Rococo was an art style that originated in France in the mid-17th century. Rococo itself evolved from the earlier Baroque period, and shared several elements with it. Indeed, Rococo is often referred to as Late Baroque for this reason. Both placed a heavy emphasis on ornate, highly sculpted detail and ornamentation, especially in regards to architecture and sculpture. Likewise both featured artwork rooted in more realistic depictions of people. However, they were also different in several important ways, and reflected changing social attitudes. Where Baroque was rooted in religion and promoted by the Catholic Church as a response to the Protestant Reformation, Rococo flourished during the “Age of Enlightenment”, a time where secularism reigned and attitudes towards morals loosened considerably. As such, the artwork reflected the current social climate: It was frivolous and light-hearted, featuring light, airy colors and a strong emphasis on delicate, curling motifs and ornamentation. Especially fitting, since the root word for “rococo” is the French word “rocaille” meaning “shell work.” The subjects of Rococo art were usually lighthearted depictions of people, and frequently contained thematic elements of love and intimacy such as cherubs. In a direct reflection of the social norms at the time, veiled eroticism was also extremely common. Unsurprisingly, religious references were scarce, especially when considering the earlier Baroque.
However, Rococo didn’t last forever. Starting around 1765, when society at large was becoming fatigued with what was increasingly seen as the tasteless, over-the-top nature of Rococo, a new movement took shape in France: Neoclassicism. Unlike the Rococo period, which was in many ways a simple evolution of the art style before it, Neoclassicism was something totally new. Featuring simplicity and substantial construction architecture, as well as a realistic, restrained art style that emphasized what were then...
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