Explosions of dynamic fury, movement, color, and figures
The Baroque is a more theatrical and decorative take on the Renaissance, mixing a kind of super-realism based on the peasant models and chiaroscuro (harsh light and exaggeratedly dark shadows) of Caravaggio with compositional complexity and explosions of dynamic fury, movement, color, and figures.
Rococo is this later baroque art gone awry, frothy and chaotic.
Notable Italian Baroque artists
- Caravaggio (1571-1610). Caravaggio started as a street urchin, rose to fame through the graces of a Borghese cardinal, became an honorary Knight of Malta, and ended his life on the run from murder charges in Rome. In between, he reinvented Baroque painting, using peasants and commoners as models and including their earthy realism (dirty bare feet were a favorite) into his works along with his patented chiaroscuro technique of playing areas of harsh light off deep, black shadows (which helps explain the deeply wrinkled faces he loved to include). Among his masterpieces are the St. Matthew cycle in San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome (1599), a series of paintings in Rome's Borghese Gallery, the Deposition (1604) in the Vatican Museums, and several more in Florence's Uffizi and Pitti Palace, and in Naples's Capodimonte.
- Pietro da Cortona (1596-1669). Tuscan painter who moved to Rome and became the progenitor of the fluffier, pastel Roman Baroque, which he used to decorate the ceilings of Palazzo Barberini in Rome (1635; an allegorical Glorification of the Reign of Urban VIII) and the Galleria Palatina of Florence's Pitti Palace for the Medici (1641-47).
- Bernini (1598-1680). Greatest Baroque sculptor, fantastic architect (see below), and no mean painter (his young self-portrait hangs in Rome's Palazzo Corsini. His finest sculptures are in Rome, including in the Galleria Borghese his youthful Aeneas and Anchises (1613), Apollo and Daphne (1624), The Rape of Persephone (1621), and David (1623-24), a resounding Baroque man of action rather than Michelangelo's Renaissance man of contemplation. His other masterpiece is the Fountain of the Four Rivers (1651) in Piazza Navona.
- Tiepolo (1696-1770). Best Rococo artist there was, influenced by his Venetian Late Renaissance predecessors but also the Roman and Neapolitan Baroque. His specialty was painting ceiling frescoes (and canvases meant to be placed in a ceiling) that opened up the space into frothy, cloud-filled Heavens of light, angels, and pale, sun-risey colors. Though he painted many works for Veneto villas, including the sumptuous Villa Valmarana and Villa Pisani, he also spent much of his time traveling throughout Europe on long commissions (his work in Würzburg, Germany enjoys distinction as the largest ceiling fresco in the world).