The Baroque (US: // or UK: //) is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, art and music that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the late 18th century. It followed the Renaissance style and preceded the Neoclassical style. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well. The baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began in the first third of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria and southern Germany. By the 1730s, it had evolved into an even more flamboyant variant, called rocaille or Rococo, which appeared in France and central Europe until the late 18th century.
The word baroque was a Portuguese term for a pearl (barocco) with an irregular shape. Cognates for the term in other Romance languages include: barroco in Portuguese, barrueco in Spanish, and barocco in Italian. It was used in French to describe pearls in a 1531 inventory of Charles V's treasures.
In the 18th century, the term was usually used to describe music. In an anonymous satirical review of the première of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie in October 1733, which was printed in the Mercure de France in May 1734, the critic wrote that the novelty in this opera was "du barocque", complaining that the music lacked coherent melody, was unsparing with dissonances, constantly changed key and meter, and speedily ran through every compositional device.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was a musician and composer as well as philosopher, wrote in 1768 in the Encylopedié: "Baroque music is that in which the harmony is confused, and loaded with modulations and dissonances. The singing is harsh and unnatural, the intonation difficult, and the movement limited. It appears that term comes from the word 'baroco' used by logicians."
The word was first used to describe the period of art that followed the Renaissance in 1855 by the Swiss art historian Jacob Burckhardt in an article in the journal Le Cicerone. He used the term to attack the movement for subverting the values of the Renaissance. The term "style baroque" did not enter into the dictionary of the Académie française until 1878, when it lost its original negative connotation. In 1888, the art historian Heinrich Wölfflin published the first serious academic work on the style, Renaissance und Barock, which described the differences between the painting, sculpture, and architecture of the Renaissance and the Baroque.
The Baroque style of architecture was a result of doctrines adopted by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent in 1545–63, in response to the Protestant Reformation. The first phase of the Counter-Reformation had imposed a severe, academic style on religious architecture, which had appealed to intellectuals but not the mass of churchgoers. The Council of Trent decided instead to appeal to a more popular audience, and declared that the arts should communicate religious themes with direct and emotional involvement. Lutheran Baroque art developed as a confessional marker of identity, in response to the Great Iconoclasm of Calvinists.
Baroque churches were designed with a large central space, where the worshippers could be close to the altar, with a dome or cupola high overhead, allowing light to illuminate the church below. The dome was one of the central symbolic features of baroque architecture illustrating the union between the heavens and the earth, The inside of the cupola was lavishly decorated with paintings of angels and saints, and with stucco statuettes of angels, giving the impression to those below of looking up at heaven. Another feature of baroque churches are the quadratura; tromp-l'oeil paintings on the ceiling in stucco frames, either real or painted, crowded with paintings of saints and angels and connected by architectural details with the balustrades and consoles. Quadratura paintings of Atlantes below the cornices appear to be supporting the ceiling of the church. Unlike the painted ceilings of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, which combined different scenes, each with its own perspective, to be looked at one at a time, the Baroque ceiling paintings were carefully created so the viewer on the floor of the church would see the entire ceiling in correct perspective, as if the figures were real.