King Charles II is looking very pleased with himself, as well he might. He sits in a clamshell, atop a pile of mythological and allegorical characters, restored to the throne that was taken from his father, a fleet of vessels patrolling the seas behind him. Here, he embodies Britannia, ruling the waves, master of all he surveys. This painting, The Sea Triumph of Charles II, sets the tone for an exhibition coming to Tate Britain in February 2020, which will explore an over-looked era in British art history.
The era in question was one of opulence and illusion, power and pretence, a time known as the Baroque, although a huge amount of variety is contained under this single label. The Baroque aesthetic was tightly bound to competing religious and political forces, all jostling for power, but is associated, first and foremost, with the Counter Reformation. It spanned art, music, architecture and fashion, sweeping Europe up in swathes of velvet and silk.
Peter Lely, Barbara Palmer, Duchess of Cleveland with her son, as the Virgin and Child (c.1664.) National Portrait Gallery
For the British it heralded the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, providing the perfect foil to the austerity of the Cromwell years. The exhibition will take this moment as its starting point, and finish with the death of the ill-fated Queen Anne in 1714. This is the age of the diarist Samuel Pepys and architect Christopher Wren, an age of monumental architecture and lavish gardens, an age tightly bound to, but also distinct from the fashions of Europe. This, in short, is a very British Baroque.
|What||British Baroque: Power and Illusion, Tate Britain|
|Where||Tate Britain, Millbank, London, SW1P 4RG | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Pimlico (underground)|
05 Feb 20 – 19 Apr 20, 10am–6pm daily
|Website||Click here for more information|