What Is Spanish Baroque?

Liz Thomas

Spanish Baroque refers to a time period spanning from the late 1500s to the early 1700s. The Baroque style was applied to art, music, literature and architecture. Pieces produced specifically by Spanish artists and composers are referred to as Spanish Baroque. The main style of the Baroque period brought religious themes to the masses and incorporated nature into the arts.

Religion was one of the primary themes during the Baroque period.
Religion was one of the primary themes during the Baroque period.

It was during this time that some consider painting at its peak in Spain. Spanish Baroque paintings devoted themselves to faithfully reproducing landscapes and images, using true colors and proper tone. Light was used not only to highlight forms but as a religious device. Some Spanish painters were considered to have led the way for creating naturalistic images.

Organs or other chordal instruments are often used in Baroque concertos for harmonies and solos.
Organs or other chordal instruments are often used in Baroque concertos for harmonies and solos.

One of the primary themes during this period were religious ones. Some paintings depicted court life and private scenes. Additionally, many royal portraits were commissioned during this period. Famous Spanish Baroque painters include Francisco de Herrera the Elder, Juan de las Roelas, and Jose de Ribera.

In addition to art and painting, a baroque architectural style emerged during this time period. In Madrid, brick was used to rebuild those buildings and places destroyed by Napoleon. In other areas of Spain the Churrigueresque style emerged, created by the Churriguera family. This type of architecture used columns, central elements, obelisks and ornamental decoration on buildings.

Spanish Baroque music can be described as blending the polyphonic music style commonly found in Spain with styles made popular by french composers. It was during this time that Spaniards traveled to France, and french composers were visiting Spain. Spanish music was highly influential throughout the 1600s.

Composition for solo instruments was important during the this period, specifically for the vihuela, a guitar-like instrument, and for the organ. The new style of music focused on themes and theme variations that kept recurring throughout compositions. These components were closely tied to Italian music of the time, as many Spanish composers trained in Italy and Italian composers trained in Spain.

In particular, the villancico style flourished during the period. This is generally described as using folk music or popular music elements in classical music. Dialects, syncopated rhythms, and influence of various ethnic groups were all often incorporated into the music. This is one of the few unique styles that emerged from the Spanish Baroque period.

Literature during this time utilized several writing styles not used previously. Disappointment and pessimism emerged due to the current societies inability to meet Renaissance ideals, social inequality and war. Spanish writers took to using satire, escapism, moralizing and stoicism as a way to comment on the current times.

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