This paper is based on the book review of Jesus Escobar’s methods and arguments relating to Renaissance and Baroque architecture.  This paper sets to review, analyze and evaluate the Jesus Escobar’s book, The Plaza Mayor and the Shaping of Baroque Madrid.

Content summary and analysis

JESUS ESCOBARS BOOK REVIEW This book examines in detail the relationship between architecture and politics in relation to the historical origins and development of the city of Madrid during the Baroque era. The age of the Baroque is historical connected to the development and great inventories in the field of mathematics and science which gave rise to the construction of some of the magnificent buildings in the world. Hersey[1] argues that the Baroque architecture was a mixture of classical thinking with that of scientific experiments such as geometrics and art of geomancy. This is basically mixed range of numbers and shapes applied to art and architecture.  It is a clear reflection on how theoretical imagination and beliefs were practically translated into images.

It is associated with the era of baroque which begun in the 16th century in Italy. This architectural design was mainly associated with the Roman Catholicism based on high symbols and images and expressed in lights, shadows and forms.

The contents of Escobar’s book cover a wide of historical events including the evolution and development and of Madrid town from its humble beginnings to the global city. The second chapter looks at the architecture and bureaucracy of Madrid and argues that it clearly reflects how the Major Plaza has been the focal point in the architectural development of this town. Third chapter largely looks at the 16th century initiatives presided by this magnificent building that has exemplified the the architecture of Madrid. The Plaza Mayor reflects just how the city of Madrid played a vital role in the Spanish society and culture as well as being the capital of its empire. Chapter 4, examines the impact of Panaderian, which from Escobar’s perspective, this monument is the figure and factor that unites the Spanish world. Chapter 5 looks at the 17th century reforms are largely based around the Plaza Mayor as the major force in the development of Madrid city. These reforms largely changed the status of Madrid inhabitants. While, Chapter 6 looks at the Plaza Mayor as the political symbol of the Spanish people, thus making Madrid as the capital of Spanish politics, culture and society.

Textual Analysis

This book is well researched through primary sources that the writer has researched and consulted. He has used important sources such as archival documents, drawings, paintings, the old remains of the city and etchings. He has analyzed these sources and came up with his conclusions. Escobar seems to be mainly interested in the significance of the buildings which has formed the basis of his arguments. This book clearly shows the thoroughness of the researcher and his arguments are based on factual information, which are well documented.

This book indicates that the city of Madrid has evolved from being small castle to a major city in Spain and the seat of Spanish empire. In this book, Escobar looks at the changes that have taken place in the City of Madrid by focusing much more on the architectural planning and designs of the public monuments.

This book is largely based on the explorations and analysis of huge volume of archival documents, the remains of the ancient buildings and architectural drawings. Escobar argues that the design of city square and its appearance at the time clearly reflects how the bureaucratic government of medieval age operated while serving the city of Madrid. He argues that the housing design and public works of this City was carefully planned to accommodate its status as the capital city. The process of designing and planning this city reveals and also reflects the type of society that was in existence in Spain at the time. By and large, the architectural design of  Madrid’s public arena reflects the forces that were in place during the late 16th century, such as the urban development, industrialization and colonial conquests.

However, them emergence of Baroque architecture also coincided with the European Colonial expansion and the rise of Spanish conquest and imperialism. This conquest was largely connected with en massing of wealth from the colonies, which implies that Spain just like any other European powers had accumulated enough wealth show. Such therefore, Plaza Major was a central factor in the psyche of the Spanish nation. The Spaniards followed this archictrual style with lots of passion to show the world that is was a force to be reckoned with. This show of economic might and social- cultural transformation was evident in these monuments such as the Plaza Mayor and other huge religious buildings and palaces. The Spaniards viewed such magnified buildings in the heart of its capital as a sign of economic achievement that running across this great nation and the empire. They were becoming richer as years go by.

Escobar’s book also highlights the influences of baroque designs from Italy, Spain and other parts of the world that were under the influence of Roman Catholic faith. They are evident in cathedral designs and interior decorations. He points out the Spanish art mainly appealed to the human emotions rather than the intellectual mind. The development this architectural design lasted for over a century between1600 to 1700, but began to fade away with the emergence of French revolutions. But one that is certain is that the baroque art and architectural design highlighted the power of the aristocrats who took much pride in them. 

Biography of the Author

The author of this book is Professor Jesus Escobar,3 a scholar who specialized in Italian and Spanish art and urban architecture in the early 19th century. He is also the current Professor of Art History at Northwestern University in Illinois’, USA. He has managed to write many articles and reviews in academic literature covering this subject on art history. Escobar started his academic career after obtaining a Bachelor degree from Columbia University and PhD respectively from Princeton University. He did a lot of research and studies in Italian High renaissance and Spanish art (Baroque). He also conducted several studies on Spanish and Italian Art, written reviews on landscapes, societies and buildings.


This paper was a review of Jesus Escobar‘s book about the Plaza Mayor which covers the whole range of Spanish Art and architectural design in the 16 and 17th century.  Escobar argues that the construction of such magnificent buildings was a true reflection of Spanish power, and the Plaza Mayor demonstrates this power. Madrid at the time was not just the capital of Spain but the central power of the Spanish empire and imperialism. Baroque architectures was associated with the era of baroque rule at the time, and so its designs reflects image of the aristocrats and nobles such as King and the Clergy. Perhaps this explains why it was popularly used in palaces, monuments and cathedrals.

[1] Hersey, George L. 2000. Architecture and geometry in the age of the Baroque. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Maddox Smith

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