The Rococo porcelain figurines

Rococo less commonly Roccoco or Late Baroque, is an exceptionally ornamental and theatrical style of architecture, art and decoration which combines asymmetry, scrolling curves, gilding, white and pastel colors, sculpted molding, and trompe-l’œil frescoes to create surprise and the illusion of motion and drama. It is often described as the final expression of the Baroque movement.

The Rococo style began in France in the 1730s as a reaction against the more formal and geometric Louis XIV style. It was known as the “style Rocaille”, or “Rocaille style”. It soon spread to other parts of Europe, particularly northern Italy, Austria, southern Germany, Central Europe and Russia. It also came to influence the other arts, particularly sculpture, furniture, silverware, glassware, painting, music, and theatre. Although originally a secular style primarily used for interiors of private residences the Rococo had a spiritual aspect to it which led to its widespread use in church interiors, particularly in Central Europe, Portugal, and South America.

Exhibit in the Wadsworth Atheneum – Hartford, Connecticut, USA, Daderot, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

A new form of small-scale sculpture appeared, the porcelain figure, or small group of figures, initially replacing sugar sculptures on grand dining room tables, but soon popular for placing on mantelpieces and furniture. The number of European factories grew steadily through the century, and some made porcelain that the expanding middle classes could afford. The amount of colorful overglaze decoration used on them also increased. They were usually modelled by artists who had trained in sculpture. Common subjects included figures from the commedia dell’arte, city street vendors, lovers and figures in fashionable clothes, and pairs of birds.

Harlequin and Columbine, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Franz Anton Bustelli: Liebesgruppe „Der gestörte Schläfer“, um 1756, User:FA2010, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Franz Anton Bustelli: Käsmann, User:FA2010, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Johann Joachim Kändler was the most important modeller of Meissen porcelain, the earliest European factory, which remained the most important until about 1760. The Swiss-born German sculptor Franz Anton Bustelli produced a wide variety of colourful figures for the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory in Bavaria, which were sold throughout Europe. The French sculptor Étienne-Maurice Falconet (1716–1791) followed this example. While also making large-scale works, he became director of the Sevres Porcelain manufactory and produced small-scale works, usually about love and gaiety, for production in series.

The Music Lesson, circa 1765, Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some people despise the Rococo Movement. Their own tastes are maybe towards Impressionist or Pre-Modern art so we can understand why they hate Rococo art. For them, it is frivolous and unserious. But we love it. Yes, it is “pink and fluffy”, but we like it as it is. Learn more about Rococo in the video below.