The exuberant Baroque style originated in Italy and influenced all of Europe. English designers found new ideas in printed books of Continental ornament. Dutch and French craftspeople who settled in England also had a great influence on the development of the style. A sense of drama and a love of the ornate characterise the Baroque. Interiors were luxurious with rich velvet and damask furnishings and gilt-wood and marquetry furniture. The style remained fashionable until about 1725.
A profusion of plant life characterises the Baroque style. Scrolling foliage and garlands of flowers decorate many objects.
Marquetry is the laying of veneers of different-coloured woods onto the surface of furniture. This novel form of decoration was learned from French and Dutch cabinet-makers.
The Italian word 'putti' meaning 'boys' is the name given to the chubby infants seen on many Baroque objects.
Crests and initials
The decorative use of monograms, usually people's initials, was a particular feature of the Baroque style. Heraldic crests were also incorporated into designs as symbols of status and ownership.
Baroque interiors were enriched with luxurious textiles. The distinctive features of these fabrics were transformed into motifs to be used in other media. The lambrequin, or tasselled cloth, motif is one of the most common.
Mirrored glass, painted in oils, with stained wood frame
Museum no. W.36:1 to 3-1934
Walnut legs and beech frame; upholstery in embroidery of wool and silk, the back and sides covered in glazed wool, the cushions lined with kid skin
Museum no. W.15:1 to 3-1945
Jean Tijou (designer)
Michael Vandergucht (engraver)
Engraving, ink on paper
Museum no. 25082:9
Marquetry of walnut, burr walnut, sycamore, other woods and ivory, with some staining, on a pine and oak carcase, with brass fittings
Museum no. W.136:1 to 46-1928
Marquetry of sycamore, with walnut, holly, boxwood and purpleheart, some stained by scorching, with gilt-bronze mounts
Museum no. W.61:1, 2-1926
Proper Ornaments to be Engraved on Plate
Charles de Moelder
Engraving and stipple engraving, ink on paper
Museum no. E.386-1926
The Melville Bed
Bedstock of oak; tester of pine; hangings of crimson Italian velvet with ivory Chinese silk linings, embroidered with crimson braid and fringe; some textile elements stiffened with linen; bed ticking of linen
Museum no. W.35:1 to 61-1949
Grinling Gibbons (1648 - 1721)
The celebrated woodcarver and sculptor Grinling Gibbons was born in Rotterdam and settled in London in 1671. Gibbons was famous for his extremely intricate limewood carvings of flowers, fruit, foliage, birds and fish which were created to embellish private houses and churches. In 1693 he was appointed Master Carver to the Crown. He worked at various royal palaces including Windsor Castle where he created spectacular carvings for panelling, chimney pieces and picture frames. Gibbon's work was characterised by artistic virtuosity, exuberant style and naturalistic subject-matter.
Queen Mary II (1662 - 1694)
The Baroque style dominated the court of William and Mary. The queen cultivated the arts and influenced the development of an increasingly cosmopolitan style of decorative art in England. Mary was involved in the architectural renovations of a number of royal palaces including Hampton Court Palace. Here she adopted a small building, the Water Gallery, which she decorated with blue and white ceramics from Delft in the Netherlands. Her passion for Delftware and blue and white porcelain from China started a craze for such ceramics in England.
Daniel Marot (1661 - 1752)
The French designer Daniel Marot was one of thousands of Huguenot Protestants forced to leave France after 1685. He emigrated to the Netherlands where he entered the service of Prince William of Orange. William became King of England and Scotland in 1688 and the designer later followed his master to London. Marot's numerous engraved designs contributed greatly to the development of the Baroque style in Britain. He established the idea of a unified interior, in which the decoration, furniture and furnishings were all created in a co-ordinated style.
Limewood, with raised and openwork carving
Museum no. W.181:1-1928
The Stoning of St Stephen
Carved limewood and lancewood relief, with later paint
Museum no. 446-1898
Maria D.G. Angliae Scotiae Franciae et Hiberniae Regina &ct.
John Smith (engraver)
Edward Cooper (publisher)
Jan van der Vaardt (after, artist)
Museum no. E.673-1910
Queen Mary's Jewel Casket
Steel, pierced and engraved, covered with velvet, and overlaid with gilt-brass studs and blued steel
Museum no. M.19-1937
Nouvelles Cheminée faitte en plusier en droits de la Hollande et autres Prouinces
Etching on paper
Museum no. 13857:1
Buildings and Interiors
Castle Howard, Yorkshire
Castle Howard is one of the grandest houses in Britain. It was built between 1701 and 1724 by John Vanbrugh, one of the great masters of the Baroque style. Castle Howard was the first building designed by Vanbrugh and he was assisted by Nicholas Hawksmoor, another celebrated Baroque architect. This partnership created the imposing classical exterior, its central block surmounted by a dome.
St Paul's Cathedral, London
The centrepiece of Sir Christopher Wren's plan to remodel London after the Great Fire of 1666 was the new St. Paul's Cathedral. Constructed between 1675 and 1709 it is one of the masterpieces of Baroque architecture. The most famous feature of St Paul's is the great dome, the first ever to be constructed in Britain. The scale and drama of the exterior of the building is echoed by Wren's grand interior. The ornate choir-stalls, screen and bishop's throne in St Paul's were carved by Grinling Gibbons.
Burghley House, Lincolnshire
Burghley House in Lincolnshire was built in the 16th century by William Cecil, later Lord Burghley. The interior was remodelled by Burghley's descendant, the 5th Earl of Exeter, in the late 17th century. The Earl spent a vast amount of money on the project and employed the finest of craftsmen including the virtuoso woodcarver Grinling Gibbons. The most magnificent of the Baroque rooms is the Heaven Room, named after the painted decoration by the Italian artist Antonio Verrio which shows classical deities in an architectural setting.