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What Elements Led to the Baroque Period?

Johannes Vermeer was one artist associated with Northern Baroque art.
Chris Hondros/Getty Images News/Getty Images

The Baroque period, which lasted from 1600 to 1750, was a time of stylistically complex art, sculpture, architecture and music -- as one architect aptly described it, "an obsession for moreness." Johannes Vermeer and Peter Paul Rubens were artists of the Baroque era. Andrea Pozzo was a Baroque period trompe l'oeil specialist. The historical events that led to the Baroque period were many, but only a few elements had far-reaching effects.


Mannerism describes the period of artistic development that emerged in the years of the late Renaissance leading up to the Baroque era. Containing many elements of the Renaissance, including religious subject matter, Mannerism consisted of an embellished, emotional and over-the-top style. This break from the Renaissance's cold portrayal of historical and religious figures allowed for the Baroque era's embrace of an interplay between the personal and political.

Catholic Counter-Reformation

The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century sparked many Catholic countries that still wanted to assert their power to lead a counterrevolution. Protestantism was seen as a threat to many ruling monarchs, prompting the commission of large-scale paintings that showed religious subject matter and rulers in terms of a dramatic theatricality.

Scientific Revolution

The Scientific Revolution greatly affected all art of the Baroque era, but primarily art of Northern Europe. The Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer is thought to have made his paintings with the assistance of a camera obscura, an early type of camera. The Scientific Revolution brought about the concept that the natural world could be accurately known and described, and as such, many artists in Northern Europe turned to portraying everyday objects in still lifes and landscapes.

Age of Absolutism

The Age of Absolutism saw the rise of monarchical governments throughout Europe. The rulers of the Age of Absolutism possessed almost unlimited power and authority over their countries. Louis XIV was an example of an Absolutist ruler, often referring to himself as the Sun King. He ruled from 1643 to 1715 and during his reign, moved the capital of France to Versailles. The palace he built at Versailles contains many art and architectural examples of the Baroque era.

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