London exhibition showcases brilliance of Baroque

Fri Jun 12, 2009 11:29am EDT
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By Josie Cox

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.   Continued...