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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - An exhibition at London's Victoria and Albert Museum explores the different strands of the opulent Baroque genre through art, architecture and performance from four continents and nearly two centuries.
"Baroque 1620-1800: Style in the Age of Magnificence" provides insight into the genre, representative of the growing influence of the Roman Catholic Church, that spread from Italy and France to the rest of the world through traveling craftsmen, artist and architects.
"Baroque is one of the most exuberant and dazzling design styles there has ever been," Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum Mark Jones said, adding that the exhibition -- unlike any other before -- examines all the different elements of Baroque.
Lacquered casks and vases, adorned with precious jewels and intricate paintings, convey the obsession with beauty characteristic of a time at which the Roman Catholic Church was reacting against many revolutionary movements.
One focal point of the exhibition, which runs until July 19, is a giant altar showing the Virgin of Sorrows, with a gilded frame and twisted columns typical of Central American Baroque.
Originally on display in Mexico in 1690, the Virgin's realistic glass eyes appear to be teary and appealing to the viewer's emotions. Painted panels on either side of her represent episodes in Christ's life.
Another dimly lit room, filled with music from the 1676 opera Atys, conveys the importance of Baroque theater for power struggles between the European courts, as rulers strove to topple each other, with magnificent costumes and props.
The paintings on display frequently feature an interplay between swirls of light and shadow, adding dramatic effect, movement and variety to the rich colors of the artwork.
Holy images and a large section of the exhibition dedicated to the papacy and the church, reveal just how interlocked secular and religious elements of Baroque are.
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini was a sculptor and artist who worked for a whole succession of Popes for more than 50 years.
His life-size figure of Neptune, wielding his trident astride the sea-god Triton, convey themes of power, conquest and command which so often surface in the genre.
To convey the sheer magnitude characteristic of the style, music-backed video projections enable visitors to take a virtual tour up and down the facades of Paris' Palace of Versailles, Sicily's Syracuse Cathedral and Vienna's Upper Belvedere Palace.
St. Peter's Square, directly in front of the papal enclave in Vatican City and redesigned by Bernini from 1656 to 1667, is also brought into the museum by means of a giant screen, taking visitors of the exhibition back to the roots of Baroque.
Editing by Paul Casciato