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In relation to painting and sculpture Baroque is used in a number of senses, but perhaps most usefully to describe large, usually 17th-century, works of a dramatic and exuberant nature which employ diagonal compositions and illusionistic effects in order to impress the viewer.

The works of the Flemish painter Rubens and the Roman sculptor Bernini are often described as Baroque in this sense. The term was originally derogatory and may be derived from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning an irregular pearl.