Rome in the seventeenth century Baroque Rome

Rome in the seventeenth century began to take on the baroque appearance which it kept until comparatively recent years. New streets were opened, the water-supply was increased, and for the first time since ancient days the hills again became residential sections. Although classic ruins suffered somewhat during these changes, it was chiefly the buildings of medieval Rome that vanished before the baroque style, with its monumental planning and its emphasis on contrast and surprise.

Baroque Rome continued to draw many of her most noted artists from outside Italy. Rubens left comparatively few works representing Roman monuments, but he visited the city twice between 1601 and 1606. A Landscape with Ruins of the Palatine in the Louvre is a very free treatment of this famous scene; another rather similar painting is known now only through an engraving. In Rome during these first years of the century the great Fleming knew the German, Adam Elsheimer, who played a considerable part in the development of classical landscape paintings with Roman ruins; he knew too Paul Brill from Antwerp, who had been influenced strongly by Elsheimer and carried on his tradition. Paul's older brother, Matthaeus, had died in Rome in 1583. Two outstanding painters who lived and worked in the city slightly later in the century were French: Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain. In his training days Claude had worked with Paul Brill's follower, Agostino Tassi. Poussin's firmly modelled, sculpturesque forms show the influence of the classical enthusiasm surrounding him as well as the dramatic formality of the baroque. Another element appears in the work of Claude Lorrain: the atmospheric beauty of the Roman scene. He could paint the Roman Forum accurately enough when he chose, but he was more interested in the sunset light that flooded it. Naturally enough the drawings of both men were much closer to nature than their finished paintings, in which the monuments were apt to be generalized and regrouped to form ideal classical landscapes.

The seventeenth century saw also official recognition by France of Rome's cultural influence in the creation of the French Academy. Founded in 1666 by Louis XIV as part of his general plan for the encouragement of the arts, this academy not only enabled talented artists to study in Rome at state expense, but also set the pattern for later academies founded by other nations.

No comments: