In the early 17th century, as Protestantism started spreading, the Roman Catholic Church in order to show its superiority, hired several painters, architects and interior designers to construct new palaces and churches and to re-design its interiors.
The ornaments were richer and more magnificent than before and the movement developed in Italy got the name Baroque.
The main features of the Baroque interior design were symmetry, precision, and exaggerated decorations. Baroque furniture characteristics included small details to create the final result.
The furniture was huge and had plant motifs in form of carvings. The classical design disappeared, as the furniture or art was ornamented and highly detailed, with mermaids, nymphs, cherubs, angels, and mirrors.
The ceilings and the walls were decorated with contrasting colors. In ceilings, the new popular style of frescoing appeared known as the quadratura. The Quadratura was the ideal style of painting, embracing the qualities in the art that are associated with the Baroque: theatricality, drama, dynamic, full of excess and greatness.
‘Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power’ by the Italian painter Pietro da Cortona is one of the outstanding Baroque’s frescos, located on the large ceiling in the Palazzo Barberini in Rome, Italy. The theme is the triumph of the reign of Pope Urban VIII.
The Baroque table forms were different but the most common for were made of gilded wood, walnut or oak. The chairs were carved and gilded, upholstered with silks and stamped leathers. The Italian chest – cassone usually had a raised lid decorated with carved leaves.
Grand cabinets, known as stippone first appeared in Florence. They had many shells and carved foliages and were decorated with expensive materials, such as ebony, bronze and pietra dura.The Italian state bed appeared in the mid 17th century. The beds were usually big with elaborate wooden backs and fabric drapes.
The furniture of the Italian Baroque was influenced by the East since at that time Venice still held a vast sea empire. The Venetians imported materials from other nation and their furniture was luxurious with green and gold lacquer. The rich nobleman used the dramatic style of Baroque to impress visitors and to show immense power and control.
Bernini’s works of art are probably one of the best models of the interior design of the Baroque. One of his most famous artifacts – the chair of Saint Peter, also known as The Throne of Saint Peter is placed in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican.
Saint Peter’s Baldachin shows an important development in Baroque church interior design and furnishing. Rising above the altar is the sculpted bronze canopy, Bernini’s masterpiece and first work in St. Peter’s Basilica.
The canopy is a very large structure that rests upon massive twisted bronze columns which are believed to be patterned after columns from King Solomon’s Temple built in the 10th century BC.
The Baroque seemed to distort the sacred norms of classical design based on the rules of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Even today, the word is still used in much the same sense, to describe anything elaborately or grotesquely ornate. However, it is agreed that Baroque was the dominant dialect, within the language of the revival of the ancient art and architecture that began with the Renaissance. It is clear that, from the late 17th century, the visual language of the Italian forms of the Baroque spread across Europe, as well as to the territories of the European powers in the rest of the world.