We have launched a new website and are reviewing this page. Find out more
Open daily 10.00 to 17.45 Admission free Menu
Room 7: Europe and the World, 1600–1720

The Sheikha Amna Bint Mohammed Al Thani Gallery

The art and design of 17th-century Europe were shaped by trade, colonisation and religious conflict. The Dutch and French established colonies in Asia and the Americas, just as Portugal and Spain had done a century earlier. The Catholic Church also expanded overseas. The transatlantic slave trade gathered momentum. Imported goods, materials and commodities changed the way Europeans lived. The dominant style, which we call Baroque, was based on the classical tradition but imbued with a new sense of magnificence, movement and drama.

Room 7 [Map] is part of the new Europe 1600-1815 Galleries

View all objects in Europe 1600-1815, Room 7


Baroque

Around 1620, a new style emerged in Rome. Monumental, expressive and dramatic, it stretched and broke the rules of classical design. Artists and designers combined the arts to create theatrical and awe-inspiring works with a unified design and a single message. These works proclaimed the power and splendour of great rulers and the Catholic Church. We now know this style as Baroque, from the name for a deformed pearl, a term used by later art critics to express their disapproval.

Table, top by Lucio de Lucci, base possibly by Andrea Brustalon, about 1686, Italy (Venice), European and tropical hardwoods. Museum no. W.6-2012, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Table, top by Lucio de Lucci, base possibly by Andrea Brustalon, about 1686, Italy (Venice), European and tropical hardwoods. Museum no. W.6-2012, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Video: Baroque in Portugal

This film shows how the Baroque style flourished in early 18th-century Portugal during the reign of King John V.

Catholicism

Under the leadership of the pope in Rome, the Catholic Church attempted to extend a unified system of belief across the world. In Europe, its devotional practices were reinforced through internal reform within the church. Overseas, Catholic missionaries spread the word to Spain and Portugal’s colonies in Asia and the Americas. Catholics were encouraged to meditate upon the miraculous transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during Mass, and to deepen their devotion by contemplating holy images.

Bust of Pope Innocent X, by Domenico Guidi, about
 1690, Italy (Rome), bronze. Museum no. 1088-1853, © Victoria and Albert
 Museum, London

Bust of Pope Innocent X, by Domenico Guidi, about 1690, Italy (Rome), bronze. Museum no. 1088-1853, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The 
Crucified Christ, about 1650, Spain or the Philippines, painted lead. 
Museum no. A.68-1926, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Crucified Christ, about 1650, Spain or the Philippines, painted lead. Museum no. A.68-1926, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Death

At a time of religious upheaval, the theme of death became prominent in the visual arts. Macabre memento mori (remember that you will die) imagery reminded people of the transience of human existence and worldly pleasures. Moralising images instructed them to live a virtuous life on earth, in preparation for the Day of Judgement and in the hope of eternal reward in Heaven.

Still Life (Vanitas), by N.L. 
Peschier, 1659, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands), oil on canvas. 
Museum no. P.46-1962, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Still Life (Vanitas), by N.L. Peschier, 1659, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands), oil on canvas. Museum no. P.46-1962, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Time and 
Death, probably by Caterina de Julianis, about 1670, Italy (probably 
Naples), coloured and moulded wax. Museum no. A.3-1966, © Victoria and 
Albert Museum, London

Time and Death, probably by Caterina de Julianis, about 1670, Italy (probably Naples), coloured and moulded wax. Museum no. A.3-1966, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Judaism

Torah 
mantle and rimmonim, about 1675 and 1700, Dutch Republic (now
 the Netherlands) and South Germany, embroidered velvet and silk 
brocade, and silver. Museum no. 349-1870 and 350&A-1870, © 
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Torah mantle and rimmonim, about 1675 and 1700, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands) and South Germany, embroidered velvet and silk brocade, and silver. Museum no. 349-1870 and 350&A-1870, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Dutch Republic was one of the few places in Europe where Jews could live and worship without severe restrictions. The Dutch prided themselves on their religious tolerance and also recognised the value of Jewish commercial networks. By the 1670s there were over five thousand Jews in Amsterdam, both Ashkenazim from Germany and Poland, and Sephardim from Spain and Portugal.

Dutch Domesticity

In 1648, after a long military struggle, the Dutch Republic was recognised as an independent state, free from the political and religious domination of Catholic Spain. The new Protestant republic was the most powerful trading nation in Europe, and the economy prospered. Many people had more money to spend on domestic comforts, and fewer married women had to work. The focus of most women’s lives was their families and homes, where the day-to-day management of the household was seen as a Christian duty.

Pair of marriage knives with sheath, about 1650, 
Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands), ivory inset with turquoises and 
steel. Museum no. M.379 to B-1924, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Pair of marriage knives with sheath, about 1650, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands), ivory inset with turquoises and steel. Museum no. M.379 to B-1924, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


War

The Thirty Years War (1618–48) began as a localised, religious struggle between Protestants and Catholics, but grew into a dynastic and imperial war of attrition between the house of Habsburg and other European powers. It was the first Europe-wide conflict. Contemporary accounts suggest that the arts suffered as cities, churches and palaces were destroyed by cannonfire. But the war also stimulated artists to champion causes, commemorate leaders, celebrate victories and record the terrors they witnessed.

Light cavalry helmet, about 
1630, South Germany (Nuremberg), blued and embossed steel. Museum no. 
M.2710-1931, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Light cavalry helmet, about 1630, South Germany (Nuremberg), blued and embossed steel. Museum no. M.2710-1931, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Wall tile 
depicting a musketeer, 1625-50, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands), 
tin-glazed painted earthenware. Museum no. 3664A-1853, © Victoria and 
Albert Museum, London

Wall tile depicting a musketeer, 1625-50, Dutch Republic (now the Netherlands), tin-glazed painted earthenware. Museum no. 3664A-1853, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Global Trade

Trade with Asia and the Americas brought new goods to Europe, transforming social habits and creating new industries. Europeans traded raw materials, foodstuffs, manufactured goods and even enslaved people. Imports from America included hardwoods, sugar and raw cotton, largely produced by slaves from Africa. From Asia came spices, tea, painted and printed cottons, porcelain and other finished goods, also produced with cheap labour. Many Asian goods were made to European designs. Asian porcelain, cottons and lacquer were also widely imitated in Europe.

Coffer and stand, 1590–1625, Japan, wood with 
plates of shell and lacquer. Museum no. FE.33-1983, © Victoria and 
Albert Museum, London

Coffer and stand, 1590–1625, Japan, wood with plates of shell and lacquer. Museum no. FE.33-1983, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Salver and
 ewer, 1600-1625, India (Gujarat), mother-of-pearl on metal frame. 
Museum no. 4282, 4258-1857, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Salver and ewer, 1600-1625, India (Gujarat), mother-of-pearl on metal frame. Museum no. 4282, 4258-1857, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Spanish America

By the 17th century, the Spanish crown ruled land stretching from Mexico to northern Bolivia. While silver from South America flowed into Europe, Chinese silks and porcelain from Spain’s colony in the Philippines were shipped to the Americas. Colonisation and commerce had a marked effect on the art of indigenous craftsmen. They fused European and Asian designs with their own traditions to make products for both local and export markets.

Silver casket, about 1608-15, 
Alto Perú (now Bolivia). Museum no. 275-1879, © Victoria and Albert 
Museum, London

Silver casket, about 1608-15, Alto Perú (now Bolivia). Museum no. 275-1879, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Basin, 1650-1700, Mexico 
(Puebla), tin-glazed painted earthenware. Museum no. C.32-1931, © 
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Basin, 1650-1700, Mexico (Puebla), tin-glazed painted earthenware. Museum no. C.32-1931, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London


Music

Dancing and playing a musical instrument were an essential part of a noble education. Ballets of the 17th century were performed at court, by rulers and courtiers as well as professional dancers. The emergence of opera at the beginning of the century dazzled audiences with virtuoso singers and scenic marvels. However, music-making and dancing were regarded by some as vain pursuits associated with worldliness and seduction, and were criticised in moralising images.

Costume design 
for the Entry of Music, by the workshop of Daniel Rabel, about 1625, 
France (Paris), watercolour, ink, pencil and gold paint. Museum no. 
S.1163-1986, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Costume design for the Entry of Music, by the workshop of Daniel Rabel, about 1625, France (Paris), watercolour, ink, pencil and gold paint. Museum no. S.1163-1986, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Interactive Map

Discover the many treasures in the beautiful V&A galleries, find out where events are happening in the Museum or just check the location of the café, shops, lifts or toilets. Simple to use, the V&A interactive map works on all screen sizes, from your tablet or smartphone to your desktop at home.

Launch the Interactive Map