Key Dates: 1700-

Throughout the 18th century in France, a new wealthy and influential middle-class was beginning to rise, even though the royalty and nobility continued to be patrons of the arts. Upon the death of Louis XIV and the abandonment of Versailles, the Paris high society became the purveyors of style. This style, primarily used in interior decoration, came to be called Rococo. The term Rococo was derived from the French word “rocaille”, which means pebbles and refers to the stones and shells use to decorate the interiors of caves. Therefore, shell forms became the principal motif in Rococo. The society women competed for the best and most elaborate decorations for their houses. Hence the Rococo style was highly dominated by the feminine taste and influence.

Francois Boucher was the 18th century painter and engraver whose works are regarded as the perfect expression of French taste in the Rococo period. Trained by his father who was a lace designer, Boucher won fame with his sensuous and light-hearted mythological paintings and landscapes. He executed important works for both the Queen of France and Mme. de Pompadour, Louis XV’s mistress, who was considered the most powerful woman in France at the time. Boucher was Mme. de Pompadour’s favorite artist and was commissioned by her for numerous paintings and decorations. Boucher also became the principal designer for the royal porcelain factory and the director of the Gobelins tapestry factory. The Vulcan Presenting Venus with Arms for Aeneas is a template for a tapestry made by this factory.

Characterized by elegant and refined yet playful subject matters, Boucher’s style became the epitome of the court of Louis XV. His style consisted of delicate colors and gentle forms painted within a frivolous subject matter. His works typically utilized delightful and decorative designs to illustrate graceful stories with Arcadian shepherds, goddesses and cupids playing against a pink and blue sky. These works mirrored the frolicsome, artificial and ornamented decadence of the French aristocracy of the time.

The Rococo is sometimes considered a final phase of the Baroque period.

Representative Artists:
Francois Boucher
William Hogarth
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
Angelica Kauffmann
Giovanni Antonio Canaletto