In what ways do the early modern absolute monarchy and the baroque style build on one another?

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paceke | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The baroque style, especially that of baroque art and architecture, was in many ways a response to the absolute monarchies of the early modern period. As these monarchs built up their power to nearly unlimited levels, so too did the art and architecture of the era strive to show that power and dominance in their art forms.

Absolute monarchs such as Joseph II of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick the Great of Prussia, Catherine the Great of Russia, and Henry XIV of France spent much of their early times as rulers either conquering new lands or consolidating the many lands they inherited when they became monarch. As the 18th century progressed, they took firmer control and expanded on concepts of their rule such as the divine right of kings to be placed on the throne by God and rule in His voice unquestioned. The further spread of the printing press and incorporation of large standing armies allowed for better governance of large, centralized kingdoms as well.

As the baroque style flourished, it came to be very representative of these absolute monarchies and centralized kingdoms. One of the best examples of this is in the baroque architecture featured in the Palace of Versailles. It is a giant building domineering the landscape with glass and marble, designed to be very intimidating to visitors and an outward visual representation of the absolute centralization of the government in one place and one man, King Louis XIV. This style and effect can also be seen in the Winter Palace in Russia and Wilanów Palace in Warsaw.

Paired to this is the baroque style in portraiture of the time designed to often depict these monarchs in their divinity and supreme power. One of the primary examples once again comes from Louix XIV of France and the portrait done of him by Rigaud. It is designed to invoke an awe inspiring picture with him surrounded by gold, satin, thrones, globes, and all the vestiges of monarchy. In this way, the baroque style really became a visual representation of absolutism.

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