The origins of the word baroque are not clear. It may have been derived from the Portuguese barocco or the Spanish barueco to indicate an irregularly shaped pearl. The word itself does not accurately define or even approximate the meaning of the style to which it refers. However, by the end of the 18th century baroque had entered the terminology of art criticism as an epithet leveled against 17th-century art, which many later critics regularly dismissed as too bizarre or strange to merit serious study.
Among the general characteristics of baroque art is (1) a sense of movement, energy, and tension (whether real or implied). (2) Strong contrasts of light and shadow enhance the dramatic effects of many paintings and sculptures, and imply motion. (3) Intense spirituality is often present in works of baroque art. Infinite space is often suggested in baroque paintings or sculptures. (4) Realism is another integral feature of baroque art.
Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Artists of this time were concerned with the inner workings of the mind and attempted to portray the passions of the soul on the faces they painted and sculpted. The intensity and immediacy of baroque art and its individualism and detail—observed in such things as the convincing rendering of cloth and skin textures—make it one of the most compelling periods of Western art.