I’ve been enjoying?savouring?a gorgeous book all summer: Baroque?Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, edited by Rolf Toman and liberally illustrated with stunning photographs by Achim Bednorz. This book is a visual feast.

The text is illuminating, as well:

“Baroque art tends in the first instance to make a sensual appeal to the viewer: with theatrical pathos, illusionistic devices, and the interplay of different forms the artist seeks to impress, to convince, and to arouse an internal response. This may explain why the style is often experienced as extravagant, showy, or even pretentious.” (page 7)

These are often the words used to describe the baroque style: feverish frenzy, ludicrous, bizarre, confused, florid. In short: over the top.

Reading this book, however, I’ve come to understand that the baroque style was all about the creation of an illusion. Staircases were key for the staging of entrances and exits. Quoting from the German historian Richard Alewyn:

“… spirit of the baroque … really only came into its own where there was movement.” 

“The staircase provided the classic example of the viewer in motion, an essential principle of all spatial art in baroque.” (page 10)

In addition to the stunning example shown on the cover above, here are two other examples of baroque staircases:

Imagine an Escher print in three dimensions: imagine walking through it. That’s baroque.

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