The Rococo style is a decorative one, one that was popularized by the French royal court in the eighteenth century. Deriving from the French word rocaille and the Italian word for “baroque,” barocco, the style reflected the works of painter Michelangelo and the general Baroque style that heavily influenced Europe’s architecture and the arts in the eighteenth century. The influential style of Rococo and baroque arose from Louis XIV’s reign. In an effort to showcase his power and grandeur as the king of France, Louis XIV used the arts and architecture specially to showcase it.
The French style of architecture reigned over the city of Versailles, which the King had declared as the unofficial capital of France. It was through that city and its architecture that elaborate designs of the interior and exterior demonstrated Louis XIV’s accomplishments as king, emperor, military figure and administrator of the French people. The Rococo style encompasses elaborate forms of constructions with curves, shells, wings and rounded convex surfaces—these are all characteristic of the culture of excess which permeated Europe’s royal courts, specifically that of France.
Rococo reflected itself in various areas of both arts and music throughout Europe, including France, England and Prussia. In France, for example, Rococo was demonstrated through painting. In a move that shifted painting styles from glamour, grandeur and show, painters were commissioned to create art that entertained instead of glorifying estates. The new French style of painting and Rococo created an amalgam which the paintings of that time reflected. Paintings made use of metallic colors, such as gold and silver, as well as pastels. As for subject matter, it appealed to human life’s frivolity and search for pleasure. The notable painters of this era were Jean-Antoine Wattaeu who painted galas, celebrations and parties of the elite: fête gallantes; the other being François Boucher who emulated Wattaeu’s paintings enough to become like his prodigy.
In England, Rococo was exhibited through architecture, like baroque of the French royal court, only perhaps more exaggerated. The elaborate styles of English architecture were powerful and commanded attention like the architecture that Louis XIV strived for, except architecture mainly focused on garden designs. The military engineer Balthasar Neumann was the figure of English architecture in the Rococo era; he is responsible for the Bavarian structure of the Residenz, an episcopal palace for the prince-bishop of Würzburg. Collaborating with an Italian painter, the palace makes use of pastels and asymmetrical design just as French paintings reflective of Rococo. Prussia saw a royal influence like that of King Louis XIV in Frederick William, the first Prussian ruler to have a strong hand in European affairs.
Also ostentatious and showy like Louis XIV, he used his bureaucratic power to support his Berlin court. His son and eventual successor Frederick II or Frederick the Great, focused on the arts unlike his father who disbanded the Berlin court orchestra. His attention and admiration for music resulted in the construction of a new opera house in a move that called for the renewed interest in the arts, specifically music. Like that of England, Frederick the Great drew influence for arts appreciation from the Parisian Rococo era.
Classical music was originated and flourished under Rococo influence, having developed the symphonic orchestra, the popularization of opera and the rise of Mozart. Rococo music was light while classical music was its opposite, focusing on balance, proportion and clarity.
As for Rococo influence on the philosophies, it developed the ideals of the Enlightenment and called for more attention to the fine arts through the notion of art criticism and theory. The philosophies of the French were an antithesis to that of the absolutism movement.