Hyacinthe Rigaud. Louis XIV, King of France . 1701. 9’ 1" × 6’ 4-3/8”.
Palace of Versailles, France: Grand Façade. 1669-85.
Jules Hardouin Mansart and Charles LeBrun. Palace of Versailles, France: Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors). Begun 1678.
What is absolutism? The court and government of Louis XIV of France were centered at Versailles, the magnificent palace outside Paris designed by Charles Le Brun. André le Nôtre laid out the grounds in the geometric style called the French garden. In what ways does Versailles reflect Louis’s sense of his absolute authority? What did he mean to suggest by calling himself Le Roi Soleil , “the Sun King”?
What tastes in art competed for Louis XIV’s favor? Various members of the court favored one or the other of two competing styles of art, represented, on the one hand, by the work of Peter Paul Rubens and, on the other, by that of Nicolas Poussin. What compositional features characterize the painting of Rubens, and how do they contrast with the painting of Poussin? Louis indulged his taste for pomp and ceremony in music and dance, and especially entertainments written by Jean-Baptiste Lully, who created a new operatic genre, the tragédie en musique . What characterizes Lully’s operas? Louis also strongly promoted dance, the most important form of which was the minuet. Under a charter granted by Louis, the Comédie Française , the French national theater, was established. How did the plays of Pierre Corneille reflect the aesthetic tastes of Poussin? Molière’s comedies, such as Tartuffe , spared no one from ridicule. What is the central focus of his works? Jean Racine wrote such successful tragedies that he became the first French playwright to live entirely on the earnings from his plays.
André Le Nôtre. Versailles: Plan of the gardens and park. Drawing by Leland Roth after Delagive’s engraving of 1746. Designed 1661–68, executed 1662–90.
André Le Nôtre. Versailles: North flower bed, formal French Gardens. 1669-85.
Peter Paul Rubens and workshop. The Arrival and Reception of Marie de' Medici at Marseilles . 1621-25. 13' × 10’.
Peter Paul Rubens. The Kermis (La Kermesse) . ca. 1635. 56-5/8" × 102-3/4”.
Nicolas Poussin. Et in Arcadia Ego (or The Shepherds of Arcadia) . 1638-39. 33-1/2" × 47-5/8”.
Louis XIV as the Sun in the Ballet de la Nuit . 1653.
The Comédie Française . Interior of the Comédie Française Theatre in 1791.
How did political conflict affect the arts in England? The greatest artist of the English court was Anthony Van Dyck, who had worked in Rubens’s studio as his chief assistant. His great talent was portraiture. How did the political climate in England—the rivalry between Roundhead Puritan factions and Cavalier royalists— complicate his career? Can you briefly describe the political maneuverings of the era? How did this rivalry manifest itself in literature? And how did it manifest itself in the burgeoning art and literature of the American colonies?
Anthony van Dyck. Portrait of Charles I Hunting . 1635. 8' x 6’ 11”.
Anthony van Dyck. Portrait of Alexander Henderson . ca. 1641. 50" × 41-1/2”.
John Foster. Portrait of Richard Mather . ca. 1670. 6" × 5”.
John. Portrait of Daniel Parke II . 1706.
Anonymous American. Portrait of John Freake . 1671-74. 42-1/2" × 36-3/4”.
Anonymous American. Portrait of Elizabeth Freake and Baby Mary . 1671-74. 42-1/2" × 36-3/4”.
What role did the arts play in the Spanish court? Philip IV of Spain strove to rival the other great courts of Europe by employing the greatest painters of the day, including Peter Paul Rubens. The young court painter Diego Velázquez, already deeply influenced by Caravaggio, visited Rubens at work. Velázquez’s greatest work is Las Meninas , ostensibly a portrait of the royal princess, but a self-portrait as well, and a complex realization of space. There are many different gazes that ricochet throughout Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas and act as focal points. Describe as many of them as you can find. Under Philip III and Philip IV, the literary arts thrived, especially in the drama of Lope de Vega and Calderón, who were central to what has come to be known as the Golden Age of Spanish drama. What is the central theme of Calderon’s work? What characterizes Lope de Vega’s plays? What theme predominates the satires of Francisco de Quevedo?
Diego Velasquez. El Triumfo de Baco , or Los Borrachos ( The Triumph of Bacchus , or The Drunkards ). ca. 1670. 65-1/8" × 87-1/2”.
Diego Velasquez. Closer Look: Velasquez's Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor) . 1656. 10' 3/4" × 9' 3/4”.
Map: Spanish Viceroyalties in South America, 1542-1824.
How did Native American traditions affect the Baroque style in the Americas? By the start of the seventeenth century, Lima, Peru, was a fully Baroque city. Native painters decorated their paintings of saints with elaborate brocateado . How does the technique reflect their Inca heritage? In New Spain, the poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz wrote villancicos . How would you describe these complex Baroque musical compositions? What do they celebrate? The Baroque found particular expression in the retablos , or altarpiece ensembles, in the churches of New Spain. What characterizes them? This style spread throughout the Viceroyalty of Mexico, as far north as San Xavier del Bac, near present-day Tucson, Arizona. After the Pueblo revolt of 1680, the Church became more tolerant of native traditions. How does the Church of San José at Old Laguna Pueblo reflect this new tolerance?
Palacio Tore Tagle, Lima, Peru. 1753.
Luis Niño (Bolivian). Our Lady of the Victory of Málaga . Southern Cuzco school, Potosí, Bolivia. ca. 1740. 59-1/2" × 43-3/4”.
Map: The Viceroyalty of New Spain, 1535-1821.
Jerónimo de Balbás. Altar of the Kings , principal retablo of the Cathedral, Mexico City. 1718-37. Height: 85’.
San Xavier del Bac, near Tucson, Arizona. 1783-97. Length: ca. 99’.
San Xavier del Bac, near Tucson, Arizona: Nave, with retablo , restored 1992-97. 1783-97.
The Laguna Santero. Retablo and high altar of the Church of San José, Old Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico. ca. 1780-1810.
Henri Testelin. Continuity & Change: Jean-Baptiste Colbert Presenting the Members of the Royal Academy of Science to Louis XIV . ca. 1667.
Versailles and the Rise of AbsolutismWhat is absolutism?• In 1682 Versailles became the unofficial capital of France and symbolof Louis’s absolute power and authority.• The elaborate design of the new palace was intended to leave theattending nobility in awe.• Landscape architect Andre Le Notre was in charge of the grounds atVersailles. He believed in the formal garden, and his methodical,geometrical design has come to be known as the French garden.• Discussion Question: What features make Versailles the embodimentof Louis XIV’s absolutism?
The Arts of the French CourtWhat tastes in art competed for Louis XIV’s favor?• The Painting of Peter Paul Rubens: Color and Sensuality —The taste for Rubens’s painting dominated Louis’s court. Rubens’spictorial approach to self-promoting biographical commissions wasthrough lifelike allegory. Fleshy bodies are a signature stylisticcomponent of Rubens’s work; his paintings address the senses.• The Painting of Nicolas Poussin: Classical Decorum —Poussin believed that a painting’s subject matter should be drawn fromclassical mythology or Christian tradition, not everyday life. Paintingtechnique should be controlled and refined. Poussin’s paintingsaddressed the intellect.
• Music and Dance at the Court of Louis XIV — The king lovedthe pomp and ceremony of his court and the art forms that allowed himto most thoroughly engage this taste: dance and music. Lully waslargely responsible for entertaining the king who particularly admiredLully’s comedie-ballets, performances that were part opera and partballet. Lully also created tragedie en musique. Louis’s love of thedance promoted another new musical form at his court, the suite, aseries of dances, or dance inspired movements, consisting of four to sixdances. Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre was one of Louis’sfavorite composers of dance suites.• Theater at the French Court — Louis’s support of theatereventually led to the establishment of the French national theater, theComedie Francaise. Corneille’s plays embrace the Baroque love forelaborate moral and emotional range and possibility. Moliere’s playsspared no one his ridicule, attacking religious hypocrisy, misers,hypochondriacs, pretentious doctors, aging men who marry youngerwomen, the gullible, and all social parasites. Racine wrote a string ofsuccessful tragedies which made him the first French playwright to liveentirely on earnings from his plays.• Discussion Question: Why are performing arts so important in royalcourts?
The Art and Politics of the English CourtHow did political conflict affect the arts in England?• Anthony Van Dyck: Court Painter — Van Dyke’s great talentwas portraiture. He often flattered his subjects by elongating theirfeatures and portraying them from below to increase their stature.• Portraiture in the American Colonies — The Puritans did notthink of themselves as Americans but as subjects of the crown andParliament. They brought with them the prejudices against ostentationrepresented by the Roundheads. New England was dominated by thePuritan sensibility, but the southern colonies were led by men ofCavalier attitudes and tastes. But as the New England immigrantsachieved a measure of prosperity, they celebrated their success inportraits.
• Puritan and Cavalier Literature — Writers of a Cavalier bent weresensualists and often wrote frankly erotic works. These contrastedstrongly with the moral uprightness of even the most emotional Puritanwriting. One of the most moving Puritan writers of the day was AnneBradstreet who composed epic poetry as well as personal poetry. TheCavalier poets of their generation were admirers of Ben Jonson; RobertHerrick’s poetry descends directly from Jonson’s example.• Henry Purcell and English Opera — Puritans were suspicious ofsecular music in all forms, and special contempt was reserved foropera. The Roman subject of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas is inkeeping with the Classical Baroque.• Discussion Question: What are the differences between Cavalier andPuritan? What did each contribute to English culture?
The Arts of the Spanish CourtWhat role did the arts play in the Spanish court?• Diego Velazquez and the Royal Portrait — The Spanish courtunderstood that in order to assert its absolutist authority, it needed toimpress the people through its patronage of the arts. Velazquezbecame the only artist permitted to paint the King Philip IV. His chiefoccupation was painting court portraits and supervising the decorationof rooms in the various royal palaces and retreats. Las Meninas is alife-size group portrait and his last great royal commission. It elevatesthe portrait to a level of complexity almost unmatched in the history ofart.
• The Literature of the Spanish Court — Under Philip III and PhilipIV, the literary arts in Spain flourished as never before. Cervante’sgreat novel Don Quixote appeared and serves as a transitional text as itrepresents the culmination of Renaissance thought even as itannounces the beginning of an age of great innovation and originality.Both Lope de Vega and his successor Calderon wrote literallythousands of plays. According to Lope, the classical unities of Spanishdrama were to be abandoned and comedy and tragedy should bemixed in the same play. Calderon was more philosophical andprofound than Lope; his major theme was the conflict between love andhonor. No writer of the Golden Age of Spain understood so well orconfronted so thoroughly the country’s political, economic, and moralbankruptcy as Francisco de Quevado y Villegas.
Active Listening Guide: Purcell: "DidosLament" from Dido and AeneasMyArtsLabChapter 23 – The Baroque Court: Absolute Power and Royal Patronage
The Baroque in the AmericasHow did Native American traditions affect the Baroque style in theAmericas?• The Cuzco School — The indigenous native populations Indianizedthe Christian art imposed upon them, creating a unique visual culture,part Baroque, part Indian. The artisans who carved the Baroque panelsfor mansions in Lima were increasingly native, as were themetalworkers who created fine objects. In Cuzco, these artisansbrought to their work techniques and motifs from their Inca background.• Baroque Music in the Americas: Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz— As the church sought to convert native populations to the Catholicfaith, the musical liturgy became a powerful tool. Music was adapted tolocal conditions. Sor Juana Ines del las Cruz is remembered todaylargely as the author of an important tract, Reply to Sor Philotea, inwhich se defended the rights of women to pursue any form of educationthey might desire, and as a poet. Many of her poems were originallysongs written to be accompanied by music.
• The Churrigueresque Style: Retablos and Portals in NewSpain — The taste for elaborate decorative effects and complexityfound its most extraordinary expression in large altarpiece ensembles,known as retablos. These ensembles were designed to impress theindigenous population and were also a manifestation of theextraordinary wealth that Mexico enjoyed as the center of trade forprecious metals.• Discussion Question: What tends to happen to the culture of acolonizing nation when it is exported to the colonies?