubens, Velazquez and Rembrandt were masters of drama and illusion.


Contemporary artist and MFA graphic designer Eben Haines compares 17th-century Dutch and Flemish self-portraits to his own work—whereas artists of the past depicted power in their self-portraits, Haines attempts to portray vulnerability.

Why make a self-portrait?














Folding Screen (biombo) with the Siege of Belgrade (front) and Hunting Scene (reverse), c. 1697-1701, Mexico, oil on wood, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, 229.9 x 275.8 cm (Brooklyn Museum)
We can’t deny that one strand of the global Baroque is its Catholic, monarchical, and colonizing nature, but this doesn’t mean that there wasn’t room for artistic individuality, experimentation, or even dissent.

Introduction to the Global Baroque