Comparative Analysis of Baroque and Flemish style of artworks


The paper will examine the social and formal distinctions of Baroque and Flemish style of artworks from Italy and Netherlands while highlighting on the renaissance culture of the 1500’s. Baroque style of artwork composition is a kind of European painting and creation of sculptures that relays different attitudes. According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2005), it is believed that this style elaborated extensively the renaissance culture of between 1500 and 1700.

According to the assertions of the artist this style was brought about by the catholic reforms that had the desire to capture the attention of believers while inspiring their senses and enriching their souls. Artworks composed by Bernini comprise a detailed and careful use of elements like shadows, light and color to portray a religious theme. The Italian Baroque arts depict illusions and sense of movements that are achieved through the use of curved lines while the texture produces an amazing impression of realism. The medium used to create such art is molten wax and has been successfully used to produce artworks like Tomb of Pope Alexander VII and Angel with the Superscription.

Rubens is one of the artists who perfected the Flemish style to create figurative depictions of art to provide a realistic nature of art; something that is quite different from the baroque style of art. The mediums used in this style entail paintings comprising of a collection of oil, turpentine and at times eggs. For instance, works like Venus and Adonis and Miracle of Saint Hubert are among those pieces of art paintings from Netherlands that portrayed the themes of historical landscapes unlike the Baroque that focused on religion. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2005) points that just like the Italian Baroque; the Flemish art style is full of detail and provides impressions of movements.

Social and formal distinctions


It is believed that the Italian renaissance was a movement that started in Florence and spread to other cities and was considered a major cultural change that would later spread in Europe. In addition, their artists began to show interests in the beauty of nature and the human body, something they portrayed with typical antiquity. They began using art to represent their religious beliefs and set the stage for the widespread renaissance culture to other countries like France and Spain. It has been pointed out that painters and sculptures tried to give their artworks a more spiritual quality and hence prompted them to concentrate on the deep spiritual representations.

The Baroque style of art composition was widely used in Italy due to its diversity and the Renaissance culture that is believed to have originated from there. This culture was spread to other parts of the world courtesy of the Baroque style and by around 1600, it has spread to countries like Spain and France. It was discovered that this style revived the classical representation of the ancient Greece and Rome renaissance culture by providing an emotionally thrilling presentation of the supernatural beliefs of the people (Neil Haughton, 2004). Additionally, Neil Haughton (2004) also alleged that these pieces of art played significant roles in expressing religious beliefs and practices of the people. Significantly, they brought about the division of countries based on individuals being Catholics or Protestants with Italy maintaining catholic beliefs. Italy being one of the catholic countries maintained paintings and sculptures to represent biblical stories as their main subject matter.

The Calling of Saint Matthew piece of art by Merisi insinuates how artists represented religious subjects from the New Testament in a manner that fully remained traditional. The figures and costumes used to compose these artworks had interior designs of the modern-day roman techniques. Artworks in Italy effectively employed effective use of light element in their composition with artists believed to have used the tenebrist light. This light was then contrasted to modern stage lighting and meant that paintings like Farnese Gallery in Rome had clear designed coupled with balance composition of all the other design and formal elements used in art to ensure the successful portrayal of themes.

The Triumph of Divine Providence by Palazzo is a piece of art that portrayed an amazing composition that represented components that were loosely arranged and effective use of color as an element in providing colorful figures and objects. Culturally, such an art represented a supernatural and imaginary vision of immortality of living people (Neil Haughton, 2004).

According to Neil Haughton (2004), it has been affirmed that artists of the Italian Baroque style of composition had ways of attracting the attention of their audience. This was well portrayed by the sculpture created by Bernini as he realistically rendered his works in a fashion that drew the attention of the audience to the real action in the art. For instance, David throwing a stone to Goliath artwork, makes an audience to actively participate in the story being told. Additionally, Italian arts focused on contributing to the glorification of Rome and a case for consideration is the completion of the Holy Basilica. Bernini specifically sculptured several works to portray to the audience the inside structure of the most important church in the Catholic religion. “The symbolism of such art found in Italy made one to experience the majesty and the authority of some of the Catholic leaders of the Baroque and renaissance time” (Neil Haughton, 2004).

The Netherlands

Historically, it is believed that political and religious differences led to the division in the Netherlands into two states and painting as a form of art came up to represent this (Georgina Cole, 2006). However much these artists depicted exclusive pictures to represent religious subjects, they still managed to concentrate their major themes to revolve around daily life of the people and their landscape (Georgina Cole, 2006). She therefore presumes that this was a distinctive difference with the Italians arts that used stories from the biblical teachings to shape their themes.

It is affirmed that most artworks that were and are still found in Netherlands, had daily life as their primary subject matter. The drivers for this assertion were the population’s increased affection and love for their land and home. A considerable proportion of the people had enough income to provide for their families and even chose to spend in furnishing their homes. According to Johan, a Dutch historian, the increased love for life and environment motivated the artists to compose painting that would be used to enforce desire and love for nature and life. It is believed that urbanization also led to the pursuit of other subjects of arts like landscapes, seascape and still life. Proponents argue that most works at the time of the renaissance developed interest in artworks that portrayed everyday life and values that were mostly concerned with the contemporary societies and human lives.

The artists in Netherlands brought forward a new style of art composition; they combined the Baroque style with Flemish Art and this explains why Paul Rubens as an artist expressed values of the catholic culture (Georgina Cole, 2006). He continued to reflect the religious beliefs of the catholic religion better than anybody. An example is given by Georgina Cole (2006) who asserts that one of his paintings The Adoration of the Magi portrayed the birth of Christ as a noble procession. The art succeeded in portraying those who came to see Jesus as being royal and noble compared to ordinary shepherds because of the expensive gifts that they brought.

When catholic religion was abolished in Northern Netherlands, protestant teachings tried to eliminate art, instead it flourished with several painting the Dutch daily life as their subject matter. It is eluded that most artworks had no biblical or mythological subjects and instead Jan Vermeer, as an artist, created paintings of households to signify the life they lived at the time.

Other artist in Netherlands specialized in painting outdoor sceneries, landscapes, flowers, fruits, fish which provided a deep cultural distinction between Netherlands and Italy. It has been ascertained that some paintings had biblical scenes that were not meant for the churches or assist in spreading religious beliefs but were meant to provide fictional records of the rich human history. This is different from the Italy arts that used biblical scenes to spread and signify religious beliefs and practices. “It is believed that Rembrandt van Rijn father of Dutch art had human feelings as the main subject matter of his painting works” (National Gallery of Art, 2007).

Some of these arts had their formal elements wound together to achieve unity of composition. For instance, Syndics of the Cloth Merchants’ Guild art that represented five businessmen achieved unity by preserving the identity of each member of the group while knitting their personalities together to achieve a comprehensible whole. Color element was also used sparingly to provide a soft coloring of mellow light to add onto the unity of the composition. The sparing use of elements is one aspect that distinguishes Netherlands art from those of Italy. It is believed that they had their emphasis on representing the inner life of people who share different thoughts and moods.


In summary it is evident that Italian art had its subject matter revolve around religious scenes and classical mythology while Netherlands renaissance had its theme etched on domestic interiors portrayals and to a small extent religious scene. The style used to compose art in Italian renaissance comprised symmetrical shapes with a balance composition of elements to give a vivid sense of linear mass perspective. The northern renaissance pursued art with a naturalism perspective to ensure attentive to surface detail. Scholars have also opined that the Italian artworks are best known for producing figures with mass and volume while the Dutch artworks produces pieces with minute surface detail. Finally, the media used to compose the artworks from the two different locations are also not similar with the Italian art using fresco, tempera and oil while the Dutch art uses oil on a panel as the main medium of composition.



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Neil Haughton. (2004). Perceptions of Beauty in renaissance art. Journal of Cosmetic

Dermatology.  Blackwell Publishing, Ltd: Notting HiIl, London, UK. pp. 229–233. Retrieved from

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2005). Medieval Art: A resource for Educators.  Retrieved