MUSIC APPRECIATION IN art HISTORY: The BAROQUE era 

Baroque art is primarily known for it’s religious works, reflecting the desire of the Catholic Church to overpower the Protestant movement across Europe during the15th and 16th century. However, Baroque art in Protestant areas, such as Holland, had far less religious content; designed to appeal to the growing aspirations of the middle classes. Music played an important role in this society. The following works in this gallery are oil paintings depicting the most popular pastime of music-making during the Baroque period in Protestant Europe.

This oil painting by Cariani is called “A Concert”. The subject is a musician strumming a six-stringed lute, accompanied by a young man and his teacher (holding the book). Cariani gave intense attention to detail and texture to the instrument and the fur lined clothing. His use of complimentary colors — shaded green and warm red— are featured in the hat, the book, the garments and the cloth draped in the front. Natural light is captured eloquently, with a good sense of light and dark values -- casting a darker shade behind the characters against a grey background. The musician is engaged in song with the look of inspiration on his face, while the other subjects are poised as if they were posing for a portrait.
In this painting, Ter Brugghen’s use of natural light and shadow is unusually realistic. His intricate use of brush strokes give an almost photographic effect, capturing the subject in a frozen moment, giving us a glimpse of 17th century European urban culture. Brugghen chooses not to feature the subject in the sense of a portrait, thus turning the subject’s face toward the back wall. His eyes are closed, seemingly caught up in the sound as he plays the bagpipe. Obviously Brugghen wanted to focus primarily on the appeal of the music rather than showcase an individual. This particular work has an uncomplicated earthy color scheme. Brighter hues of the flesh tones and the draped shirt balance well with the darker hues of the hat, the instrument, and the lower section of the musician’s robe. The color and hue of the back wall gives a perfect — almost three dimensional — look to the backdrop.
A rommel-pot was a crude instrument played by street musicians of the day. The instrument was made of a pig’s bladder stretched over a small jug half full of water. It produced a grunt sound from a reed attached to the bladder, by moving the reed up and down. The amused children gather around the musician, offering him coins to play his rommel-pot. The Dutch artist, Frans Hals, was a popular painter in his home town of Haarlem — where we can place this scene. The rosey colors of the cheeks of the children are a delightful contrast to the darker hues and colors of the painting — creating a mood of the times in Haarlem.
In another painting from Ter Brugghen, we have a portrait showcasing a man singing, accompanying himself with his lute. This painting, as Brugghen’s ‘Bagpipe Player’, uses dramatic lighting to portray a more natural setting — which was a popular style among the Dutch painters at the time — combining a realistic observation of the human physical and emotional state, with a dramatic use of lighting. This particular style was known as Caravagism — influenced by the Italian master Michelangelo Caravaggio. In this work, the ‘Man Playing A Lute’, Brugghen again beautifully balances bolder colors and hues to create a realistic effect of shadow and light. The subject is shown giving a heartfelt performance.
In this Dutch Baroque oil on panel work, artist Gerrit van Honthorst presents us with a group of musicians looking down from the ceiling balcony — singing, smiling and inviting us to join their festivities. The bright colors of the clothes and the sky give the painting a merry and carefree mood. The asymmetrical balance of the work emphasizes the open blue sky as a backdrop to establish a bright and happy atmosphere. Van Honthorst carefully applied the principals of perspective to give the illusion of the subjects looking down from the ceiling. The work was actually painted on a ceiling somewhere in the Netherlands.
This painting by Dutch artist Judith Leyster is deemed as one of her most important works, considered a combination of a general scene, a portrait, and a still life. In the world of early modern music, wind instruments were thought of as plain and common — mainly used by the hands of peasants. Whereas the stringed instruments were considered much more sophisticated. Art scholars believe that Leyster placed both the flute and the violin side by side as an ideological statement, giving the impression that music lifts and inspires, regardless of status. Showing traces of the Caravagism influence, Leyster balances the contrasts of natural light applied by bold brush strokes.
In this painting by Vermeer, we are standing outside the space along with the artist, giving the two subjects in the back of the room a sense of privacy and exclusion. Vermeer utilizes a three dimensional perspective to define the space, creating depth and proportion. The eye is first drawn to the table to the right, as well as the soft light and shadows of the windows to the left. We see two musical instruments — a cello and a virginal, played by the lady. The emphasis, however subtle, are the subjects engaged in making music together, seemingly a scene of the first stages of love.
Artist Marco Ricci was an Italian painter, known for his works in landscapes. In this work, ‘Rehearsal of an Opera’, Ricci’s use of low saturation depicts the particular mood of the scene. Just to the right, we find the famed English opera soprano (in white) Catherine Tofts standing next to the harpsichord. Next to her is the Italian soprano Margherita de l'Épine facing the other direction, wearing a red muff. Both were known arch rivals. It is thought that an inspiration for this painting was to illustrate the fierce competition between them. Surrounding the two, we see a group of musicians, although not engaged in making music. Above the subjects we see a painting of a storm at sea, with a pair of tempest tossed ships and a pair of windblown characters on land. Thus more than likely a representation of the tense atmosphere between the two sopranos, and among the musicians themselves.
Part of a series of five paintings of the five senses, Philippe Mercier’s “Sense of Hearing’ depicts a quartet of women participating in a rollicking sonata — evident through their facial expressions and body language. Three of the subjects are young women, while the other is much older. Mercer brings emphasis to the characters through a rhythm of bright colors and soft textures. We see the characters employ the flute, a violin, harpsichord and a cello. The young lady at the harpsichord glances at the audience, as the others focus on the sheet music. In the background there stands a column to the left, while to the right, a pastoral scene at dusk.
In yet another Baroque series of paintings featuring the five senses, artist Gonzales Coque’s “Five Senses, Hearing” illustrates the spontaneous moment of a man enraptured through the music coming from his violin — as both musician and listener. Coque’s approach is simple in this portrait, with an emphasis depicting the emotion of the subject. He utilizes tint and shade sparingly, primarily to bring out the facial expression of the subject into focus.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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