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IES FRAY PEDRO DE URBINA. GEO.

AND HISTORY DEPARTMENT

THE 17TH CENTURY. ABSOLUTISM AND BAROQUE

The seventeenth century was a century with serious religious and military
confrontations, of profound changes in imperial domains, of strengthening of the
absolute monarchy and with cultural and aesthetic changes called Baroque.

1. Population and Society.


During the seventeenth century the European population didnt increase due to crop
failures, wars in Central Europe and epidemics. In the Iberian peninsula the interior
started its depopulation but on the contrary population of Andalusia and Levante
increases.
Most of the population was as usual dedicated to agriculture, but also increased
considerably people engaged in crafts and manufactures in northern Italy,
Netherlands, southern England, northern France and the German Rhine.
The society was still divided in medieval estates (nobility, clergy and third estate),
but the rise of colonial trade, manufacturing and business increased the power of
the bourgeoisie that bought land or charges and lent money to the monarchy. In
Protestant and Reformed countries the bourgeoisie ruled cities and even the State
(Netherlands and Switzerland).

2. Economy.
During the first half of the century a cooling of the climate occurred and
agricultural production declined. In the less fertile areas cultivation was abandoned

and livestock spread. In the second half of the century, especially in France and
Central Europe, cultivation techniques were renewed, more land was plowed, canals
were built, the cultivation of maize and potato began in wet areas and a system of
much longer crop rotation was created.

The craft continued to exist as guild organizations in the cities, but the need to
supply the colonial market and maintain the growing needs of the states did
manufactures to arise. The merchant-entrepreneur built large workshops outside
the cities where installed equipment and hired labor force from the countryside. The
production was of lower quality than the guild one but cheaper.
Different governments created royal manufactures to meet the needs of the states:
Royal Arms Factory, Royal Textile Factory, Royal Ceramics Factory...

The seventeenth century is the century of the great colonial trade. There were two
major routes:

a) The route connecting the ports of Seville to America (Cartagena de Indias and
Havana). Through it reached Europe large amounts of gold and silver from Peru and
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Mexico. This trade route was attached to the route of the Pacific Ocean by Manilas
Galleon, which linked the Mexican city of Acapulco to the Philippines.
b) The spice route that through the Cape of Good Hope linked Europe to India and
Indonesia. Along it spices, porcelain, silk, ivory, etc. were carried.

British, Dutch and French tried to displace the Portuguese and Spanish out of the
routes. England will dominate India and the Netherlands conquer Indonesia. In
America the British settled in eastern North America and the French in Canada and
the Mississippi River. Large commercial companies were created with the support of
the monarchies: British Company of the West Indies, Dutch Company of East India...

The prevailing economic theory was mercantilism: The wealth of a country depends
on the trade balance, so it will be better to export valuable goods and to import raw
material (cheaper). This would allow countries to accumulate a large amount of
precious metals (gold and silver). To maintain this situation it was essential to
control foreign trade by the state, reinforcing the power of absolute monarchies.

3. Political System.
The king's power is absolute and was considered the embodiment of the state. He
had the power to make laws, to govern despotically and to appoint the members of
the court (executive, legislative and judicial). The power emanated directly from
God. He was not accountable to anyone and had full sovereignty.
The kings did not respect the medieval institutions and the citizens of their
kingdoms were their subjects. They created a body of royal officials, advisers and
secretaries chosen for their ability and loyalty regardless of their social background
(noble or bourgeois).

4. The science and the new technique.

Francis Bacon

Galileo Galilei

Ren Descartes

In the seventeenth century scientific research becomes independent of religious


approaches. Francis Bacon sets out the scientific method of inquiry, Galileo Galilei
demonstrates the heliocentric theory and the laws of inertia and empiricist
scientists claim that science must have a practical application in technology.
Technological advancements will lead to the countries wealth and happiness.
Meanwhile in philosophy Ren Descartes stands out proposing methodical doubt and
more rational use of language, mathematical language.
In political thought Hobbes supports absolute monarchy while Locke starts liberal
thought.
Different governments and monarchs will support research and technology work
creating science cabinets and royal academies.

5. The end of imperial ideas. Thirty Years War.


In 1618 a war on religious grounds between the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
and Czech Protestants began. Soon they finished involved all the European powers
and emerging countries. On one side the Emperor, the Spanish Monarchy and the
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Papacy defended the medieval idea of a single religious authority (Pope) and a single
political authority (Emperor). On the other side were Protestant countries defending
religious freedom and new nation states that wanted independence from the imperial
power (Sweden, Prussia, the Netherlands, France, England...). In 1648 the Peace of
Westphalia was signed, establishing the independence of the Netherlands, the real
independence of the kingdoms of the Holy Roman Emperor, imperial conquests of
England and continental hegemony of France were also recognized.
The war between the Spanish Monarchy and France continued until 1659, when the
signing of the Peace of the Pyrenees showed the decline of the Spanish Habsburgs.

6. French king Louis XIV is the prototypical absolute monarch.


He ascended the throne five years old. In his name
Ana of Austria and Cardinal Mazarin ruled the
country. During his minority rural nobles, the
Huguenots (Protestants) and Parliament of Paris

revolted. Upon reaching adulthood he reinforced


the power of the king; he built the Palace of Versailles
where he moved the Court, turned the nobles into
courtiers, was surrounded by advisers and officers
and divided the territory into districts.
He stopped calling the Estates General and imposed
his authority over cities.
He created a powerful royal army that according to numerous wars expanded the
frontiers of France to have natural borders (Rhine, Alps, Pyrenees) at the expense
of the Spanish possessions.
He is credited with the phrase: "I am the state; France's me".

7. Baroque art.
Renaissance art had valued the classical elements, proportion, simplicity, rationalism
and straight lines. Baroque is the art of appearances, of theatricality, the bombast,
the curve and recharged lines. The Catholic Church and the absolutist monarchies
will use the art as propaganda: they built great palaces (Versailles) and huge basilicas
(St. Peter's Square) as if they were great scenes to exalt their power.
The Protestant bourgeoisie will prefer a more everyday and intimate art which
demonstrates the superiority of their way of life.

A) Architecture.
Buildings made to impress the viewer. Gigantic perspectives (St. Peter's
Square, Gardens of Versailles). Curved lines on the walls to highlight the
effects of light and shadow. Top decor. Huge domes. Predominantly nonregular shapes (oval domes, broken pediments, spirals...).
Juan Lorenzo Bernini: Colonnade and Square of St. Peter Vatican, San

Andrea al Quirinale and Roman squares (Piazza Navona).

Francesco Borromini: Saint Charles of the Four Fountains.


Baltasar Longhena: St. Mary of Health in Venice.
Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin Mansart: Palace of Versailles.

B)

Sculpture.
Movement, curved lines, pompous clothes blowing in the wind, naturalism and
representation of a fleeting moment in the action or facial expression are exalted.
Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini: Apollo and Daphne, The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, David,

Rape of Proserpina.
C) Painting.
The main concern will be the contrast of light: a side of the picture brightly lighted
and another part in shadow (tenebrism and chiaroscuro). The realism of the figures,
the profusion of portraits and exaggerated features to fall into ugliness. Very
complex compositions using the oblique line, zigzag, with strong foreshortening. The
representation of movement or anecdotal instant. Prevalence of color.
Michelangelo Caravaggio: Italian tenebrist. The saints represented by people of
lower classes. Death of the Virgin, The Calling of St Matthew, Bacchus...
Peter Paul Rubens: Belgian Catholic. Pictures of huge dimensions. With many

characters and forced to a great movement. Predominantly curved and oblique


compositions. Preciousness in the details and brushstroke. The Three Graces, The

Descent, The Adoration of the Magi...


Rembrandt Van Rijn: Dutch. Starter of famous group portraits. Tenebrist artist
with clear predominance of color. He was also a great engraving artist. The Night

Watch, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Tulp, Man with golden helmet...

8. The Spanish Golden Age.


During the seventeenth century military and economic decline of the Spanish Empire

occurs, but also the Golden Age of Literature and Arts. As authors stand out Lope
de Vega, Cervantes, Quevedo, Tirso de Molina, Gngora, Caldern de la Barca,
Gracin... In arts flourishing of sculpture and painting occurs.
A) Architecture.
It is characterized by the sobriety of the palaces following the lines of El Escorial.
The main facades highly decorated with sculptures and garlands. The construction of
main squares stands out.

Juan Gmez de Mora: Plaza Mayor of Madrid. Palacio de la Villa.


B)

Sculpture.
Numerous pasos of Easter are performed. Polychrome or gilded wood. Great realism
trying to highlight the pain. Very theatrical postures.
Gregorio Fernndez: From Valladolid. Naturalism highlighting wounds and blood.

Reclining Christ, La Piedad.


Juan Martnez Montas: More classic. He escapes from wounds and blood. The

blind girl and St. Jerome.


Pedro de Mena: Representation of ecstasy and meditation. Mary Magdalene.
C) Painting.
Jos de Ribera: He painted in Naples. With tenebrist training, he was concerned
about light and color. Numerous portraits of jesters, dwarfs and people of the lower
classes. The Martyrdom of St. Philip, Mary Magdalene penitent, The bowlegged,

Archimedes.
Francisco de Zurbarn: From Extremadura. Concerned about the volume and
objective representation of things (still lifes and clothes). Great painter of white
color. St. Hugh in the Refectory, Santa Casilda, San Serapio, Agnus Dei, The

Virgin as girl.

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Bartolom Esteban Murillo: From Seville. He uses bright and soft colors. Artist of
ragged children who look happy. He created the model of the adolescent Immaculate.
Biblical scenes full of color and controlled movement. Inmaculada from El Escorial,

Inmaculada of Soult, Good Shepherd, Children eating fruit, Holy Family of little
bird...

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Diego Velzquez: Kings Painter. From his tenebrist formation he was clarifying the
color to reach vibrant and bright backgrounds. Very loose brushwork. He got to paint
the air (aerial perspective). He dominated all fields: portraits, mythological subjects,
battles, religious themes, jesters and landscapes.
Portraits: Las Meninas, several of the Kings, El Conde- Duque, El Infante

Baltasar Carlos, El Nio de Vallecas or Innocent X. Mythological: The Forge of


Vulcan, The Spinners, The Drunkards, The Rokeby Venus. Battles: The
Surrender of Breda. Religious: The Coronation of the Virgin, Christ Crucified.
Traditionalists: The Waterboy, Old Woman Cooking Eggs. Landscapes: Villa

Medici.

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