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Performance Art: Baroque Style

As a new exhibition on the Baroque opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Joanna Norman looks at this age of magnificence.

The Baroque style was a global phenomenon with an impact on all the arts. In disciplines ranging from painting, sculpture and architecture to theatre and music the Baroque reigned as the dominant style for most of the 17th and part of the 18th centuries. Complex, demanding and all-encompassing, it was a style of magnificence and richness which spread from its origins in Rome and Paris to the outer reaches of Europe and beyond.

The origins of the Baroque can be traced back to papal Rome in the early part of the 17th century and to the great triumvirate of the style’s pioneers: Gianlorenzo Bernini, Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona, whose works in architecture, painting and sculpture established the principal characteristics of the style. It was, above all, a style concerned with performance, its buildings and works of art becoming infused with vigour and movement. It employed all the arts in the creation of a ‘total’ work of art – anticipating Richard Wagner’s 'The Baroque style proved to be particularly appropriate to an age of counter-reformation'

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