The Baroque era is one of the most important periods when it comes to art. During this period, there was a lot of controversy with Christianity particularly with the catholic faith. For this reason the painters who lived in this period expressed themselves through art. As such the paintings made during this area had a huge inclination to religion. Three famous artists who lived in the Baroque period were Paul Peter Reubens, Michelangelo Merisi Da Carravagio and Federico Barocci. This essay will analyse one work from these famous artists which was made in the Baroque era. The works in question are the elevation of the cross, the crucifixion of saint peter and the storm on the Sea of Galilee. As much as these paintings have been made by different artists, it is evident that they all have one thing in common; they are all focussed on the New Testament in the Bible. These sensational works of art are a true depiction of the opinions of the artists who created them in an era when their opinions were rather controversial.
The elevation of the cross is a painting that was made by Paul Peter Reubens. It is also commonly referred to as the Raising of the cross. In 1610-1611, this work of art was completed. The artist, Reubens, started painting it after he arrived in Flanders from his trip to Italy. The elevation of the cross displays an obvious influence of the Italian Renaissance over the artists who existed in the Baroque period. The painting has three panels which are correlated. In the central panel, there is a multitude of several muscular men who are trying to lift Christ’s cross from the ground. In the painting, Christ also seems to be lifting an unbearable weight while he is on the cross. Reuben has used foreshortening in the illustration of the muscular men in the painting. Reuben has also placed Christ diagonally in the central panel of the painting. Another impressive aspect of this painting is the use of the Chiaroscuro style together with vibrant color. The painting of the elevation of the cross is of the oil on canvas variety. The style in question was considered complex and this is why its prominence dwindled over the years that followed. With such special attributes, the elevation of the cross is a truly remarkable work of art (Viladesau, 2012).
The crucifixion of Saint Peter is a painting by Michelangelo Merisi Da Caravaggio. The painting was done in the early 1600’s by the famous artist whose other works adorned various chapels in Rome. This painting depicts the crucifixion of Saint Peter who is considered a martyr in Christianity. In the painting, Saint Peter is crucified upside down. This is because he is believed to have requested that he is hanged that way in order to avoid imitating Jesus who was crucified as well. The painting shows the Roman officers erecting the cross of the Saint. Caravaggio’s depiction of Peter is as a muscular old man and this is why the Romans are struggling to set up his cross upside down. Painting Saint Peter to be heavier than his age would suggest is a style the artist has used. The struggle of the three Roman officers shows the crime they have committed is weighing down on them since Peter was an innocent man. Caravaggio has not utilized the use of dynamic colors in this work of art. Alternatively, he has used simple earth colors in order to bring out the required effect he intended to bring out. The painting of Saint Peter’s crucifixion is of the oil on canvas type (Carl & Charles, 2009).
The storm on the Sea of Galilee was painted by Rembrandt van Rijn. The painting was completed in 1633 by the renowned Dutch artist. The painting is a simple illustration of the miracle that Jesus performed as recorded in the Bible. In the New Testament, the book of Mark documents that Jesus calmed a storm that occurred in the Sea of Galilee. This miracle is what Rembrandt illustrated in his painting. However, the painting comprises of fourteen people as opposed to the traditional thirteen. The boat is assumed to have had only Jesus and his twelve disciples on board. In the case of the painting, the addition person is assumed to be a self portrait of Rembrandt himself. The painting is oil on canvas as were most of his other paintings made during the same period. In order to appeal to the viewers, Rembrandt uses a violent theme coupled by the utilization of high contrast colors. This brings out the desired effect of a storm in the Sea. Another style this painting contains is the use of Chiaroscuro in which case one portion of the painting is lightened while the other is lighted. The use of chiaroscuro has enabled the painting to communicate what the painter intended to in the first place (Perlove & Silver, 2009).
All the artists in question were motivated by events in their native countries that led to their painting. One common event during this period were the controversies that surrounded Christianity and in particular the Catholic Church at that time. Another factor that may have affected these paintings was the Italian Renaissance period. Due to the controversies that were related to Christianity, these artists chose to paint specific occurrences that were important in Christianity like the crucifixion of Christ and Peter, a martyr. For instance, Rembrandt who was a staunch Christian made several paintings based on Christianity. These events were the motivation behind the creation of these paintings. These works of art fit into the context of the Baroque period.
In each of the three painting discussed they have a basis on Christianity. In the case of Reuben’s elevation of the cross, the painting focuses on the most important occurrence in Christianity. This event is considered crucial since it is the death of the savior of the world and is also a depiction of the saving grace that he had for his people. By making this painting, he clearly signifies that he believes in Christ and not event the unwarranted claims going around would affect his belief in Him. On the other hand, Rembrandt was also a Christian as is evidenced by his painting of the storm that occurred in Galilee. This was one of the most famous miracles that Jesus performed as stated by the Bible in particular in the New Testament. By deciding on this painting, he clearly depicts the effect that the Christian faith had on him. For this reason, the painting fits perfectly into the context of the Baroque era. Finally, Caravaggio, a staunch catholic faithful as proven by several of his works also supports Christianity.
This is proven by his illustration of the Martyr, Saint Peter who Jesus gave the leadership of the Christian church to. Caravaggio’s paintings adorned several different chapels all over Rome and most of them were based on the catholic faith. For this reason, his painting of the Saint is in complete agreement with the era in which he lived, the Baroque period. As much as these three paintings share some attributes in common, there are also some very significant differences that pertain to the styles the artists used in each of them. All the three artists have used the ancient chiaroscuro style of painting. This is style was used only by the most prolific painters since if not implemented correctly, the painting would be destroyed. In addition to this, the appealing nature of the chiaroscuro style may have been a reason why these artists decided to use it in their different paintings. Paintings made in the chiaroscuro style were appealing due to the format the brush strokes took in the painting.
The direction and intensity of the strokes made in the painting determined the way the painting would look like once it was completed. Another similarity these three outstanding artists share is the content and subject matter of their paintings. All three paintings have their foundation in Christianity. This is largely attributed to the fact that the artists lived during the Baroque period. Another similarity is that they were all Christians. This is believed to be the reason why their paintings were all related. Their common belief in Christianity at a time when it faced a lot of criticism is the reason why they made the three paintings that have been described above. The main difference that is notable in these paintings is the choice of color the artist used in the paintings. In the elevation of the cross, Reubens has used vibrant colors as opposed to the dull colors used by Caravaggio in the crucifixion of Saint Peter. Rembrandt has also used dynamic colors infused in a violent background in his painting of the storm in the Sea of Galilee. Another obvious difference is the country of origin the artists in question. Reubens was born in Germany, Caravaggio was Italian while Rembrandt was Dutch. Despite their different countries of birth, they all made paintings that were related to each other.
The three paintings in question have had a great effect on people over the years. Each has specific attributes specific only to them. In the case of the elevation of the cross, Reuben’s style is remarkable as is the message he is trying to pass. The huge weight that Christ is lifting is considered to be the weight of the sins of all of humanity. This interpretation has made this painting a favorite of several people. In the case of Saint Peter’s crucifixion, the struggling Romans signify the guilt they are laden with for sentencing an innocent man to death. Caravaggio has also used simple dull earth colors in order to illustrate how somber and poignant the moment is especially for the Christians. His ability to use dull colors and still bring out such an effect has made him a legend in the world of art till today. Finally, the illustration of the storm in the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt depicts the significance f the belief in Christ’s miracles. The inclusion of a self portrait of himself has however never been understood over the years, Most people believe that he was just creating a signature mark in the painting.
In my opinion, these three paintings are outstanding not only due to the prowess that is shown by the artists but also because of the messages they pass. Each artists has used their special style and has personalized the painting but has also managed to make it appealing. Another important attribute of these artists is that they created paintings so long age yet they are still mesmerizing to date. Undoubtedly, Caravaggio, Reubens and Rembrandt were legendary artists.
Carl, H., & Charles, V. (2009). Baroque Art. New York: Parkstone International.
Perlove, S. & Silver, L. (2009). Rembrandt’s Faith: Church and Temple in the Dutch Golden Age. California: Penn State Press.
Viladesau, R. (2012). “Counter-Reformation Theology and Art: The Example of Rubens’s Paintings of the Passion.” Toronto Journal of Theology, 28 (1), 29-42.