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Rococo Architecture: Characteristics & Style

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  • 0:02 A Shift in Expression
  • 0:58 Four Characteristics of Rococo
  • 2:53 Famous Examples
  • 3:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Alexa Getting

Alexa has taught and written numerous graduate level courses at a private college and holds a Master's of Architecture degree.

In this lesson you will learn about the major characteristics and contexts of the Rococo period of architecture, as well as some of the most famous buildings from that time period.

A Shift in Expression

The 18th century was a glorious time to be alive, especially in France. When King Louis XIV passed away, the nobility and middle class rejoiced in their freedom from tight control.

The word 'Rococo' stems from the French word rocaille meaning 'decorative rock' or 'shell work.' The Rococo Style or time period took place in the 18th century, corresponding most directly with the reign of King Louis XV from 1715-1774. The Rococo period maintains the intense, highly decorative style of its predecessors, but it has a much more lighthearted and playful appearance.

The change from stern and serious Baroque or NeoClassical styles died with King Louis the XIV, when the patrons of art and architecture shifted from the church to the aristocrats. It was a time of pleasure and rejoicing; an era of 'showing off' the leisurely activities of the upper class.

Four Characteristics of Rococo

There are four main characteristics of this time period:

The first was a newfound preference for pastel colors. Pink was used on the exterior of buildings, and was also a popular color for boys' rooms at the time. Pink was thought to be a masculine color, as it was just a lighter version of red. The pastels emphasized the lightness and happiness of the era, by keeping with the theme of lighthearted. Previously, especially in Baroque art, dark colors and shadows were used.

The use of curved lines was another characteristic of this period. The curve was particularly popular in not only the art and ornamentation (mimicking shells, rocks, and nature), but also the architectural features became more curved, such as in the ceilings. Rounded rooms gained in popularity, as did entertaining a circle of friends while discussing poetry.

Elaborate decoration was another characteristic of the Rococo style. The use of gold was especially prominent, helping to add clarity, harmony, sophistication, and a level of luxury to the pastel colors.

Lastly, the most radical change was the use of asymmetry. The Baroque movement was defined by symmetry and balance, ultimately eluding to control and perfection sought after by the previous King Louis XIV. In the Rococo style, though borrowing much from the Baroque styles, things became asymmetrical and less controlled.

If you look at the decoration on the exterior or interior of a building design from this time period, you will notice, if cut in half, the two halves do not reflect one another. The two sides are different. This helped to emphasize freedom, independence and movement within the architecture and art of the time period.

Rococo Style Mirror - example use of asymmetry, curved lines, gold, and decoration
mirror02

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