Is the Baroque Simply Late (Very Late) Gothic?
|St. Paul's, Antwerp, during High Mass|
One of the more debated points in the reemergence of the traditional Latin Liturgy is whether the Baroque is the ideal artistic vehicle for the expression of the traditional Mass. I use "ideal" advisedly, because, while some may tolerate or even have a certain affection for the Gothic or the Classical Revival or even the arte moderne of the twentieth century, the exemplar sans pareil remains, for some, the Baroque. Contrariwise--I need hardly add on a blog that boasts a tongue-in-cheek Liturgical Boutique--some will tolerate the Baroque but prefer the Gothic, in all its manifestations, and lament that it has been so unjustly dethroned by the Baroque.
But, what if the whole controversy is really a lites vocum, a mere dispute about terms? What if the Baroque was simply the exotic flower that budded forth from the no less exotic rod of the Gothic? Granted, here we take "Gothic" to mean the Late Gothic, sometimes referred to as "Flamboyant" (or in England, the Perpendicular).
In other words--in the illustration above of St. Paul's, Antwerp, from the good ol' days--does the Baroque altar piece, with the elements it obviously borrowed from the so-called Renaissance, represent an awkward break with the soaring Gothic vaulting and arches surrounding it? Or rather, does it, like the Gothic before it, simply incorporate and transform elements of the classical tradition, so that the broken pediments and doubled columns are made to soar upward like those glorious Gothic arches?
The Argument from ArchitectureIf we turn briefly to architecture, we must keep in mind that no one is arguing that the Baroque and the Gothic (even the Late Gothic) are essentially the same style. They are, of course, decidedly distinct. What is being proposed--at least for your amused consideration--is the possibility that there was a seamless transition from the one to the other.
First, let's dispense with a somewhat shopworn idea about the Baroque, namely that the Gesù in Rome is the First Baroque Church.
|Interior of the Gesù|
But on to the matter at hand! Let us consider a very late example of the Gothic: St. Anne's in Vilnius, Lithuania (from 1500):
A similar use of lines and focus is very typical of the Baroque as well:
|San Telmo Palace, Seville|
It nevertheless shares a certain esprit d'exubérance with another altar piece, one with a clearly Baroque pedigree:
The Argument from the Pictorial ArtsIt's a commonplace of art history that Gothic sculpture and painting gradually relaxed--some would say developed--the rigid canons of the Romanesque into a more expressive and lifelike idiom. Even by the High Middle Ages, sculptors were portraying the Saints with human expressions, as though to elicit the viewer's affection and confidence.
|Late Gothic (ca. 1471): even figuratively, the Gothic opens to a vista of perspective and classical elements that would soon move to the fore in the new Baroque style.|
The Argument from Music
|Josquin: Gothic, Renaissance, or sui generis?|