The Baroque

From around 1600 – 1750, the Baroque was a period of art, architecture, culture and style that introduced modern philosophy.

The word ‘Baroque’ probably comes from the Portuguese word ‘Barocca’ first used to describe a pearl of irregular shape. Baroque art and culture was irregular in that it was both much richer and contrasting than the previous art of the Renaissance.

The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France and across Europe. Famous painters such as Rembrandt, Velázquez, Rubens, and Caravaggio flourished in this period.

In 1665, the Dutch artist Vermeer painted Girl with Pearl Earring, which in 2006 was voted Holland’s most beautiful painting in a national poll.

Irregular Philosophy

Philosophy also became ‘irregular’ in the Baroque. There was a move away from theology and faith-based arguments. This marked the shaking off of medieval approaches to philosophy such as Scholasticism, in preference for more unified philosophical systems based on reason and/or experience.

The Scholastic view had been that human truth is subordinate to a divine, supernatural, and transcendent reality – one that is forever inaccessible to human reason. The 17th Century was a period in which all beliefs were in transition – it was a change for which medieval Scholasticism no longer seemed adequate.

In contrast, the Baroque can be seen as an ongoing battle between two opposing philosophical doctrines, Rationalism (the belief that all knowledge arises from intellectual and deductive reason, rather than from the senses) and Empiricism (the belief that the origin of all knowledge is sense experience).

It was during the 17th century that Europe was ravaged by several wars. The worst were the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648), which raged across the continent and the English Civil War Period (1642 – 1651). The European wars also made philosophy ‘irregular in a different way – it became political.

Political philosophy had begun in Classical Greece, mot notably in Plato’s The Republic, but in the 17th century new political theories emerged addressing the role between a king and his people, religious freedom and individual liberty.

The Barqoue was shiny and new, but it was also razor-sharp. The period called for a new philosophy and it began with Rene Decartes (1596 – 1650), often referred to as the father of modern philosophy.

Image from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *