Thursday, October 4, 2012

In Defense of Rococo

Rococo (or the correct term Rocaille) gets a bad rap. It's important to understand Rocaille in context. Before Louis XVI introduced Rocaille this type of furniture was the style: 

Heavy, symmetrical and squared off. 

When Louis XVI took the throne he was a man who enjoyed his hobbies, women, and frivolity. The art he ushered in followed suit. 

Charles Cressent
Photo courtesy of the Louvre

Photo courtesy of the Louvre

Francois-Thomas Germain
Pair of Fire-dogs with Perfume Burner
Photo courtesy of the Louvre

The goal of Rocaille art and decorative arts was to celebrate frivolity and light-hearted themes. Pastel colors were the order of the day as well as asymmetry and any element to the art that added surprise. Bureaus had storied themes encrusted on them with asymmetrical bronze-work. Handles and keyholes were hidden within the design. The piece of furniture was no longer just a piece of furniture but instead a delightful conversation piece. 

Entire rooms were designed in the Rocaille style with meandering gild work climbing the walls. Lit candles flashed off the gold work and added an effect that was unknown before. 

Rocaille is a tricky design concept because today it is so opposite the post-shaker style we have adopted in America but Rocaille must be understood in its context. It must also be noted that the amount of craftsmanship that went into Rocaille was extraordinary and something only the very wealthy could have. 

Would I chose Rocaille furnishings and decorative arts for my own home- probably not, but if I lived in 1750 France it would be a style I coveted and lusted after. 

What are your thoughts on Rocaille? I'd love to hear them.

- Grace

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