German Baroque Art
Characteristics, of Architecture, Painting, Sculpture: 17th Century Germany.

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Marsyas (c.1680) by the top Dresden
Baroque sculptor Balthasar Permoser.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

For examples of Baroque
designs, see: Architecture, History.

For masters of bronze casting,
marble and stone in 17th century,
see: Baroque Sculptors.

German Baroque Art (c.1550-1750)


German Baroque Architecture
St. Michael Jesuit Church in Munich (Sustris)
German Architects Gradually Emerge
Benedictine Abbey at Melk (Jakob Prandtauer)
Pilgrimage Church in Vierzehnheiligen (Balthasar Neumann)
German Baroque Churches: Development of Ground-Plans
Church Decoration: Sculpture & Painting
Baroque Palace Architecture
Prince Bishop's Palace at Wurzburg
The Zwinger, Dresden
Palace of Nymphenburg
Sanssouci Palace
Rococo Decorative Arts in Germany
German Baroque Painting

To see how Baroque art in Germany fits into the chronological evolution of European culture, see: History of Art Timeline. For biographies of specific painters and sculptors, see: German Baroque Artists.

Apollo conducts Beatrix of Burgundy
to the Genius Imperii. Ceiling Fresco
by Giambattista Tiepolo (1751-53) at the
Prince Bishop's Wurzburg Residenz.

For details of the best painters:
Old Masters (Painters to 1830).


With the death of Holbein in 1543, German Renaissance art came to an end. It was followed by an artistic vacuum which, because of the religious conflicts of the Reformation and the resulting chaos of national disunity, lasted for two hundred years. Of all European nations the Germans were most affected by these unfortunate religious quarrels, because their country was divided between Protestantism in the north and Catholicism in the south. (Please see: Protestant Reformation art and Catholic Counter-Reformation Art.) At the Council of Augsburg (1555) an armistice was negotiated, but the terms on which it was based contained the seeds of new conflicts and these eventually led to the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). This unstable situation, the lack of political continuity and the absence of a common ideology created a wholly unfavourable climate for the development of new artistic ideas. Consequently the beginnings of Baroque - the ultimate religious art - must be traced to Italy. There the Church did not split into two hostile camps but came under the firm spiritual rule of the Jesuits, the leaders of the Counter-Reformation, whose activities were not directed against the pope, but against the scandalous life some of the popes led, and the worldly spirit of the Renaissance church in general. As the major initiators of the Counter-Reformation the Jesuits had a decisive influence on the cultural development of the West in general, and the history of art in particular.

Flight into Egypt (1609)
Alte Pinakothek Museum, Munich.
By Adam Elsheimer. One of the most
evocative religious paintings of
the German Baroque.

Stringent measures were introduced by the Jesuits during the Mannerism era following the Renaissance that seemed like a return to the Middle Ages: a revival of the Inquisition, censorship of printing, and constraint on the arts and sciences. However, after the first fifty years the Counter-Reformation lost its initial severity and a new spirit, in no way reactionary or restorative, asserted itself, which found expression in the Baroque. Unlike the transcendental approach of the Middle Ages or the intellectual approach of the Renaissance, the Baroque transformed religion into an emotional experience. Through its new style of Christian art - in architecture, as well as architectural sculpture, and painting: above all in its stunning examples of Quadratura (a form of trompe l'oeil or illusionistic mural painting) by masters such as Andrea Pozzo and Pietro da Cortona - it appealed to the emotions and attempted to convey a feeling of the supernatural. In dream-like visions that surpassed any natural worldly beauty the artists expressed their concept of the almighty power of God. Devout piety combined with an emphasis on the emotions became a characteristic feature of the Baroque.



German Baroque Architecture

The exuberance of Baroque churches celebrated the victory of the established religion over dissenters; the unlimited splendour of Baroque palaces paid homage to totalitarian power. Absolute monarchs competed with the triumphant Church in spectacular displays of luxury, and secular art reached a position of equal importance to that of sacred art. But as we have seen, both secular and sacred Baroque architecture developed more rapidly in Italy and Spain where the authorities encountered least opposition, and later also in France where, under Louis XIV, Absolutism flourished in its purest form.

St. Michael Jesuit Church in Munich (Sustris)

In Germany only the Catholic south was affected by the Counter-Reformation and it was not until the beginning of the eighteenth century that the Baroque began to take root north of the Alps. In the second half of the sixteenth century, St. Michael, the Jesuit church in Munich, became the first German sacred structure that showed some essentially Baroque stylistic elements. The architect, Sustris, who originated from the Netherlands and was trained in Italy, modelled it in many respects on Il Gesu, the Jesuit church in Rome. St. Michael has a tunnel-vaulted nave without aisles that continues uninterrupted through the transept into a narrower chancel and gives the structure a strong sense of direction. A dynamic spatial impression is created by introducing the light through large openings over the side chapels; from there it flows in broad streams into the interior without touching the vault and creates a lively contrast between the mysteriously dark vaulted ceiling and the radiantly illuminated chancel and window arches. Rich stucco and a wealth of sculptural ornamentation articulate the solid architectural forms and give the interior a nearly festive gaiety which cannot be found in the clearly structured dignity of Renaissance churches. But despite this dynamic treatment of light and space Sustris had not completely outgrown the Renaissance, as can be seen from the static solidity of the structure and the consistently straight lines of mouldings, transverse arches and wall surfaces. It was the architects of the Late Baroque who resolved this conflict with a dynamic concept that enveloped the whole structure.

German Architects Gradually Emerge

St. Michael at Munich was a promising beginning of Baroque architecture in Germany, but there it was to remain for the time being. The Thirty Years War put an end to all artistic endeavours and during the seventeenth century Germany took no part in the development of Baroque. While Bernini, Maderna, Rainaldi and Borromini perfected the new style in Italy, as Jules Hardouin-Mansart did in France and Christopher Wren in England, Germany was immersed in the chaos of the longest war in her history. When after the Westphalian peace treaty political and economic conditions gradually became more stable and artistic pursuits, which had long been neglected, were slowly taken up again, it became apparent that the war had completely isolated Germany artistically. No German Baroque architects were available with experience or independent ideas who could tackle new tasks; architects from other countries had to be called in, particularly from Italy. In Munich Agostino Barelli built the Theatinerkirche, Enrico Zuccalli was active in Schleissheim, Gaetano Chiaveri worked in Dresden and Antonio Petrini in Wurzburg. During this period more churches were built by Italian architects in Germany than in Italy. Emperors, princes, and ecclesiastic and civil authorities engaged the best foreign artists and gradually a new generation of German architects was trained by them. At the beginning of the eighteenth century German craftsmanship was once again able to contribute to international artistic developments and German artists soon displayed a wealth and variety of ideas which, in many respects, made the Late Baroque a typically German architectural style.

Benedictine Abbey at Melk (Jakob Prandtauer)

The Benedictine Abbey at Melk on the Danube was designed by Jakob Prandtauer, and construction began in 1702. The architect took up an idea that goes back to Late Romanesque and Gothic architecture, the two-tower facade, and, by the dynamic rise of twin towers, successfully eliminated the secular aspect of contemporary Italian church facades. Prandtauer further emphasized the upward movement of his design by situating the monastery on the crest of a steep rock at the banks of the Danube; the structure's reflection in the water creates a theatrical effect that is characteristic for the dramatic, all-embracing concepts of the Baroque. Because of the limited space available the monastery buildings flank the church to both sides and stretch behind it to the east. Large regular windows articulate the wall surfaces and partly eliminate the monumental impression created by the structure's imposing position. This nearly paradoxical interplay of grace and solidity, of weightlessness and mass, of compact walls and transparent glittering windows, indicates that Baroque monasticism in Germany delighted in the things of this world in a way quite foreign to Latin countries.

Pilgrimage Church in Vierzehnheiligen (Balthasar Neumann)

Balthasar Neumann's Pilgrimage Church in Vierzehnheiligen near Bamberg also has a massive two-tower facade, which is enriched by a variety of windows, stained glass art and a convex central section. In spite of this essentially plain exterior, the interior is most gracefully composed of elaborately intertwined ovals and circles. The ground-plan shows an oval chancel, circular transepts, and a nave consisting of two consecutive ovals, one the size of the chancel oval, the other considerably larger, which are linked by two smaller ones; these manifold interpenetrations of ovals and circles make the interior comparable to a Bach fugue. The large central oval is enclosed by columns and surmounted by a shallow dome and in its centre, as the dominating focal point of the church, stands the altar of the fourteen saints. Although the old basilican plan of nave, aisles, transept and chancel is recognizable on the ground-plan, the vaulting of the interior links individual units so closely that separate spatial elements are hardly recognizable. Variety has become unity and the ideal of an absolutely homogenous structure is achieved to perfection, at the same time presenting a wealth of surprising movement.

German Baroque Churches: Development of Ground-Plans

The oval ground-plan, one of the most original inventions of Baroque architecture, resolved the old conflict between central construction and the longitudinal plan which had dominated sacred architecture since Early Christian times. St. Peter's in Rome underwent many changes during its construction because no decision could be reached whether preference should be given to the central plan proposed by Bramante and Michelangelo, or the more conventional longitudinal plan. The oval has the same formal infinity as the circle, but its two focal points give a sense of direction similar to that of the rectangle; it gracefully combines the central and the longitudinal plans and creates a new harmonious unit.

The designs by the South German architect Johann Michael Fischer illustrate two ways of fusing the central and the longitudinal plans. The ground-plan of the Benedictine Abbey at Ottobeuren shows the centralization of a longitudinal plan, which was effected by transferring the domed crossing of nave and transept to the centre of the structure. The ground-plan of St. Michael at Munich, on the other hand, demonstrates how Fischer established the longitudinal element of a basically central structure by adding a smaller circle to the east of the domed circular central space. Dominikus Zimmermann went a step further and gave the Pilgrimage Church Die Wies the shape of an oval which he extended by a longitudinally pronounced chancel in order to compensate for the emphasis of the central plan.

The exterior and the ground-plan of Baroque churches indicate a desire for unity which is repeated and becomes more pronounced in the design and ornamentation of their interior. Early Baroque churches such as St. Michael in Munich retained a basic sobriety, but their interior suggested future developments: pictorial and sculptural ornamentations articulate the walls and the addition of light provides a lively motion. The Pilgrimage Church Die Wies illustrates the extent to which church interiors were transformed by these developments. The walls are replaced by thin pillars and the light streams in from unsuspected and often unrecognizable sources: it surrounds the solid shapes, makes the gold sparkle on altars and pulpits, sweeps through the assembly of floating angels and saints and, between sunrise and sunset, drives the shadows from one corner of the church to the other. The stuccos and sculptures are as unbridled and unpredictable as the light. Rich bouquets and ornaments simulate capitals and every arch has a festive frame. But the stucco comes fully into play only on the vaulting. As if all laws of gravity have been overcome, shells, fruits, flowers and vines blot out the transition between wall and ceiling and this fascinating display is crowned by ceiling frescoes. The heavens have opened and, irradiated by a supernatural light, angels and saints float into the church. Even the critical eye can hardly detect the transition from painted to sculptured ornament and from that to pure architecture. The altar seems to float down from the lofty heights of the ceiling and intercedes between life on earth and the supernatural spectacle of heaven. In such a church the faithful are not humbled as in medieval sacred structures; they become part of the pageant. Those in the gallery join the angels and saints floating above, while those down below provide a living counterpart to the paintings and sculptures around them. The believer is transported in ecstasy, forgets himself, his daily life and the world around him and experiences the unlimited splendour and omnipotence of the supernatural.

German Baroque Church Decoration: Sculpture & Painting

This grandiose, theatrical effect of Late Baroque sacred structures was not achieved by purely architectural means; sculpture and painting also played their part. The three main types of fine art - architecture, sculpture and painting - were considered independent artforms during the Renaissance, but the Baroque believed in the unification of all art. Baroque sculpture and painting, therefore, became integral parts of an artistic creation and as such had a predominantly decorative role. This was by no means limiting; the illusory and dynamic effects aimed at by architects could only be created with the aid of highly imaginative decorations and ornaments. The perfect unity of Baroque interiors was achieved by the continuous flow from wall to wall, from the painted ceiling via flat relief and stucco to the sculpture. It is not surprising that in those days artists frequently combined several skills. One of the most important of these versatile craflsmen was Egid Quirin Asam, who created the sculpture Assumption of the Virgin for the Abbey Church at Rohr in Bavaria. Rising above the figures of the twelve apostles, the Virgin, supported by angels, floats in midspace against a background of richly modelled drapes. She moves towards a transcendental world, completely disengaged from the ground where the apostles, dazzled by this miracle, are left behind. The figure of the Virgin seems to be intangible, a supernatural apparition beyond rational contemplation. A critical observer could well admire the perfect craftsmanship, but this sculpture is more than an individual work of art; it must be seen as an integral part of its surroundings, which are divested of their worldliness by the compelling vitality and beauty of this heavenly vision.

Note: For a masterpiece of German religious sculpture, see the awesome 10-metre-high High Altar of the Virgin Mary (1613-16), carved by Jorg Zurn (1583-1638), in the Church of Saint Nicholas at Uberlingen.

In the Abbey Church at Weltenburg in Bavaria, which was built by Cosmas Damian Asam and decorated with stucco and sculptures by Egid Quirin Asam, the interaction of architecture, sculpture and light produces very striking effects. The nave is lit relatively sparingly and the altar, backed by a massive reredos, is left in mystical semi-darkness, which is contrasted by a brilliant flow of light that pours into the space behind the altar from enormous, skillfully concealed windows. Against this background of dazzling brightness stands a silver St. George on horseback wielding a flame-shaped sword. This equestrian figure, surrounded by divine radiance, appears as a supernatural vision on the stage of the altar. The religious theme of the saint bringing help and light to a world that remains in darkness is presented as a theatrical spectacle (see also Ignaz Gunther's Guardian Angel in the Burgersaal, Munich).

Painting, too, was needed to transform the rational clarity of the structure into an irrational experience of spatial visions. The many examples of ceiling fresco painting - painted with a bold foreshortening technique - created an imaginary world of allegorical and celestial figures who seem to rise steeply upwards or to tumble down on the viewer. The real architecture is continued in a painted architecture of ingenious perspective, thereby fusing reality and illusion and achieving a spatial effect of endless width and height. Heaven and earth, our world and the world of saints and angels,cease to be contrasts; they are artistically combined in order to create a spectacle that can be experienced through the emotions. During the Baroque the fine arts were still closely related to the Church, as they had been since German Medieval art, but now religion was meant to appeal to man's mind, soul and emotions.

Baroque Palace Architecture

The rise of Absolutism gave new significance to civil architecture and the importance of palaces equalled that of sacred structures during the Baroque. The ruler 'by divine right' was not merely honoured as the highest representative of the state, he personified the state. An absolute monarch saw his empire as the worldly image of the heavenly empire; the hierarchy of the court and of the aristocracy were analogous to the hierarchy of the Church. Civil structures, therefore, began to equal and even surpass sacred structures in splendour and dimension. A church was, afler all, merely a link between heaven and earth, whereas a palace, the seat of the highest worldly power, had to be worthy of the anointed monarch.

The more powerful the monarch, the more splendid his palace. Baroque Absolutism culminated in the person of King Louis XIV of France, and his Palace of Versailles represented the ultimate perfection of Baroque civil architecture. The Sun King's style of life was copied by every European prince and monarch from Madrid to St. Petersburg and their residences were modelled on the palace at Versailles. But whereas in France absolute power was concentrated in one person and therefore the strength of the nation invested in one structure, 350 major and minor German princes produced an unlimited variety of palaces without one of them approaching the dimensions of Versailles. One of them was the Great Elector of Brandenburg. A statue of this important figure was built by Andreas Schluter - active as an architect as well as a sculptor - who also designed the major part of the Palace in Berlin.

Before the court of Louis XIV had moved to Versailles in 1682, German palaces began to be built on the outskirts of German capital cities, such as Herrenhausen near Hanover, Nymphenburg near Munich, and Schonbrunn near Vienna.

Baroque palaces modelled on Versailles can easily be distinguished by their facade from Renaissance palaces, which continued to be built during that period. While the Italian palazzo was characterized by a severely articulated front which opened towards a modest interior courtyard, the French palace had the shape of a horseshoe that encircled a wide courtyard, the cour d'honneur [court of honour]. This cour d'honneur provided a place for the reception of guests and at the same time created a distance between the ordinary citizens and the society of the court. The major facade of the palace no longer faced the street, it faced the park at the back, where the king and his court could move about freely, untroubled by the glances of curious subjects.

Prince Bishop's Palace at Wurzburg

Seen from the street, the Prince Bishop's Palace at Wurzburg, built between 1719 and 1744 by Balthasar Neumann, seems almost modest. The court of honour is formed by two wings that equal the central section in size and ornamentation; the porticoes, surmounted by balconies, create a deceptively intimate and simple impression. Upon entering, however, the full splendour of this impressive structure is revealed. Neumann planned to build two identical staircases, of which only one was completed, but its magnificence suffices to give the entrance hall a festive atmosphere which continues throughout the building. A massive spatial sequence flows through various antechambers and culminates in the splendour of the grand state room, where ceiling frescoes by the Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, who also decorated the staircase, further emphasize the gay intoxication of this architecture. For details, please see: Wurzburg Residence Frescoes "Allegory of the Planets and Continents" (1750-53) by Tiepolo, assisted by his colleague Gerolamo Mengozzi Colonna.

As far as the exterior is concerned, the palace's real character is shown in its garden facade which gives architectural expression to the idea of Absolutism. Like a crowned head, the central section, enriched by pilasters, cornices, engaged columns and imaginatively curved gables, rises in solemn dignity above the long wings, which are sparingly decorated with delicately shaped gables over the windows of the main storey. The palace at Wurzburg is one of the most perfect examples of a Baroque palace in Germany.

The Zwinger Palace, Dresden

The ostentatious king of Saxony and Poland, Augustus the Strong, was one of those who wished to emulate the Sun King, but his ambition to make Dresden into the most splendid capital of Europe was never realized. Only one of his many projects reached completion during his lifetime, the Zwinger, a combined orangery and grandstand for tournaments and pageants which was intended to form part of a palace stretching across the river Elbe. A square ground-plan is extended on two opposing sides by swinging galleries where large windows open out on a delicate Baroque garden. Two pavillions, situated in the vertex of these galleries, display a wealth of sculptural ornamentation; caryatids, apparently forgetting the burdens they are carrying, chat animatedly with each other while rich fantasy designs of coats of arms, fruits, vases and abstract patterns link portals and windows. This ornamental gaiety continues inside the pavilions; the lower storey consists of a lively confusion of concavities, miniature balustrades and winding stairs which lead to an equally richly decorated small state room on the upper storey. The layout and ornamentation of this irresponsible scheme charmingly express the playful spirit of the Rococo.

The Palace of Nymphenburg

The Palace of Nymphenburg, which now lies within the city limits of Munich, was begun in 1663. The Italian Barelli designed it as a cubical structure and modelled his superbly simple facade on that of Italian Renaissance palazzi. A clearly delineated central section houses the state rooms, which are accessible by an outside twin staircase, while the living and sleeping quarters are situated on either side. In order to give this rather mansion-like structure the character of a Baroque palace in the French style, two flanking pavillions were added in 1702; somewhat later these were linked with the original structure by arcades. In further imitation of the spirit of Versailles a number of little annexes were erected in the park: the Pagodenburg in 1716, the Badenburg in 1718, and finally the Amalienburg, which was designed by Cuvillies in pure Rococo style. Big waterworks and fountains contribute to the charming vitality of the layout, which is based on a happy harmony between the architecture and its surrounding, carefully planned gardens.

The Sanssouci Palace

The Palace of Sanssouci at Potsdam was completed only fifty years after Versailles but it in no way represents a monument to absolute power. Frederick the Great himself provided his architect, Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, with sketches for this structure; what he wanted was not a spectacular setting for ceremonious court life in the style of Louis XIV, but a modest residence where he could enjoy the leisurely life of a private individual. In contrast to the self-aggrandizing attitudes of absolute kings, Frederick saw himself as the first servant of the state and regarded his royal position as a hard duty.

Sanssouci is a one-storey building that differs from High Baroque palaces in so far as the central part, in this case a small, round, domed hall, is faced by two lower and open pavillions which, as continuations of the wings, stand independent of the main structure. This principle is characteristic for monarchs of the Age of Enlightenment, who were less dominated by the spirit of Absolutism than by the idea of individual freedom. Not only the modest size of Sanssouci but the whole layout of its interior illustrates this turning away from the outward manifestations of unlimited power. No provisions were made for big public audiences or for a large court society. The palace was designed to accommodate only a few chosen political advisers, friends, artists, philosophers and scholars whom the king wanted to receive. Frederick said about Sanssouci that 'it invites us to enjoy our liberty'. Baroque princes would hardly have admitted, except to themselves, that liberty was something to be enjoyed. For the successor to rococo, see: Neoclassical Architecture.

German architects were also involved in designing a range of buildings during the era of Petrine Art (1686-1725) in Russia. Andreas Schluter designed the facade of the Summer Palace, while Gottfried Schadel (1680-1752) constructed the Oranienbaum Palace, outside St Petersburg, and the bell-tower for the Monastery of the Caves, in Kiev.

The Rococo Style of Decorative Arts in Germany

The spirit of Rococo art expressed itself in pastoral idylls and romances as well as in the skilful transformation of natural landscapes into planned gardens and in a preference for smaller, more intimate structures. The names of these, Mon repos, Solitude, Eremitage and Sanssouci, demonstrate the need felt by their owners to withdraw from formal court life in order to enjoy in solitude their elaborately planned gardens. Lukas von Hildebrandt designed a small garden palace for Prince Eugen in Vienna, the Belvedere, which was constructed between 1714 and 1723, prior to the completion of Schonbrunn, the summer residence of the Austrian emperor on the outskirts of Vienna. Although Belvedere does not show the same measure of restraint as Sanssouci, the absence of the court of honour nevertheless indicates a departure from the French concept. A pleasing feeling of movement is achieved by the fusion of several different elements: the single-storey gabled portico leads into the central section, which is flanked on either side by broad imposing wings that convey an impression of self-confident authority without being in any way presumptuous, and two one-storey buildings of different widths lead to four turret-like pavillions which in their monumentality give the structure the character of a fortified castle. A number of ideas are marvellously combined to form a charming unit in which the spirit of the Rococo manifests itself through a lively grouping of contradictory forms.

The Rococo produced no architecture of its own but was expressed mostly in the smaller scale of the structures and the ornamentation of their interiors. Despite its swinging movement Baroque ornamentation was ordered and regulated. It served the enrichment and accentuation of architectural parts and was fused with the architectural framework, consequently it was always symmetrical. Rococo decorative art, on the other hand, was the imaginative product of an exuberant mood; rococo artists developed new forms which were based on the asymmetrical shape of the shell and therefore called rocaille. This led to the expression 'Rococo' as a description of the style which, by its mere sound, expresses the frivolous ease of that epoch.

The music room of Sanssouci Palace at Potsdam is a principal example of the formative force of the Rococo. The basic concept of the structure is simple and severe, without architectural refinements. The ceilings and walls are mere carriers of decoration which by its inventiveness gives the room a flourishing charm and succeeds in hiding its unassuming character. The ceiling ornaments overhang the walls and join with those surrounding the mirrors; they spread autonomously over the whole room, encircle wall sections and door frames, wind across pictures and mirrors, include furniture and wall brackets, then break off in amusing contortions to take up the game once more in some unexpected place.

The Residenztheater in Munich, one of the few remaining Rococo theatres in Germany, was built by Francois Cuvillies. It achieves its festive gaiety only through ornamentation; the solemn balustrades of the boxes in the stalls preserve a certain dignity, but this impression changes in the dress circle where exuberantly untidy, carved wooden drapes overhang the balustrades, and herms, carrying the weight of the second storey, seem to delight in the spectacle around them. This burlesque game ends in the stylish, delicate ornamentation of the upper circle, after reaching a climax in the theatrical decor of the stage box in the dress circle, which has been turned into a theatre within the theatre, where the princely spectators turn into actors.

Similarly, Rococo staircases are grandiose stage sets on which members of the court acted out their lives. Balthasar Neumann's staircase at Schloss Augustusburg in Bruhl is filled with charmingly animated figures which, although placed under the soffits of stairs and ceiling, seem to belong more to the real life on the stairs than to the inanimate structure. By the juxtaposition of columns and caryatids, of architectural and figural supports, Neumann intended to create a close link between the structure and the courtiers, whose colourful costumes added further splendour to this magnificent staircase.

The interior of the library at the monastery of Kremsmunster presents a delightful mixture of functional details and fatuous architectural ornaments. Purposeful dignity prevails along the plain high bookshelves that line the walls, but towards the top these end in playful openwork carvings, and rich stuccos frame the colourfully painted ceiling which seems to tear open the room as if the stale scholarly air had to be let out. A time of self-mockery had started, life consisted of games and dances, hardships were the subject of derision, entertainment became the purpose of life. This gay dream continued until the French Revolution, III 1789, destroyed it overnight.

German Baroque Painting

In the field of Baroque painting Germany played a very minor role. One of the few painters who gained recognition among the international artistic elite was Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610). Although his output was small, his oil painting proved highly influential: artists like Rembrandt, Rubens and Claude Lorrain in particular were considerably indebted to him. Unfortunately his work remained totally unknown in Germany and he had no followers there; this was due to the fact that at the age of twenty he left Frankfurt, his home town, to travel via Munich and Venice to Rome where he died at the early age of thirty-two. His limited output and his preference for a small format are further reasons for this lack of general recognition.

The Flight into Egypt is set in a wide, open landscape, not unlike that of medieval German Biblical representations, but in Elsheimer's picture a new poetic mood links landscape and figures. The night acts as a protective cloak for the fugitives, for whom guidance in the darkness is provided by various sources of light. Even the threatening darkness of the trees loses its danger and instead offers refuge, protection and security. Background and foreground gently merge and the absence of any detailed description as well as the linking medium of light give a high degree of unity to this night scene.

Apart from Elsheimer, Germany did not produce many painters of more than regional importance during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries with the exception of some artists in the Catholic south. Painters such as Rottmayr, Troger, and Maulbertsch were important representatives of the religious Baroque and successfully competed with the Italians.

The painters of the Protestant north were strongly influenced by neighbouring Dutch Baroque art, notably small-scale Dutch Realist genre painting, and frequently developed middle-class characteristics. In Johann Philipp Hackert's Coastal Landscape objects and figures are depicted with an undramatic matter-of-factness which is effectively contrasted by the softly, delicately painted background. Hackert, like his contemporaries, drew inspiration from a number of different sources. He worked for many years at the court of the king of Naples and as a result became familiar with Italian masters, but his pictures also show an indebtedness to Netherlandish paintings and to the landscapes of Claude Lorrain. Meanwhile, Anton Raphael Mengs, whom the German scholar Johann Joachim Winckelmann praised as 'the greatest artist of his period and perhaps the following period', was equally receptive to outside influences. Mengs rejected the sensuous imagery of the Baroque and tried to emulate the great masters of the Renaissance, thereby becoming a forerunner of neoclassical painting.

German Baroque sculptures, paintings and decorative art can be seen in many of the best art museums in the world, including collections in Germany such as the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister Dresden, the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne, the Gemaldegalerie SMPK Berlin, the Pinakothek Museum in Munich, and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

We gratefully acknowledge the use of material from the comprehensive study entitled Deutsche Kunst (German Art) - published by Georg Westermann Verlag, Brunswick, Germany, and translated by Pall Mall Press Ltd - a work we strongly recommend for any serious students of Baroque art in Germany during the period 1550-1750.

• For the greatest painters and sculptors, see: Best Artists of All Time.
• For more about Baroque architecture, painting and sculpture in Germany, see: Homepage.

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