Grand Opening of the 1700s Museum

Historically Fashioned to Take You Back in Time

In With the Old and Out With the New


Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany, on March 21, 1685. He was a devout German Lutheran born into a family of musicians. His parents died when he was nine years old, so he went to live with his brother Johann Christoph. From his brother he learned the fundamentals of the keyboard and also studied composition on his own, using works of older composers as models. As an adult, Bach's duties as a choir leader and Kapellmeister at Saint Thomas Church, a court organist in Weimar, and as a teacher required that he write compositions of many kinds. These included organ and choral music for the church, chamber music for court use, and fairly straightforward harpsichord works for teaching the instrument. Such compositions make up the bulk of his output. Some of his most famous works include the B minor Mass, St Matthew Passion, and the Art of Fugue.

Another German-born composer was George Frederick Handel. He was born in Halle, Germany on February 23, 1685. At the age of 12, Handel became the assistant organist at the cathedral of Halle. In 1703, Handel moved to Hamburg, where he played violin in the opera orchestra. Around 1706, Handel went to Italy, remaining there until 1710. There he composed works for some of the most important patrons of those cities. In 1710, Handel returned to Germany and became musical director to the elector of Hanover. Late in the same year he visited England. After another brief stay in Hanover, Handel received a leave of absence to return to London. Handel eventually made London his permanent home and, in 1727, became an English citizen. Handel became London's leading composer and director of Italian operas. From 1740 and on Handel abandoned Italian opera and concentrated on English oratorio. Some of his most famous pieces include Messiah, Samson, Belshazzar, and Solomon.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was probably the greatest genius in Western musical history. He was born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27, 1756. Wolfgang began composing minuets at the age of five and symphonies at nine. Wolfgang became a violin virtuoso as well. In Paris the young Mozart published his first works-four sonatas for clavier with accompanying violin in 1764. In 1768 he composed his first opera, La finta semplice. Von Colloredo (Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg), retained Wolfgang as concertmaster at a token salary in 1772. In this capacity, Mozart composed a large number of sacred and secular works. Wishing to secure a better position outside Salzburg, he obtained permission to undertake another journey in 1777. With his mother he traveled to France. There he composed the Paris Symphony in 1778. When he returned to Salzburg in 1779, Mozart was given the position of court organist and produced a splendid series of church works. His music informed the work of the later Haydn and of the next generation of composers, most notably Beethoven. The brilliance of his work continued until the end, although darker themes of poignancy and isolation grew more marked in his last years, and his compositions continue to exert a particular fascination for musicians and music lovers. Some of his most famous work includes Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and Le Nozze di Figaro.


Baroque is an ornate style of art and architecture popular in the 1600s and 1700s. Baroque painting were huge, colorful, and full of excitement. They glorified historic battles or the lives of saints. Some examples of well known baroque paintings include A Fantastic Cave with Odysseus and Calypso and A Lady Writing a Letter.

The Triumph of the Immaculate - Baroque

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Rococo is a personal, elegant style of art and architecture made popular during the mid-1700s and featuring fancy design in the shape of leaves, shells, and scrolls. Unlike the heavy splendor of the baroque, rococo was personal, elegant, and charming. Furniture and tapestries featured shells and flowers. Portrait painters showed noble subjects in charming rural settings, surrounded by happy servant and pets. Some examples of famous rococo paintings include The Imbarkation for Cythera and Hercules and Omphale.

Le Déjeuner - Rococo

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Peasant Life

Most Europeans during the 1700s were untouched by either courtly or middle-class culture. They remained as they always had been - peasants living in small rural villages. In western Europe, serfdom had largely disappeared. Instead some peasants worked their own patches of land. Others were tenants of large landowners, paying a yearly rent for the land they farmed. Still other were day laborers who hired themselves out to work on other people's farms. In central and eastern Europe, however, serfdom was firmly rooted. In Russia, it spread and deepened in the 1700s. Peasants owed labor services to their lords and could be bought and sold with the land. Despite advances, some echoes of serfdom survived in western Europe. In France, peasant still had to provide free labor, repairing roads and bridges after the spring floods. In England, country squired had the right to hunt foxes across their tenants' lands, tearing up plowed and planted fields.

During this time ballets and operas were performed at royal courts, and were only available to high officials. But before long, opera houses sprang up from Italy to England to amuse the paying public.

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