18th century classicists used the term to describe a style of art in the 17th century; it meaning: oddly shaped, illogical, absurd, or bizarre. "Baroque" originally referred to an irregularly shaped species of pearl. The expression first characterized the architectural style created in Rome in the 17th century which spread to other countries. This stylized trend, depending on locale, spanned the end of the 16th century to the middle of the 18th, from late mannerism to the Rococo or "rocaille" of the 18th century; and embraced sculpture, painting, architecture and music. This new Roman architectural style finds in painting a visual surprise of illusion and wonder, where the fantastic and imaginary become probable.

Closely linked to the Counter-Reformation, defending and reasserting images; new iconographic themes of martyrdom, vision and ecstasy develop along with the use of allegory.

The Swiss esthetician Heinrich Wolfflin in his Fundamental principles in the history of art (1915) first defined the Baroque mode of vision in the 17th century, opposing it to 16th century Renaissance Classicism with five pairs of concepts:

The relief value of Classicism verses the pictorial quality of the Baroque.

"Development of French painting in the 17th century largely eludes these oppositions." Possessing certain affinites with the Baroque esthetic, it also displays classical tendencies strictly its own, which is also seen in French architecture.



1)    The Louvre, Paris, 2003.