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Rococo Architecture

Rococo Architecture

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will explore the architecture of French Rococo.

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Tutorial

An introduction to Rococo architecture.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell. And today's lesson is about Rococo architecture in France. As you're watching the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel is necessary. And as soon as you're ready, we can begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. But the end of the lesson today, you'll be able to identify and define today's key terms and describe elements of the Rococo within the Salon de Princesse inside of Hotel Soubise in Paris, France. Key terms, as always, are listed in yellow throughout the lesson.

First key term is "Rococo," also called "late Baroque"-- an artistic style characterized by playful themes and creamy-pastel colors, asymmetry, curves, and gilded stucco decorations in floral shapes. And hotel or "oh-tel"-- an apartment for members of the French nobility. The big idea for today is that characteristic elements of the Rococo style include the use of pastel colors, an emphasis on interior space, rooms with a smaller, more intimate scale, and the extensive use of curvilinear lines.

So the Rococo-- or late Baroque, as it's sometimes known-- occurred during the 18th century. And the Rococo was a movement that began in Paris, France, during the early part of the 18th century. Now on this page, I've distilled the overall characteristics of the Rococo, essentially what I covered in today's big idea but in a simplified diagram. The term "Rococo" comes from the French word "rocaille," which is a small pebble, referring to the use of the pebble and shell decorative motifs that comprised much of the detail of the Rococo style. Now key stylistic characteristics include the use of pastel colors, the use of the curvilinear line, even to the point of designing some rooms in the shape of an oval like we'll see today, exquisite detail and attention to detail, and organic shapes.

Upon the death of Louis the XIV, the nobility of his court took the opportunity to move back to Paris from Versailles and remodeled the interiors of preexisting structures, which is why we find an emphasis on interior spaces, as well as rooms with a smaller, more intimate feeling. Now this time period was truly an age of aristocracy. And it was also a time when women held positions of power, at least among the nobility.

Now the French court returned to Paris from Versailles and took the opportunity to really delve into the enjoyments of city life. It was a time when the aristocracy turned inward in pursuit of pleasure and emphasized games, frivolity, and artifice. This has been suggested as being indicative of the declining power of the aristocracy and played a role in conditioning the public's animosity toward the aristocracy, eventually resulting in the first French Revolution of 1789 that led to the King, Louis XVI, and his wife, Marie Antoinette, being among the many aristocrats publicly beheaded in retaliation by the French people.

There was an idea of sophistication and refinement that was important among the nobility. And this was expressed in the visual arts, as well as in stage, literature, and even conversation. The idea of the salon-- or gathering of individuals for intellectual conversations-- was very important for the nobility. These often took place in more intimate rooms indoors, called salons, in gathering places called hotels or "oh-tels." The French pronunciation is "oh-tel."

Now the French meaning of this word at this time was different than its usage today. These were more like city mansions of the nobility that were occasionally occupied. The Hotel de Soubise is a beautiful example of one such place. Its exterior is beautifully French classical in its design. But on its interior, it has one of the finest examples of the French Rococo design aesthetic.

The Salon de Princesse epitomizes French Rococo design. It's an oval-shaped room that's one continuous blend of architectural elements and painting. Now notice how there are no dramatic shifts from wall to ceiling. The organic, twisting stucco design elements of vines, leaves, and other details merge almost seamlessly into the ceiling, almost appearing like a form of gilded overgrowth covering the entirety of the interior. The detail carried over into the furniture, mirrors, and sculpture of the room, as well as the clothing of the people within it, to create a cohesive and complete work of art.

So that brings us to the end of our short lesson today. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? And can you describe elements of the Rococo within the Salon de Princesse inside of the Hotel Soubise in Paris, France? And once again, the big idea for today is that characteristic elements of the Rococo style include the use of pastel colors, an emphasis on interior space, rooms with a smaller, more intimate scale, and the extensive use of curvilinear lines.

And that is it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Rococo Architecture"

Key Terms

Rococo

Also called "late Baroque", an artistic style characterized by playful themes and creamy-pastel colors, asymmetry, curves and gilded stucco decorations in floral shapes.

Hotel

An apartment for members of the French nobility.

Citations

Image of France Map Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:France_location_map-Regions_and_departements.svg; Image of Hotel Soubise Facade Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Soubise.JPG; Image of Hotel Soubise Exterior Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:H%C3%B4tel_de_Soubise.JPG; Salon de la Princess Hotel Soubise; Creative Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Salon_de_la_princesse_hotel_de_soubise.jpg

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Rococo

    Also called "late Baroque", an artistic style characterized by playful themes and creamy-pastel colors, asymmetry, curves and gilded stucco decorations in floral shapes.

  • Hôtel

    An apartment for members of the French nobility.