Rococo and Neo-Classicism

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The contrast between Rococo’s association with lack of morals in decorative works such as Watteau’s ‘The Pilgrimage to Cythera’ (1717) and Neo-Classicism’s rigidness and restraint is obvious. Jacque-Louis David’s ‘Oath of the Horatii’ (1784) contains ‘...a dramatic sense of “reportage”’, David wanted to restore morality at court. France was headed to economic ruin if the King didn’t act; ‘self sacrifice’ for your country. The King and Queen should ‘sacrifice’ their lavish lifestyle and that of the Nobility to save their country from economic ruin. The ‘Oath of the Horatii’ is propaganda, and began a domino effect that led to the French Revolution. Originally used by Jacque-Louis David as an insult, the term ‘Rococo’ became associated with lack of morals and a care free lifestyle. During the reign of Louis XV (1715-1774) Rococo was the dominant style. The ‘Rococo lifestyle’ was considered frivolous and care free, with the French Queen Marie Antoinette spending tax payer’s money on unnecessary possessions and putting the country further into debt. Such an example of frivolous and decorative works is Watteau’s ‘The Pilgrimage to Cythera’ (1717). Rococo became associated with works (such as ‘The Pilgrimage to Cythera’) that ‘abandoned high seriousness in favour of eroticism, decoration and pleasure’. This lavish lifestyle, however, was further putting France in debt. After the discovery of Pompeii, there was a revival of interest in Classicism. An example of a painting with classical elements is ‘Cleopatra Before Octavius’ (1760) painted by Mengs. It is a Classical story and the painting itself has little nature represented as opposed to Rococo. ‘Cleopatra Before Octavius’ has a story, which most Rococo paintings lack, though it is not Neo-classicism due to the reference of nature. The ‘Oath of the Horatii’ by Jacque-Louis David was considered a ‘radical design’ due to its blatant rejection of Rococo. The story behind ‘Oath of the Horatii’ is of three Ancient Roman...
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