The Baroque: Breaking out of Prison

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En route to Basilica di Superga

I kept reading that Turin was the Baroque city which was causing concern. Having defined myself as not liking Rococo a long time ago, I wondered what is Baroque and wasn’t there also Barocco? A few seconds later, I got it all straight with the help of Google and learned Rococo was simply late Baroque (French) and Barroco the Italian word for Baroque. Therefore, Baroque seemed to hold some promise of pleasure. In my pursuit, I found what appeared to be the quintessential essay on the topic by one of my favorite art historians, Erwin Panofsky called “What is Baroque?” For a long time, he used it as his go-to lecture, one of those things you have memorized and rattled off at any speaking engagement.

One phrase he used (in parenthesis no less) stuck with me from the essay and I used it to inform how I could tell a Baroque church from a Renaissance one. Statues or columns that looked “painfully incarcerated” in their little alcoves were Renaissance and any statue that looked as though he was in a state of ecstasy having broke free (along with elements of the the outdoors such as sunbeams or clouds) was Baroque. I had a ball classifying things into the Baroque or Renaissance, thinking to myself ‘darling, you look incarcerated.’ Sadly, when I returned home I realized the Basilica di Santa Maria Ausiliatrice close to my guesthouse was not Renaissance but Neoclassical.

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