Baroque & rococo art in Italy (1600-1800)

The Judgment of Solomon (1649) by French baroque master Nicolas Poussin, in the Louvre, Baroque & rococo art in Italy (1600-1800), Italy, Italy (Photo Public Domain)
The Judgment of Solomon (1649) by French baroque master Nicolas Poussin, in the Louvre

Explosions of dynamic fury, movement, color, and figures

Le Miracle de saint François-Xavier ou Saint François-Xavier rappelant à la vie la fille d'un habitant de Cangoxima au Japon (1641–2 )by French baroque master Nicolas Poussin, in the Louvre, Baroque & rococo art in Italy (1600-1800), Italy, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)
Le Retour de chasse de Diane (Diana after the Hunt) (1745) by rococo master François Boucher, Baroque & rococo art in Italy (1600-1800), Italy, Italy. (Photo Public Domain)

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).
Photo gallery
  • The Judgment of Solomon (1649) by French baroque master Nicolas Poussin, in the Louvre, Baroque & rococo art in Italy (1600-1800), Italy (Photo Public Domain)
  • Le Miracle de saint François-Xavier ou Saint François-Xavier rappelant à la vie la fille d
  • Le Retour de chasse de Diane (Diana after the Hunt) (1745) by rococo master François Boucher, Baroque & rococo art in Italy (1600-1800), Italy (Photo Public Domain)

Where to find Baroque & rococo art art in Italy

★★★
"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
★★☆
 (Photo by Dimitris Kamaras)

"Uffizi Part II": A stellar collection of High Renaisance and baroque art in the princely Renaissance Pitti Palace

 
★★★
"The Birth of Venus" (1484–85) by Sandro Botticelli (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi 3rd floor 1st corridor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
★★★
Room XII (17th century) (Photo by Petar Milošević)

The Vatican Museum's Pinacoteca is the best painting gallery in all of Rome

 
★★★
Niobids (Photo by Михаил Бернгардт)
Uffizi 3rd floor 2nd corridor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
★★★
St. Mark Preaching in Alexandria (1504–07) by Gentile and Giovanni Bellini in Room 8 (Photo by SunOfErat)

Milan's Brera is one of the top painting galleries in Northern Italy, with works by Raphael, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Mantegna, Bellini, and Piero della Francesca

 
★★★
Paolo Veronese painted a "Last Supper" in 1573, but censors were incensed by the rowdy crowd scene, so Veronese retitled it "Feast in the House of Levi" (Photo © José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro / CC BY-SA 4.0)
Accademia
Venice: Dorsoduro

Venice's premier painting museum

 
★★★
"Venus of Urbino" (1538) by Titian (Photo Public Domain)
Uffizi 2nd floor
Florence: Centro Storico

Visiting the Gallerie degli Uffizi is like taking Renaissance 101: A smorgasbord of paintings by Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian, and Botticelli—including his iconic "Birth of Venus"

 
★★☆
The Upper Hall, or Salone Maggiore (Photo by Didier Descouens)

An ancient Venetian men's club slathered in Tintoretto paintings

 
★★☆
The statue-filled upper hall (Photo Public Domain)
The Bargello
Florence: Centro Storico

A flock of Donatellos and other great works in this sculpture gallery annex of the Uffizi

 
★★★
The Baldacchino over the altar of St. Peter's (Photo by Jorge Royan)
Free
St. Peter's
Rome: Vatican

St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) in Rome: Motherchurch of Christendom

 
★☆☆
The Atrium (Photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST)
Free
Basilica di Sant'Ambrogio
Milan: San Vittore

From this 4C church, St. Ambrose—bishop of Milan when the city was briefly capital of the Western Roman Empire—had a profound effect on the development of the early church

 
★★★
Piazza Navona at sunrise (Photo by Giuseppe Moscato)
Free
Piazza Navona
Rome: Tiber Bend

Bernini fountains, caffés, street performers, artists, and a carnival of life crowd Rome's famous Piazza Navona

 
★☆☆
The armory, designed by Arnoldo Pomodoro (Photo Public Domain)

A small private museum stuffed with great paintings by Bellini, Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Tiepolo, and more (plus: a poison ring!)

 
★★☆
The Imperial Room, with Bernini's Rape of Persephone (Photo by Damian Entwistle)
Galleria Borghese
Rome: Via Veneto & Villa Borghese

Rome's Borghese Gallery is packed with amazing works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael, and ranks as one of my top three small museums in the world

 
★★☆
The crowds at the Trevi (Photo by Oleg Brovko)
Free
Trevi Fountain
Rome: Tridente

The Fontana di Trevi just may be the world's most famous wishing well—certainly one of the most lucrative, what with every tourist tossing "three coins in a fountain"

 
★☆☆
The Grand Canal facade (Photo by Alice Barigelli)
Ca' Rezzonico
Venice: Dorsoduro

This Grand Canal palazzo houses the Museo del '700 Veneziano, or Museum of 18th-Century Venice

 
★☆☆
The museum (Photo by Dominik Matus)
Museo Diocesano
Milan: Ticinese

The best works from small church museums and treasuries across Milan and Lombardy

 
★★☆
The Cerasi Chapel, with paintings by Annibale Carracci (center) and Caravaggio (left and right) (Photo by Frederick Fenyvessy)
Free

Rome's church of Santa Maria del Popolo is like a primer on the development of art and architecture from the early Renaissance through the baroque

 
★★★
 (Photo by Marc Buehler)
Free
Piazza della Signoria
Florence: Centro Storico

Florence's main square is a public living room filled with ancient and Renaissance statues and fountains

 
★☆☆
AD 2C equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (Photo by schizoform)
Capitoline Museums
Rome: Downtown Ancient Rome

These museums atop Rome's Campidoglio connected by the Tabularium house iconic ancient statues (she-wolf, colossal statue of Constantine, Lo Spinario, Dying Gaul, etc.) and great art by Caravaggio, Titian, and Rubens

 
☆☆☆
Japanese kai (painted shells for playing kai-awase), Edo period (Photo by Sailko)
Ca' Pésaro
Venice: Santa Croce

Venice's Ca' Pésaro and two collections: Galleria Internazionale d'Arte Moderna (Gallery of Modern Art) and Museo d'Arte Orientale (Asian Art Museum)

 
★★☆
Veiled Christ (1753) by Giuseppe Sammartino (Photo courtesy of the museum)
Cappella Sansevero
Naples: Centro Storico

An exuberantly baroque chapel in Naples

 
★★☆
Room 2 in the museum (Photo courtesy of the museum)
Museo Capodimonte
Naples: Capodimonte

The most important painting gallery in all of Southern Italy

 
★★☆

A 17C riverside fortress filled with Renaissance and baroque Old Maters—and a striking Palladian theater

 
★★★
Galleria Nazionale
Around Corso Vannucci

Umbria's top painting gallery, with plenty of works by Perugino

 
★☆☆
Cloister of San Martino (Photo by Velvet)

Paintings, presepi, and great views at a monastery-museum high above Naples

 
★☆☆
Narcissus (1594–96) by Caravaggio (Photo Public Domain)
Palazzo Barberini
Rome: Via Veneto & Villa Borghese

Rome's Palazzo Barberini serves as half of the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, a collection of Old Masters from Raphael to Caravaggio

 
★☆☆
Santa Maria della Scala
Around Siena's Duomo

A gorgeously frescoed former hospital and several small churches in one complex

 
★☆☆

A chapel with Renaissance and early baroque frescoes by the Sienese school

 
★☆☆
Pinacoteca Nazionale
Terza di Città

Siena's branch of the National Painting Gallery

 
★☆☆
 (Photo )
Badia a Passignano
Florentine Chianti

A postcard-perfect Renaissance monastery surrounded by a high-end wine estate

 
★☆☆
San Pietro
Southern Perugia

A Gothic church filled with great art by Perugino and others

 
★☆☆
Palazzo Abatellis
Palermo center

Sicily's top art museum in a 15th century Palermo palazzo

 
★☆☆
The nave (Photo by Vitold Muratov)
Free
Il Duomo
Naples: Centro Storico

The duomo of Naples and Feast of San Gennaro

 
★☆☆
The frescoes (Photo by Berthold Werner)
Free
Sedile Dominova
Downtown Sorrento

The eternal card game under the frescoed Sedile Dominova of Sorrento

 
★☆☆
The distinctively Gothic nave (Photo by Saint Joseph)
Free

Sculptures by Michelangelo and Bernini, the bodies of Fra' Angelico and St. Catherine, and the tombs of two Medici popes—so why isn't this church right behind the Pantheon more famous?

 
★☆☆
The Contarelli Chapel with its Caravaggio paintings on "The Life of St. Matthew" (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
Free
San Luigi dei Francesi
Rome: Tiber Bend

The church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome is a festival of Caravaggios

 
★☆☆
Casa di Santa Caterina
Terza di Camollia

St. Catherine's house is where Siena's famous home-grown saint and medieval diplomat lived

 
☆☆☆
The main facade (Photo by Palickap)
San Domenico Maggiore
Naples: Centro Storico

Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque art masterpieces in a Neapolitan church

 
☆☆☆
A room in the museum (Photo by Filippo Espo)
Museo Correale
Downtown Sorrento

A small, bit-of-everything museum

 
☆☆☆
The Hall of Mirrors (Photo by Andy Rusch)
Galleria Doria-Pamphilj
Rome: Tiber Bend

Rome's Galleria Doria-Pamphilj is a princely private collection

 
☆☆☆
 (Photo by Patrick Rasenberg)
Galleria Corsini
Rome: Trastevere

Great Renaissance and baroque paintings at the Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica in the Palazzo Corsini alla Lungara

 
☆☆☆
The Chiostro degli Aranci (Oranges Cloister) (Photo by Sailko)
Badia Fiorentina
Florence: Centro Storico

That pointy tower in Dante's neighborhood is one of the nicest (and least visited) older churches in Florence

 
☆☆☆
Impruneta
Florentine Chianti

The town that makes all those terra cotta roof tiles also has fine baroque works in the main church

 
☆☆☆
Desenzano
Southern Lake Garda

The town anchoring Gardsa's SW corner is home to Northern Italy's best-=preserved ancient Roman villa

 
☆☆☆

The Siracusa art museum has some fine Renaissance and baroque works by Antonello da Messina, Caravaggio, and Domenico Gagini housed in the Palazzo Bellomo

 
☆☆☆
Immacolata obelisk (Photo by Mstyslav Chernov)
Free
Guglia dell'Immacolata
Naples: Centro Storico

A nearly 100-foot spire of baroque statues and reliefs

 
☆☆☆
The cloisters of St. Francesco are popular for weddings and other events (Photo © Reid Bramblett)
Free
San Francesco
Downtown Sorrento

The lovely Chiostro di San Francesco church cloisters in Sorrento

 
☆☆☆
The Cornaro Chapel, with its Bernini sculptures (Photo by Livioandronico2013)
Free
Santa Maria della Vittoria
Rome: Termini train station

A baroque church with the bodacious Bernini set-piece of St. Theresa in Ecstasy marrying architecture and sculpture

 
☆☆☆
The main doorway (Photo by Sonse)
Free
Palazzo Zuccari
Rome: Tridente

The monstrous details decorating Palazzo Zuccari

 
☆☆☆
The nave (Photo by David Bramhall)
Free
Sant'Agostino
Rome: Tiber Bend

The church has works by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Sansovino—and lies just off Piazza Navona—yet sadly sees few visitors

 
☆☆☆
The nave and Pozzo's frescoes (Photo by sarahtarno)
Free
Sant'Ignazio di Loyola
Rome: Tiber Bend

The "dome" in this church is a masterpiece of trompe-l'oeil

 
☆☆☆
 (Photo by Dennis Jarvis)
Free
Ponte Sant'Angelo
Rome: Tiber Bend

The statue-lined "Bridge of Angels" across the Tiber River

 
☆☆☆
The nave (Photo by Laruse Junior)
Free
Sant'Andrea della Valle
Rome: Tiber Bend

This Roman church is as famous for its role in as a major setting in the Puccini opera Tosca as it is for its baroque art and architecture

 
☆☆☆
Beata Ludovica Alberoni (1671-75) by Gianlorenzo Bernini (Photo by Sailko)
Free
San Francesco a Ripa
Rome: Trastevere

This Trastevere church contains one of the raciest religious sculptures in the world, Bernini's Beata Ludovica in Ecstasy

 
☆☆☆
 (Photo by Torvindus)
Free
Acqua Paola
Rome: Trastevere

THE spot for Roman wedding photos

 
☆☆☆
'Crucifixion and Saints' (1493–96) by Perugino (Photo by Sailko)
Free
Santa Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi
Florence: Santa Croce

Home to "Crucifixion and Saints," a fresco by Renaissance Grandmaster Perugino

 
☆☆☆
The interior (Photo by Johann H. Addicks)
Free
San Francesco
Pisa: Eastern Downtown Pisa

A barn of a church with Mannerist and Baroque pantings

 
☆☆☆
The piazza (Photo by Nikolai Karaneschev)
Free
Piazza Cavalieri
Pisa: Eastern Downtown Pisa

A felicitous square withe the Vasari-deigned Palazzo dei Cavalieri, San Stefano church, and legendary Palazzo dell'Orologio

 
☆☆☆

Some lovely baroque frescoes in a church on the edge of Siena

 
☆☆☆
transport
Free
San Martino
Terza di San Martino

A small church with some nice late Renaissance and Mannerist paintings

 
☆☆☆

A little church with a Caravaggio

 
The nave (Photo by Giuseppe Guida)
Free
San Gregorio Armeno
Naples: Centro Storico

A fine baroque church in Naples

 
Museo Civico Gaetano Filangieri (Palazzo Como) (Photo by IlSistemone)
Free
Museo Civico G. Filangeri
Naples: Centro Storico

Some nice paintings in a free (!) small private museum set in a lovely 18C palazzo

 

Baroque & rococo art artists with works in Italy

Self Portrait by Anthony Van Dyck (after 1633) in a private collection (Photo courtesy of Sotheby's)

The Belgian artist who set the tone for British portraiture

 
Self Portrait playing a lute (c. 1663/65) by Jan Steen, in the Museo Thyssen in Madrid, Spain (Photo courtesy of the Museo Thyssen)

A 17C Dutch genre painter who mastered the genre of peasants having fun

 
Portrait of Frans Hals (1648–50), a copy (by one of his followers) of a self-portrait, in the Indianapolis Museum of Art (Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Museum of Art)

A baroque master devoted to depicting typical life during the Dutch Golden Age

 
A Self-Portrait detail in The Calling of Saint Matthew (1599–1600) by Caravaggio in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, Rome (Photo courtesy of San Luigi dei Francesi)

The baroque master of chiaroscuro, turning the dance of darkness and light into story and character

 
The Artist in his Studio (c. 1730/35), by François Boucher in the Louvre, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Louvre)

18C French court painter or baroque portraits, landscapes, and genre scenes

 
Self Portrait (1760/70) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard in the Musée Fragonard, Grasse, France (Photo courtesy of The Yorck Project)

An 18C French rococo master of pastel scenes and frolicking lovers

 
Self-Portrait (1650) by Nicolas Poussin in the Louvre, Paris (Photo courtesy of the Louvre)

A classicist French baroque painter

 
Portrait of the Artist (1623) by Peter Paul Rubens, in the Royal Collection, London (Photo courtesy of the Royal Collection)

One of the greatest baroque Flemish painters, astoundingly prolific and fond of fleshy women

 
Self Portrait of Giambattista Tiepolo (1752–53), detail from the Residenz Würzburg ceiling frescoes in Würzburg, Germany (Photo courtesy of the Residenz Würzburg)

By a long shot the best Italian rococo painter

 
Portrait of Jean-Antoine Watteau (1721) by Rosalba Carriera, in the Museo Civico Luigi Bailo, Treviso (Photo courtesy of the Museo Civico Luigi Bailo)

A French rococo baroque painter of grandly theatrical works