What Are Some Characteristics of Rococo Art?

Johannes Böckh & Thomas Mirtsch/CC-BY-SA 3.0

Characteristics of rococo art include natural motifs, elaborate carved forms, asymmetrical designs and rocaille. A stylized version of an acanthus leaf is a popular recurring pattern. It was prominent during the mid to late 18th century. Rococo art was chiefly the domain of craftspeople and designers rather than architects, so the style appears primarily in furniture, silver and ceramics more often.

Rococo derives its name from the French word “rocaille,” which refers to the rock or broken shell motifs incorporated into the intricate and heavy design work. Some minor regional differences in the style exist. For example, British rococo tends to depict nature with more realistic detail than the French style.

Rococo began in France but quickly spread to other parts of Europe, especially gaining popularity in Germany and Austria. The art style emphasizes lightness and exuberance in its many curling scrolls. It began as a reaction against the heavy, often religious plodding of Baroque art, and the royal designer Pierre Lepautre decorated Louis XIV’s bedrooms in the new style. Rather than religion, the subjects of rococo artwork and statuary became love, particularly romantic young couples in the throes of both innocent and erotic affection. Rococo statuary also developed into focusing on highly realistic portrait busts.