Rococo & The Aesthetics of Pleasure
Art Movements, April 14, 2022
The name "Rococo" refers to an 18th century art style popular in Paris. It began in France between 1730 and 1770, and then spread to other European nations, notably Austria and Germany. Lavish ornamentation and its flirtatiousness distinguished the Rococo style from previous movements. The phrase "Late Baroque" is commonly used to refer to the Rococo era due to its historical proximity, but the whimsical Rococo could not be more different than its moody older sibling.
The Rococo style was prevalent in aristocratic house design, furnishings, paintings and music. Artists employed mirrors and pastel colors to brighten and lengthen rooms. Designers created delicate furniture inspired by nature's lightness and fine features. Asymmetry and curves played into the organic qualities of this era and not taking life too seriously. Indeed, rococo music was the antecedent of modern pop music. Rococo was all about the here and now: seek pleasure before the beauty withers away.
The Spirit and Aesthetics of Rococo
Heracles and Omphale by Francois Boucher
The word Rococo derived from the french word rocaille, meaning rock. This referenced the attractive designs seen in the garden grottos, which were ornamental caves housing sculptures of the Virgin Mary and other religious figures. The designs incorporated rocks, seashells, or hand carved whimsical shapes. This style, inherited from the Baroque era, further expanded in Rococo where everything was worthy of decoration. However, the moody, contemplative side of Baroque was shrugged off in favor of dance parties and lovemaking.
The art of the Rococo was flirty, and it expressed their desire for fun and good vibes only. The rich jewel tones of Baroque softened to pastels, lines grew more curved, and asymmetry blossomed. Chastity was also loosened as a result of a looser attitude and ressurgence of interest in Roman sex symbols, like Venus and Cupid. Simply put, romanticism, mythology, seduction, flirtation, play and other frivolous themes are pervasive throughout the Rococo period.
Impact on Pop Culture
Marie Antoinette's reign, from 1774 to 1793, was technically after the end of Rococo and during the Classical period in France. However, that does not mean the style did not carry over or that pop culture really cares. One look at cotton candy Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette and one cannot help but think of Rococo. Indeed, Marie Antoinette herself inherited a Versailles that was drenched in the Rococo sensibilities of Madam de Pompadour, her dead father-in-law's favorite mistress.
Aside from the obvious nods in historical films, Rococo continues to influence subsequent. Elvis and his pompadour hair style take a cue from the Madam. Silky and lacey camis from the 2000s nod to Rococo. Millenial pink, the shade you could not escape in 2012 replicated the blush of the era. Even the recent resurgence in "renaissance angel" fashion, particulary mesh crop tops, are a wink towards this era.
Influence on Lolita Fashion
Lolita fashion is a Japanese subculture heavily inspired by Rococo and Victorian era aesthetics. With its sweet and whimsical attitude and preference for soft pastels, Lolita fashion is a modern-day Rococo dream. The pursuit of pleasure is translated into a more innocent, girlish daydream, where cute tea parties with lovely friends and fun dresses is more than enough to have a good time.
In the 18th century, the Rococo style influenced aristocratic women' fashion in the 18th century. Due to the decline of the formal court, ladies began to appear in public wearing attire normally designated for the house. Surprisingly, the negligee was often seen outside the house, proving that the 2000s weren't the first to wear this trend. Furthermore, w earing a dress was a way to show off one's voluptuous and seductive side. In the late 18th century, richer materials and ornamentation allowed Rococo to mature into a more complex design.
Pastel taffeta silks dominated the refined and airy fabrics. Floral appliques and fur embellishments adorned each outfit. Baroque-style wigs were sometimes used, although pinned-up natural hairdos powdered grey or white were more frequent. Modern cosplayers can adapt their wigs to give their look a historical twist or opt for modern designs with stacked curls and crystal embelleshments. Dressed in vibrant gold, layered pearl and bouncy skirts, any girl can feel like Rococo royalty. These designs are also beautiful for character design. Anyone looking to develop a flirty and spontaneous character should consider Rococo and Lolita for inspiration.