Originating in Rome in the early seventeenth century, the Baroque style quickly spread to the rest of Europe. It was closely connected to the Counter-Reformation religious movement, with the Catholic Church realising the full potential of art to influence the public’s religious beliefs. The Church set official guidelines for artists, encouraging them to create realistic, yet often grandiose, works to which ordinary men and women could relate.
Typical characteristics of the art movement included strong contrasts of light and dark, ornate detail, luxury, and a sense of drama.
Guido Reni (1575 – 1642) was one of the most famous Italian Baroque painters of his time. Although he painted several mythological scenes, including the famous fresco painting, Aurora, the majority of his work dealt with religious themes.
The gracefulness and delicacy of St Matthew and the Angel (c.1635-40), the incredible attention to detail and the way in which St Matthew’s face illuminates against the shaded background makes this, in my opinion, Reni’s finest painting.