The Baroque is an artistic movement that emerged in Europe in the 17th century and developed until the 18th century. The painting of this period, like sculpture, is characterised by realism in its representations. In addition, bright colours and the contrast of light and shade predominate.
In Spain, despite the economic crisis, Baroque-style painting developed to such an extent that this period is known as the Spanish Golden Age. The artists of the time created works of such quality that they became a point of reference.
The court, the church and the aristocracy were the main clients. At this time, the church became the main patron of art and sought to halt the advance of Protestantism. That is why the subject matter is mainly religious. However, still, lives and portraits were also in great demand.
Main schools were based in Madrid, Seville and Valencia and were greatly influenced by Italian artists such as Caravaggio and his tenebrism. The realism of the works tries to transmit the principles and beliefs of the Catholic religion to the faithful.
The schools of painting
In Valencia, the figure of José de Ribera stands out. His works are characterised by a very realistic treatment of the skin and wrinkles. He began very much influenced by tenebrism, although he eventually abandoned it. His works include the Martirio de San Bartolomé and San Jerónimo penitente.
Murillo is the leading figure in the Andalusian school. His works are mainly religious in the subject matter. In the early years, he worked on chamber paintings in which children were the main characters, as in Niños comiendo fruta. However, like his contemporaries, he eventually abandoned tenebrism. One of his masterpieces is the Immaculate Conception.
Finally, in Madrid, the figure of Diego Velázquez stands out. Although Baroque painting was fundamentally religious in theme, Velázquez depicted all subjects in his works. His works are characterised by depth and perspective.
He started influenced by tenebrism, but after travelling to Italy and becoming acquainted with the work of Rubens, he abandoned it. From then on, he painted some of his best-known works, such as La Venus del Espejo. He worked as a court painter, and in his final stage, he created Las Meninas.
Baroque portraits of the apostle Saint James
Baroque art had a strong impact on the Jacobean tradition and on the Way of Saint James. However, unlike the Romanesque, its imagery did not seek to promote the pilgrimage to Santiago. Despite this, the apostle Saint James partly regained the prominence he had lost during the Renaissance.
In the Prado Museum in Madrid, the pilgrim can enjoy a representation of the apostle Saint James by Murillo (1655). In his work, he combines the symbols of the pilgrim with his role as an apostle. Saint James carries the Viera and pilgrim’s robes, but also a book and a luxurious cloak.
Another of the great artists who depicted Saint James the Greater was Ribera. In the Seville Museum of Fine Arts, there is a very young interpretation of the apostle (1634). This painting also combines the red shawl with his pilgrim’s robes.
James the Greater was also depicted by international artists such as Rubens and Rembrandt. In 1661, Rembrandt painted a representation of the apostle as a pilgrim in prayer.