Differences between the Renaissance and the Baroque: how to distinguish between them
A summary of the differences between the Baroque and the Renaissance in music, painting, poetry, etc.
The Renaissance and the Baroque were two artistic movements that developed after the end of the Middle Ages, one of the darkest periods of Western civilization.
In this article we will discuss the historical context that was the cause of these two artistic movements, in addition to explaining the differences between the Renaissance and the Baroque. explain how the Baroque and the Renaissance differ and how Baroque artists and how the Baroque artists tried to differentiate themselves from the Renaissance artists that had preceded them.
- Related article, "What is Cultural Psychology?"
Historical context of these two artistic movements.
The end of the Middle Ages was the result of a great cultural, political and social change in Europe. Painters, sculptors, composers and other artists, through their art, were shaping and reflecting the society in which they lived. society in which they lived, witnessing great scientific advances and seeing how humanity evolved and expanded its knowledge.
In 1418, Gutenberg invented the printing press, with which it was possible to mass-produce books, allowing the expansion of knowledge with greater ease, as well as favoring an increasing number of literate people. In that same century, in 1492, Christopher Columbus made the voyage that would later confirm the discovery of a new continent for Europeans: America..
In addition, in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus published his work, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, in which he expounded his heliocentric theory, that is, that the Earth revolved around the Sun.
This, together with other knowledge, motivated the society of the time, and encouraged creativity and the desire for discovery, considering the capacity of human beings as unlimited. However, not everything was positive for Europe. In 1453 Constantinople, one of the most important cities on the continent, fell into the hands of the Turks, dealing a severe blow to all of Christendom.
All these events were the triggers for changes in medieval thought. A new vision of the human being was acquired, taking a perspective that everything could be and subtracting some importance to the religious. and the religious was somewhat reduced in importance.. This led to the emergence of the great artistic movement that was the Renaissance, which took place between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The end of the Renaissance
his movement did not last forever. As early as 1527, the Renaissance movement began to suffer ups and downs, since the vision that had been acquired about the human being, idealized and perfect, was beginning to crack..
The new European regimes, faced with the fear of Islam and the almost perpetual struggle against this religion, initiated measures to expel Muslims, especially in Spain.
This population had been a real economic engine, working the land, contributing to the sanitation of crops and being an exchange of knowledge between Christianity and Islamic countries. This led to a lower agricultural production around 1609, which implied famines, diseases such as plague and high mortality.
Society became pessimistic and this influenced art itself. The idea that man could cope with anything faded, recovering in a certain way a medieval vision of the world but without disregarding the technological advances of the previous century.
The Catholic world suffered a schism. Luther, faced with the abuses exercised by the papal authorities, proposed a reform of Catholic Christianity, which evolved into the creation of Protestantism. In turn, faced with this audacity, the Catholic leadership initiated the Counter-Reformation, with the intention of persecuting those who disagreed and fought against papal power.
Art became a propagandistic weapon against heresy.It was used by the papacy to prevent the population from turning to the side of pagans and atheists.
The Baroque was an artistic movement that resorted back to medieval thought, focusing on religiosity and beliefs, taking God as the center of everything.. It covered the entire 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century.
Differences between the Renaissance and the Baroque.
Having explained the historical background of these two movements, let's take an in-depth look at the differences between the Baroque and the Renaissance in terms of painting, architecture, music and poetry, as well as their worldview.
1. Philosophical approach
During the Renaissance, humanism was developed.a movement that focuses on the human being himself, that is to say, it acquires an anthropocentric vision.
Classical culture was revalued, considering it as the pinnacle of perfection of Western civilization. In addition, a critical movement arose a critical movement arose that defended the use of reason to approach the truth.This is why the Renaissance was a time of great scientific advances, although religion was not completely abandoned.
Ideas that were already present during the Middle Ages, such as beauty and love, are revalued, but acquiring a perspective closer to the Greco-Latin ones, approaching symmetry and homogeneity as the earthly forms to approach perfection, an abstract and metaphysical idea.
The Baroque chooses to focus on everyday contexts, on the elements of everyday life.in the elements of everyday life. It understands that the human being is not perfect and tries to find beauty in it.
The artists and thinkers belonging to this period tried to surpass the previous period through originality. Many Baroque artists considered that in a certain way the Renaissance movement had quickly become outdated, limiting themselves to imitating their own style.The Baroque movement was limited to imitating itself and being a replica of classical art.
Renaissance buildings are divided into sections. These parts are based on Greco-Latin art, in which everything followed an order and was shown with homogeneous clarity.
Renaissance architecture does not intend the observer to focus on a particular part of the structure, since most of the building is identical, with no details highlighting a particular section of the structure.The Renaissance architecture does not intend the observer to focus on a particular part of the structure, since most of the building is identical, with no details that highlight one section above the others. Thus, the Renaissance intended to make their buildings as symmetrical as possible, with horizontal elements predominating over vertical ones, inspired by the architecture of the temples of ancient Greece and Rome.
Among the distinctive elements of Renaissance architecture are the semicircular arch, the barrel vault and the hemispherical dome.
Some examples of buildings constructed during the Renaissance are the famous cathedral of Santa Maria delle Fiori in Florence, the church of Santa Maria Novella, the palace of Charles V in Granada and the cathedral of Jaen.
On the other hand, the architecture of the Baroque period is less clear.. Everything is treated as if it were a continuum, but it is not divided into clear and equal parts, but incorporates details that might seem to be a somewhat chaotic structure.
Baroque facades usually have elements that are concentrated in a very rich and striking way, such as columns, arches, statues, bas-relief and high relief and curved walls.
Some examples of baroque buildings are the Royal Palace in Madrid, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the Palace of Versailles and St. Peter's Basilica.
During the Renaissance, innumerable schools of painting emerged.which, despite their divergences, influenced each other.
Renaissance painting improves perspective compared to medieval art. The human anatomy is represented in great detail, thanks to the improvement of painting techniques and the use of a new painting style: oil painting. It is intended to represent in the most realistic way, but idealized and symmetrical, man and his environment.man and his environment.
The Quattrocento was the time of success of great painters such as Masaccio, who is considered the first to apply in painting the laws of scientific perspective and a new concept of expressiveness. His work was revolutionary, especially for its use of light. During the Cinquecento the greats of the Renaissance emerged: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Raphael.
Everyone knows the famous Vitruvian Man by da Vinci, a very accurate representation of the human anatomy, as well as his famous work the Gioconda. Raphael's work is considered the stereotypical painting of the Renaissance, for its perfection, use of perspective and color.for its perfection, use of perspective and color. On the other hand, the figures in Renaissance painting are characterized by their dynamism, a lot of color and grandiloquence.
In Spain we have El Greco, whose work represents the combination of Byzantine knowledge acquired in his youth together with Renaissance tendencies. His figures are very expressive, elongated and somewhat shady. Although he is considered Renaissance, his work is one foot away from Baroque.
On the other hand, the Baroque painter captures reality as he sees and feels it, with its limits and violent postures.with its limits, violent postures, diagonal compositions. He focuses on the individual human being. Art becomes less distant from the public.
The church uses painting to send a less distant and grandiloquent message, which had been the norm during the Renaissance.
Caravaggio is one of the representatives of the Baroque. His work is more human, without resorting too much to solemnity. The drama is very accentuated, showing a psychological realism..
Diego Velázquez, painter of Philip IV, painted great works such as the Surrender of Breda, the portrait of Pope Innocent VII. His last two masterpieces are the Meninas and the Hiladeras, with a large number of characters placed at different distances from the front.
These painters show environments with chiaroscuro, realistic people, with their strengths and weaknesses. The Baroque had no qualms about showing the pallor or signs of illness of some of their patrons.
4. Music and poetry
Renaissance music is characterized by its polyphonic texture, following the laws of counterpoint.The music of the Renaissance is characterized by its polyphonic texture, following the laws of counterpoint, and with a certain legacy from Gregorian chant.
In the ecclesiastical field we find the mass and the motet, while in more profane fields we find the villancicos, the madrigal and the chanson. Among the best known composers of this period are Orlando di Lasso, Josquin des Prés, Palestrina and Tomás Luis de Victoria.
The poetry of the Renaissance follows the style of the songbook lyric.The poetry of the Renaissance follows the style of the songbook lyric, speaking of aspects such as love, beauty in the divine and to some extent mythological aspects recovered from classical civilizations. Great Renaissance poets were Fray Luis de León, Garcilaso de la Vega and Petrarca.
Baroque music gave mankind one of the greatest musical genres: opera.. It is the period that is traditionally related to what we understand today as classical music, in addition to later periods.
During the Baroque period, tonality and the use of the basso continuo appeared, as well as the sonata and the concerto.
Great musicians of this period were Georg Friedrich Händel, Antonio Vivaldi and the composer whose death put an end to the Baroque, Johann Sebastian Bach.
Baroque poetrytion, the disgust to go on living, despair, love themes or nonconformism, with touches of acceptance of the fact that we are not able to live.with touches of acceptance of the fact that the human being can hardly succeed and can only wait for death as inevitable end. It is a very ornate poetry, which aims to excite the sensibility and intelligence. Baroque writers seek originality and surprise.
Some relevant Baroque poets were Luís de Góngora, Lope de Vega and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
- Beltrando-Patier, M.C. (1996). Historia de la música. Madrid: Espasa.
- de Antonio, T. (1989). The Spanish 17th century. Madrid: Historia 16.
- Onians, J. (2008). Atlas del arte. Barcelona: Blume.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)