Nobody does drama in art like the Baroque period. Seriously. Whether it’s Bernini, Rembrandt, or van Ruisdael, there’s sure to be drama–be it in the rippling toga of a statue, the face of a figure, or the clouds of a landscape.
Which means that nobody is as over it as the people in some Baroque paintings. Sure, the Pre-Raphaelites throw shade pretty well, but Baroque painters had a knack for making their figures’ facial expressions over-the-top–especially when their figures were downright exasperated, annoyed, or just done.
So to mourn the end of summer, here are five Baroque paintings in which our figures are nearly as over it as you’re going to be, soon enough.
Salvator Rosa, St. Paul the Hermit, 1661 (Milan).
St. Paul looks like every reaction gif you’ve ever seen when you’ve searched “overwhelmed.” Or like you, when you find out that you forgot that one dirty plate behind something and now it’s gotten incredibly moldy and you accidentally touched it. Or have to reach into the sink to grab a dirty fork and you accidentally touch some food. Or when you see any comment ever on YouTube. See, says St. Paul the Hermit. This is exactly why I am a hermit.
Boucher, Venus Consoling Love, 1751.
While this painting is technically not Baroque but Rococo, this baby cannot be ignored. Just look at his little annoyed face. This baby has had enough. He’s over it. He doesn’t want to cuddle with Venus and the other putti anymore. He’s sick of playing with his little baby arrows in lush forests with poorly-concealed eroticism and doves (*cough cough* almost all of Boucher’s work *cough*). He would rather just swim off into wherever that stream leads because that’s how done he is. He is ready to join his new friends he met at that concert and learn how to properly apply eyeliner and how to properly cut his skinny jeans into shorts to match his My Chemical Romance tee. Venus doesn’t think that’s a great idea, prompting this baby to scream It’s not a phase mom, it’s who I am! And the result is this painting.
Velazquez, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, 1618.
In Baroque Spanish still life genre painting, still life objects can be readily fused with scenes. Here, we have a window or mirror into the Biblical tale of Christ in the house of Mary and Martha through a window or mirror–it’s debated. But let’s take a look at the foregrounded worker. Her face is the epitome of can u not? She’s just trying to get breakfast done and the woman behind her is at it again with the nagging. She probably has the worst boss in the world and constantly has to hear the phrase “that’s not my job,” pertaining to things that definitely are her boss’s job. Which is why she finally sucked it up and made a LinkedIn and is just waiting for somebody else to give her some respect around the workplace. Geez.
Caravaggio, Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, c. 1609 (Madrid).
It may use chiaroscuro to the extreme, but you can clearly still see that Salome is just about 100% done. She may be holding the head of John the Baptist, but her face says It was a joke, Dad, I didn’t actually want a head omg ugh. If you do this again I am seriously contemplating leaving this family like the cherub baby in the other painting. New red shawls > severed heads any day for Salome, who is sick and tired of Herod’s dumb dad jokes. Seriously.
Elisabetta Sirani, Portia Wounding Her Thigh, 1664.
Sirani clearly based Portia’s face on the faces of women reacting to the 17th-century equivalent of Tinder. That’s why she looks as if she’s seen far too many guys who use the words “haha nice.” Including her husband Brutus, who definitely said “haha nice” when Cassius stabbed Caesar. Portia is tired of all these men doing stupid things and just wishes somebody would tell her why Brutus and Cassius are acting weird and just treat her like an equal–which is why Sirani chose to depict an earlier point in the story, when Portia is driven to stabbing her leg in order to get somebody to tell her what’s going on. This is something Sirani probably identified with, seeing as she is one of the few women artists from the period at all whose work survives and is seriously studied today. So Portia and Sirani both have a right to be over it.
Do we just make fun or Baroque paintings all the time? Of course not! Check out more information on what we actually do here at the Art Docent Program here.
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