Introduction to Western Literature and Arts

A Comparison of the styles: Renaissance, Mannerism, and Baroque


I. Influences of Reformation and Counter-Reformation

II. Problems of classicification of style

III. What is style?

        1. Style is artist's instrument of reduction of or emancipation from experience, by which he filters life.

         A style is artist's way of seeing life.  

        2. Style is the technique for representing (simulating, distorting) what the artist has already seen.

                        Trans-media --> Transformation of style --> correspondence of senses (synaethesia)

        3. Style is the mode of treating the subject matter.

        4. Style reveals artist's modes of consciousness.

        5. Style is the symptom, or vocabulary of a culture.

        6. Style is not an absolute requisite for artist, but a source/resource. An artist may find one, alternate one after another, or juxtapose one with another.

IV. Cycle of Style







--> Romanesque

--> Gothic

--> Renaissance

cycle 1

--> Renaissance

--> Mannerism

--> Baroque

cycle 2

--> Baroque

--> Rococo

--> Neoclassicism

cycle 3

--> Neoclassicism

--> Romanticism

--> Realism

cycle 4

--> Realism

--> Impressionism

--> Post-impressionism









V. Analogy between arts and literature

1. History of Style (Wooefflin, Sypher)

2. Social History of Arts (Hauser)

3. Comparative Literature

4. Comparative Arts


VI. Comparative Table


Renaissance (1400-1520)

Mannerism (1520-1590)

Baroque (1560-1774)


rinascita = rebirth

1.order: symmetry, proportion, balance

2. Rebirth of humanism (paganism)

(Reintegration of Classicism and Christianity)

3. Artists observe Nature from the model of classical antiquity

manierismo, maniera = manner, style

1.Reaction to classicism and naturalism of High Renaissance

[the impact of Reformation)

2. Artists learn from the model of High Renaissance masters, esp. Michelangelo and Raphael.

baroco [Portuguese= irregular]


1.Generally as a Counter-reformation reaction to Reformation and Mannerism.

2. Artists have a new interest in Nature.


Normal, supernormal, ideal;

Appeal to the universal

1. Harmony, consonance

2. Balance and proportion: centralized

3. Frozen moment--idealized space-time

4. Rest and certainty

Abnormal or anormal;

Exploits strangeness of subject,

uncontrolled emotion,

1. Dissonance

2. Disturbed balance and proportion

3. Zigzag or spiral moveme1nt--restlessness

4. Restless, ambiguous

1. Grandeur

2. Extreme and diverse emotional states (religious fervor)

3. Tension between contrasting forces

4. Movement

5. Perception of the infinite

6. Domestic intimacy


1. Religious concept of earth-universe is still dominant.

2. Harmonious relation between microcosm and macrocosm.

1. The concept of Earth-center world was broken by scientists, such as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler. Solar-center, eccentric, elliptical.

2. Disintegration of universe: religion, humanity

3. Skeptical, witty

1. Reintegration of belief (the material fact and empirical observation as foundation of the spiritual)--"accept secular pomp and the efficiency of the flesh."

2. Resettle the skeptic uncertainties in M. through spectacles.


Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (1591)
Milton, Comus
Shakespeare, Marlowe, Spencer, Sonnets
Machiavelli, The Prince (1513)
Erasmus, Praise of Folly (1509)
Thomas More, Utopia (1516)

Shakespeare, Hamlet.(1601-2)
Milton, Lycidas
Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress"
Montaigne, Essays
Luther, The Small Catechism


Shakespeare, King Lear (1605-6)
Milton, Paradise Lost, (1667)
*Donne, "Canonization"
Hobbes, Leviathan (materialism)
Locke, empirical philosophy
Gracian, The Oracle (1647)
Bacon, Atlantis, (1629)


1. Central, Controlled; measured, harmonious

2. "Tectonic", close space

1. dis-centered, disjointed, ambiguous,

2. Pushed to the foreground

3. Vortex-like, tunnel-like

1. Oblique, emphasizes on contrast and depth, and movement,

2. "Recessional"

3. "Folding"


1. Harmonious, integrated, centralized,

2 "tectonic", and closed

3. Fixed, linear perspective


1. conflicting with frame and parts,


2. Zigzag, spiral composition,

3. Oblique or mobile perspective

1. Contrasting bi-polarity as constructing unit: synthesis

2. Zigzag, diagonal composition

3. Oblique, intimate perspective


Normative, idealized

Distorted, extended, twisted

Normative, use proportion to highlight contrast of importance, esp. class status


Natural, balanced, controlled, harmonious

Contrasting, strange combination

Strong contrast of light and dark= chiaroscuro, tonal color








Linear 重線條


Painterly 重色彩


1. clarity of contour; sharp edge and boundaries;

2. Separating details in isolating way


1.Bluring the contours (輪廓), boundaries of visual forms;

2. Merging objects and images;

3. Obscuring the subordinate parts;

Searching for the ambiguous,


Plane 平面


Recession 景深


1. Use horizontal perspective (linear perspective).

2. Arranging objects or designs on wall-defined plane

3. Influenced by "low-relief", flat background


1. Use oblique angles (zigzag composition)

2. The plane is broken or disappears

3. Creating the illusion of depth and distance

Searching for the infinite depth


Raphael's ideal, monumental space
Botticelli's flat background

Flat facades

Michelangelo, Last Judgment

Tintoretto’s funnel space

Parmigianino's ambiguous space


El Greco's folding space

Borromini's church facade

Bernini's painterly sculpture

Milton, Paradise Lost


Closed Form

Open From

Open Form


1. Bound by a apparent limit (theme, theses) and "frame" --"tectonic"

2. Balance between vertical and horizontal

3. Geometry and proportion

1. Conflicting with the frame,

2. The frame help to create ambiguity

1. The subject extends or flows out of the frame--"atectonic"

2. Limitless, flowing

3. merge into space



Renaissance sonnets,
Boccaccio's Decameron
Machiavelli, The Prince
Castiglione, The Courtier
Luther, The Small Catechism
Erasmus, The Praises of Folly
Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

*Metaphysical Poet

Shakespeare, Hamlet,

*Metaphysical Poet: favor of conceit, paradox, irony, ambiguity

Cervantes' Don Quixote (picaresque, episodic)
Gracian, The Arts of Worldly Wisdoms
La Rochefoucauld, Maxims
Shakespeare, Othello, King Lear



Multiple details

Multiple but ambiguous details

Unified by obliterating details


1. individual details maintain their identity and independence


1. Organic: in a unified composition, the details are submerged in a tonal rhythm or direction, or merged into the dark

2. Unification of detail within one dominant


Raphael's School of Athens

Leonardo's Last Supper

Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights

Tintoretto's Last Supper

Caravaggio, Carracci, Rubens, Rembrandt

Milton's Paradise Lost

Cervantes's Don Quixote: the episodic adventures are centered on the Quixote-Panza bipolarity.


Absolute Clarity


Relative Clarity


1.The design, color, and light serve to define the structure of individual forms.


1. The color and light have their own value.

2. Conflict between form and lighting, or between light and line

3. The accent of color and light may distort or obliterate objects.




Motion (Multiple Direction)

Motion (Unified Direction)


Renaissance Sonnet

French Baroque:

Versailles chapel

Poussin, Lorrain

Johnson, " Drink to Me Only with Thine Eye"


El Greco, Rubens,

Metaphysical poets,

 By Chen Chi-szu, Apr.3, 1996

Update: 4/25/2004