The Greatest Geniuses of the Baroque
Every era of great change requires great figures—and the Bohemian Baroque had such figures, not only in the artistic spheres, but also in the spheres of politics, religion, and other areas of social life. Baroque architects left behind the most visible legacy, the 17th and 18th centuries giving them the exceptional opportunity to transform the appearances of Bohemian cities and rural landscapes. Their palaces, cathedrals, chateaus, pilgrimage sites, as well as rural churches continue to inspire awe to this day with their monumentality, complex composition, and wealth of sculptures and murals.
The most skilled of these—such as Carlo Lungo, Jan Blažej Santini-Aichel, and Christoph and Kilian Ignatius Dientzenhofer—were able to take perfect advantage of all of these elements, and combine them harmoniously into an attractive whole. They regarded churches especially—without exaggeration—to be living organisms that they were able to set in motion through a sophisticated play of lights and shadows such that, during various phases of the day and at various angles, they always conveyed a new, inimitable experience.
Light and motion became the determining element for baroque painters and sculptors. Painting masters Karel Škréta and Petr Brandl illuminated figures on their substantial canvases with beams of light, in order to heighten the ethereal atmosphere and drama of the captured scene. And skilled sculptors such as Matthias Braun, Maximilian Brokoff, and Ignaz Platzer had the ability to infuse their sculptures with religious symbolism, strong emotions, and dynamic tension.
Even controversial military leader Albrecht von Wallenstein earned his place among geniuses of the Baroque Era. Warfare is sometimes considered to be an art form as well, and Wallenstein was proficient to such a degree that, while the Italian baroque architects he invited to Bohemia were transforming the landscape into his Jičín estate, he and his private army were rewriting the European political map. Wallenstein's dramatic life excellently captures the chaotic times of the early Bohemian Baroque. You can follow its individual shards to Bohemian Paradise, Prague, or to Western-Bohemian Cheb.