A Study in Austrian Intellectual History: From Late Baroque to Romanticism

By Robert A. Kann | Go to book overview

I
THE CRISIS OF THE BAROQUE ERA The Age of Leopold I, 1657-1705

a. The Baroque Concept

The extension of the Baroque concept has not helped to clarify it. Whether it is perceived in the sense of the penetrating Heinrich Wölfflin as a cyclical movement that manifests itself in antiquity as well as in modern times, or whether its scope is extended from the field of the arts to the entire social body, as has been brilliantly attempted by Egon Friedell and others, many problems remain unsolved and still more have been added.

The reasons are simple. Unlike the Gothic, which was the emanation of an era in the Christian world of Western and Central Europe dominated by ideas of an enduring and universal character, the Baroque, even in its purely artistic aspects, is the offspring of a far more complex, far more contradictory world situation. The militant and ecstatic spirit of the Catholic Counter Reformation is not to be confused with that of medieval piety; to a certain extent it represents a reaction to the sobering effect of the Protestant Reformation. Even if one goes back as far as the melting pot and vulgarization stage of Greek art during the Hellenistic and late Roman imperial period, there is nothing truly comparable to the decorative character, the grandiose make-believe, the new approach to the problem of space, the curves and spirals of the new art, the splendor and elaborateness of courtly etiquette, the pomp of Italian opera. These are truly original responses to the ideological upheaval of

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