The Catholic Reformation and the arts
In this final chapter we shall consider the relationship between the Catholic renewal of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the arts used as media for purposes of doctrinal instruction and the raising of religious consciousness. We shall review the art forms of architecture, painting, literature, theatre and music—looking very selectively at a few representative architects, painters, authors and musicians, and we shall consider the question of the baroque as, so to speak, the ‘house style’ of the Catholic Reformation.
The concept of the baroque, deriving in the first instance from architecture, has been extended to cover all the arts, and even lifestyle or the wider Zeitgeist of seventeenth-century Europe: what Skrine calls ‘baroque culture in its broadest sense’, and including, in Friedrich’s definition, moral excess and extremism of behaviour. Indeed, excess, distortion and fantasy have often been seen as the essence of baroque building and the characteristics of some of its best-known practitioners: ‘dramatic fantasy’, for example, is said to have been the hallmark of the architect Francesco Borromini (1599-1667), while the German and Austrian masters of baroque architecture such as Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723), the brothers Cosmas Damian Asam (1686-1739) and Egid Quirin Asam (1692-1750) and Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753) are said to have exhibited ‘reckless extravagance’ (Friedrich). The identification of irregularity as the guiding feature of baroque is, indeed, implicit in the very etymology of the word, which may have been derived from the Portuguese term for a rough-shaped pearl. If baroque represents distortion, though, from what standards is it supposed to have been an aberration? A common view is that baroque means a radical, indeed a revolutionary, departure—Beny and Gunn call Borromini the exponent of a ‘revolutionary’ art—from the canons of geometric regularity and rational beauty upheld above all in the classicist art of the Renaissance and in its acknowledged masters such as the primary architect of St Peter’s, Donato Bramante (1444-1514), and the theorist of neo-classical architecture based on ancient Roman models, Andrea Palladio (1518-80). In the eighteenth century hostile critics of the baroque led by the ardent classicist Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-68) employed the term baroque, as Friedrich says, ‘to describe works of art and architecture which did not meet the standards they believed to have eternal validity as “classic” forms of beauty’. Further, baroque