In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Baroque

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Origins and Definitions of Baroque Style
  • Academies
  • Patronage and Collecting
  • Genres
  • Counter-Reformation Art

Renaissance and Reformation Baroque
Anne H. Muraoka
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0177


The Baroque is a name given to a style that dominated western Europe from the late 16th century to the mid-18th century (roughly 1580–1750). It is a style most closely associated with the art and architecture of Italy; however, it is recognized as a pan-European phenomenon, which more recently has also been applied to the arts of Spanish colonies. Its date parameters and geographical boundaries have been extended further by some scholars; nevertheless, the height of the Baroque is generally centered in 17th-century western Europe. The term emerged in the context of art and architecture in the 18th century as a negative word of abuse, and in particular, one that was associated with the bizarre (deviations from classical or neoclassical norms). The “Baroque” was not applied to designate a particular style or period of art until the mid-19th century. The term no longer holds such negative connotations; however, there is still a lack of consensus among scholars about the usefulness of the term as a label for a style that encompasses such a broad period, large geographical boundaries, and diverse stylistic manifestations.

General Overviews

Gage 2014 provides a broad yet useful historical overview of Baroque art and architecture. The questions centering on the value of “Baroque” as a style label and how to qualify its chronological, geographical, and stylistic parameters, however, are reflected in the numerous general surveys on Baroque art and architecture. Riegl 2010 is in agreement with Wölfflin’s idea of continuity between the Renaissance and the Baroque. The author overturns the previous held notion of the Baroque as a decadent and inferior style to the Renaissance by locating its origins to 16th-century Rome and the works of Michelangelo. Held and Posner 1971 frames the Baroque period between the late 16th century and the late 18th century, as does Bazin 1985. Harbison 2000, on the other hand, considers the Baroque as a repeated phenomenon extending beyond even the most liberal chronological and geographical parameters, by stretching the discussion to the 20th century and to countries such as Russia and Turkey. The word “Baroque” appears infrequently in Harris 2004, as the author advocates that style labels hinder our understanding of the art of any given period. Martin 1977 finds the word “Baroque” useful and utilizes the term in the context of predominant artistic trends—naturalism, psychology, visionary experience—and the expressive manipulation of space, light, and movement in 17th-century art. Minor 1999 similarly considers “Baroque” as a valuable and functional term for thinking and writing about eras in art history. Millon 1999 represents a groundbreaking exhibition on Baroque architecture in Europe, which features the various manifestations of Baroque style in a wide range of constructions serving different functions.

  • Bazin, Germain. Baroque and Rococo. London: Thames and Hudson, 1985.

    Charts Baroque style beginning at the end of the 16th century in Italy to sometime after 1800 in Latin America. Divided into two parts—17th and 18th centuries—and then organized into chapters based upon geographical regions, this book functions as a basic survey of 17th- and 18th-century art and architecture.

  • Gage, Frances. “Baroque Art and Architecture in Italy.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

    Provides a useful and broad historical overview of Baroque art and architecture.

  • Harbison, Robert. Reflections on Baroque. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

    Applies a broad definition of the Baroque that extends beyond traditional geographical and chronological parameters. Examines Baroque style in not only art but also literature and music. Considers Baroque style in both formal and thematic terms and extends these tendencies into the 20th century.

  • Harris, Anne Sutherland. Seventeenth-Century Art & Architecture. London: Laurence King, 2004.

    Well-organized and detailed survey of 17th-century art and architecture in Italy, Flanders, Spain, France, the Dutch Republic, and England. Particularly strong in its consideration of art in historical context.

  • Held, Julius S., and Donald Posner. 17th and 18th Century Art: Baroque Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1971.

    Broad and general survey of 17th- and 18th-century European art. Despite its title, half of the book examines art now commonly considered under the “Rococo” stylistic label.

  • Martin, John Rupert. Baroque. London: Allen Lane, 1977.

    Extremely useful introduction to Baroque art that examines the style as a pan-European phenomenon. Addresses the issue of style and definition of Baroque, the role of naturalism, sensual experience, allegorical traditions, and the expressive formal qualities of space, time, and light.

  • Millon, Henry A., ed. The Triumph of the Baroque: Architecture in Europe, 1600–1750. New York: Rizzoli International, 1999.

    Catalogue for an important exhibition on Baroque architecture in Europe conceived by Henry A. Millon (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 21 May–9 October 2000). Explores Baroque style in European architecture from 1600 to 1750 through architectural models, drawings, paintings, medals, and sculpture maquettes. Examines Baroque churches and chapels, civic architecture, commercial architecture, military architecture, private residences, and royal palaces.

  • Minor, Vernon Hyde. Baroque and Rococo: Art and Culture. New York: Prentice Hall, 1999.

    Survey of Baroque and Rococo art in Europe from 1600 to 1760. Organized thematically, it examines art through social, political, cultural, and artistic contexts, function, site, formal qualities, space, and genres.

  • Riegl, Aloïs. The Origins of Baroque Art in Rome: Texts and Documents. Edited and translated by Andrew Hopkins and Arnold Witte. Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2010.

    English translation of Die Entstehung der Barockkunst in Rom, first published in 1908. Seminal work by Riegl, in which he suggests not only that the Baroque style emerged in Rome, but also that it has its roots in the 16th century, particularly with the work of Michelangelo. Includes three new essays on Riegl, his ideas and text, and an evaluation of the critical response of Riegl’s book.

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