"The Baroque World": A five-volume Atlas of baroque art, published by UNESCO

$2.5 million publication covering fifty countries



A five-volume Atlas of baroque art, cataloguing the first truly international cultural movement, is to be published by Unesco. The publication venture will cost $2.5 million and the first volume, on architecture, appears next year. In an unusual move for Unesco, it is seeking financial sponsorship from multinational companies.

Fifty nations where baroque art flourished are participating in the Unesco venture. “The Baroque World” project includes twenty-six European states, eighteen in Latin America, the United States, Canada, the Indian city of Goa, the Portuguese territory of Macao, the Philippines and Egypt.

The Atlas of baroque art will be much more than a series of maps. Each 500-page volume will include a series of essays, over 400 illustrations and a listing of the greatest works of art. The set of five books, which will sell for nearly $2,000, is being published in English, French, Italian and Spanish.

The volume on architecture, which will cover 2,800 buildings, is being edited by Professor Antonio Bonet Correa of the University of Madrid. This June the specialist writers will meet to finalise the text and the book is due out in the spring of 1995. Publication is being subsidised by the Spanish government to the tune of $200,000.

The second volume, on painting and sculpture, is to be edited by Professor Jacques Thuillier of the Collège de France. It will deal with the emergence of baroque art in Rome in the late sixteenth century and its eventual spread to Northern Europe and Latin America. A special focus of the study will be an analysis or religious and lay patronage and how artists reacted to this demand. Publication is scheduled for 1996. An appeal for sponsorship money from both national governments and multinational companies has just been launched.

The decorative arts will be covered in the third volume of the atlas which is expected to be edited by Alain Gruber of Switzerland. The final two volumes will cover music and literature.

A strong emphasis of the atlas will be to chart how the baroque style spread to Latin America. Unesco’s approach is shown by the selection of its experts, and among the fourteen writers of the architecture volume are academics from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico and the Philippines.

Baroque art in Latin America developed into a more extravagant style than in Europe. “Latin American Baroque came from the Spanish tradition, which had been integrated with the Arabic heritage of mudéjar”. It mixed with the Indian contribution, which expressed itself as a preference for bright colours and a recourse to abstraction in the treatment of figures”, said

Ms Elena Cattarini Léger, Unesco project co-ordinator.

The atlas will emphasise the links between the different art forms of the Baroque (a term thought to derive from the Portuguese word “barroco” used to describe an irregular shaped pearl). Although primarily a visual form of expression—in architecture, fine art and decorative art—the baroque style can also be identified in music, literature and theatre. Unesco will also include what it calls “the Emphemeral Baroque” of ceremonies, such as births, funerals, processions and fairs.

Although the atlas is the most important aspect of “The Baroque World”, the Paris-based project is compiling a data base of artworks. This is intended to help researchers and focus attention on works which are in need of conservation. UNESCO also hopes to support a major exhibition on “Dream and Science in Sixteenth-Century Art”, which is likely to be held in Rome and Paris in 1996.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'An atlas of baroque art'