Adapted from the original Baroque style, the French Rococo style moved away from the ‘masculine’ elements of the original movement and became more ‘feminine’. The style encompassed architecture, interior design, painting, as well as others. Critics accused the style of ‘poor taste’, and being superficial. It was eventually replaced by the Neoclassical style.

Features of Rococo Style

The grandeur, symmetry and structure of the Baroque traded for an elegant, fluid design. It utilised asymmetrical lines, light colours and curves. The term umbrellas all types of art from the mid-18th century in France. Possibly the most recognisable feature across the Rococo style is the scroll motif. It transformed into elaborate, asymmetrical stucco, gold plasterwork

20thc gilt brass two branch wall lights of rococo style

20thc gilt brass two branch wall lights of rococo style

and gilding on furniture. The natural motifs such as shells can distinguish the British and French style of Rococo, as the French style tends to be less realistic than the British. Italian rococo design copied from Louis XV styles, with some elements changed, upholstered with vibrant fabrics, such as velvet and silk.

Other features include a stylised Acanthus leaf, (not unlike the later Neoclassical designs), low fireplaces to showcase decorations on the mantel, with an elaborate mirror hanging above. Writing tables fell out of favour, replaced with the more functional bureau cabinets or secretary desks, or even bookcases with a built-in writing table to save space.

Rococo style Chippendale dressing table.

Chippendale dressing table. Image Credit: Liverpool Museum

Famous Rococo Designers

Thomas Chippendale

He was born in Yorkshire in 1718. A cabinet-maker in London, his designs ranged from mid-

Georgian and English Rococo to Neoclassical. Published The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker’s Director. He advised on aspects on interior design, and often attracted large commissions that were not paid on time, creating a cash flow problem. Chippendale went into partnership with the wealthy Scottish merchant James Rannie and later the accountant Thomas Haig.

Antoine-Robert Gaudreau

He was a Parisian ébéniste, or cabinet maker. He supplied a large amount of furniture for the royal châteaux in Louis XV’s reign. His career was over before stamping became common practice. Few pieces are attributed to him, apart from royal pieces that have been identified from inventory descriptions.

Commode Charles Cressent Paris 1745-1749 Nelson Atkins Museum of Art

Commode Charles Cressent Paris 1745-1749

Charles Cressent

A French furniture maker and sculptor. Originally a pupil of André Charles Boulle, considered ‘the most remarkable of all French cabinetmakers’, known for inlaying brass and tortoiseshell. Cressent’s work is easier to identify than Gaundreau’s, as Cressent published catalogues of sales of his work.

François de Cuvilliés

A Belgian architect and designer, he brought the Rococo style to the Wittelsbach court at Munich, and into Central Europe. His more famous works include the hall of mirrors at Amalienburg, the upgrades to the Munich Residence, and the Cuvilliés Theatre.

<i>Thomas Johnson 1758 etching</i>

Thomas Johnson 1758 etching. Image Credit: Wikimedia

Thomas Johnson

An English wood carver and furniture maker. He produced design books in the Rococo style, around the same time Chippendale’s published, and suffered no loss for it even with Chippendale’s popularity. His designs remained for mainly decorative objects, such as console tables, candle stands and mirror frames. This allowed room for experimentation, as without the constriction of form or shape as that applies to seat furniture, for example. His designs also regularly featured Aesop’s fables.

Paul de Lamerie

London-based Silversmith. He was born in the United Provinces (now the Netherlands.) He started out as an apprentice to Pierre Patel, a London goldsmith. Then he opened his own workshop in 1713, and became goldsmith to George I. His style transformed from simple Queen Anne into Rococo. Paul de Lamerie also became part of a famous English law case – Armory v Delamirie – as the defendant, his name spelled incorrectly. Armory found a jewel in the setting of a ring, and went to de Lamerie’s shop for a valuation. The apprentice only returned the setting of the jewel. De Lamerie was ordered to return the stones or pay back its value, though the boy did not have absolute ownership, he had a right to keep it.

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