Posted by: Corri van de Stege | April 12, 2009

The Sunday Salon – Easter and Baroque

tssbadge41It’s Easter Sunday and it’s as good a time as any to pay some attention to the Baroque era, which lasted from around 1600 to around 1750; Baroque art covers music, painting, architecture, and even fashion and decorations, but we don’t usually refer much to writing. Recently Waldemar Januszczak presented a vivid three part series on Baroque on BBC 4, starting in Italy and moving across Europe to end up in England.  On the way, in his own dramatic approach, he walks, runs, climbs, peers at and ponders and brings it all quite down to earth, as something to be marvelled at and experienced, and after years of in fact neglecting baroque as something associated with a catholic response to a Lutheran world, highly emotive, covered in bloodied tears and Marias with daggers, I greatly enjoyed his almost childish (but very knowledgeable) delight in everything he came across ‘from St. Peter to St. Paul’, from Rome to London, taking in half of Europe in one fell swoop.  And of course, it spread well beyond Europe into India, Indonesia and Latin America.  I thoroughly enjoyed his idiosyncratic approach and was sorry that I missed the first part – I just don’t watch an awful lot of TV and it is only when my attention is drawn to a subject or programme that I make a mental reminder to switch it on, and even then only when the rest of the schedule allows the time!  This was well worth it though. 

baroque-va-exhibitionSo, having Good Friday off, what better to do than take in the exhibition now on at the V&A in London Baroque: Style in the Age of Magnificence.   Even the Economist is gushing under the heading ‘Letting Rip’ (Economist 11-17 April 09).  It’s a great and impressive exhibition, arranged thematically, focusing on theatre, the church and the buildings / the palaces.  And baroque being what it is, there is a mixture of media, films and music.  Baroque takes its name from the irregularly shaped baroque pearls, which were used to fashion some of the pieces, one of which is shown at the beginning of the exhibition, ‘a bejewelled camel with “blackamoor” attendants….. It spotlights the gem that was later to give the style its name.  The camel’s body, neck and head are made of irregularly shaped baroque pearls…… [However] by the late 18th century taste had changed’: baroque pearls were disdained as imperfect.  This is when critics gave the name to the exuberant style that, by then, was also out of fashion.’


Peter Paul Rubens – The Adoration

(Rubens is one of the Dutch connections – taking baroque painting into England)

For thoughts on Baroque writing and what that entails it’s probably better to have a look at this.  The use of allegory and metaphor probably fits in with the style.

And today?  Today I’m not doing much, the weather is grey and uninviting and I cannot summon up the enthusiasm to do anything in the garden or outside.   There are no visits planned and I’m actually quite happy to sit around, read the papers, and think about the review that I intend to write for the Cairo Trilogy – yes, I’ve finished all three books and will let you know why I have not been such a great fan even if I’ve been fascinated enough to finish all three of them!

Meanwhile I’ve picked up something completely different: Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith, and I’m reading it for pure enjoyment, the story, which is really quite gripping.  This was on the short list for Costa First Novel Award and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2008; Smith’s second book is currently being favourably reviewed.  But before losing myself further into this I will have to do just a bit of work, finishing off a piece that needs to go out on Tuesday.  Oh well, I should be glad I’ve got work, shouldn’t I?  I’m not complaining, not after the scare of the last few weeks.  Enjoy the rest of your day!



  1. That is an enviable Good Friday outing, and a great reading day ahead of you. I am also thinking about picking up Child 44 next… along with five or six others. Happy reading!

  2. I am looking forward to your final thoughts on the Cairo Trilogy (which reminds me that I still have a draft review of Sugar Street to polish and post).

    I am also looking forward to your thoughts on Child 44. Though the story was fast-paced and Smith’s writing style suited the pace of the story, I was not impressed by Child 44. My review is here:

  3. I will look for the BBC series on DVD. Can’t wait to read what you think of Child 44. I read it before I started blogging so never reviewed it.

  4. Happy Easter to you!

    I’ll be interested in your final thoughts on the Palace Walk trilogy and on Child 44. The later has received such mixed reviews, I’ve hesitated to read it.

  5. Happy Easter! It sounds as if you’ve had a rather relaxing time. The Baroque exhibit sounds stupendous! Lucky you 🙂

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