The era spanning the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, to the death of Queen Anne in 1714, witnessed a distinctly overblown form of art.
This was a time when it was normal for royals to have themselves depicted surrounded by pudgy winged putti and prone mermaids. When Duchesses posed as the Virgin Mary, sans irony. It was kind of like Oasis's Be Here Now stage.
Tate Britain's exhibition British Baroque: Power and Illusion explores this bling era of art, showcasing pictures including Antonio Verrio's grandiose The Sea Triumph of Charles II, and Godfrey Kneller's John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough — a moody propaganda piece that casts the duke's warring exploits in a heroic light.
The exhibition — opening February 2020 — shows how magnificence was used to express status and influence, through artists including Peter Lely, Honoré Pelle and James Thornhill. Viewers take a journey through the royal courts, religion and party politics, via breathtaking grand-scale portraiture and trompe l’oeil.
Baroque architecture is touched on too, through architects likes Wren, Hawksmoor and Vanbrugh — and buildings such as St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Blenheim Palace.
Through all the grandeur and bombast, the Tate's blockbuster considers the use of art to convey power, and the effect this had on Britain's everyman and woman. Just as Instagram chimes in on the social mores of today, so did Baroque art way back when.
British Baroque: Power and Illusion, Tate Britain, 5 February-19 April 2020. Ticket prices and booking info TBC.