Skip to main content

Two Factors in the Rococo Influenced the European Enlightenment

Nikolas is interested in common points of criss-crossed processes in European culture.

Shell, the symbol of Rococo

The language kaleidoscope and potential of "Encyclopedia" assisted the origin of the new cultural phenomenon under the name a "rococo". This term results from French "rocaille", which in translation means "look like the shell"
Rocaille n.f. Cailloux, coquillages employes comme ornementation sous of Louis XY. Meuble of orne dans ce genre. Adj. le genre rocaille.
rocailleux, - euse - adj. Plein of de petits cailloux, Fig. dur, heurte. Rocaille n.f. Pebbles, shells used as ornamentation under Louis XY. Furniture decorated in this style. Adj. the rocaille genre. rocky, - euse - adj. full of small pebbles, Fig. hard, bumpy /13/338/rte.

Shell, her capricious and florid forms, became the symbol of this art. It cultivated lightness, gracefulness and refinement.

Capricious Shells



J. La Fontaine and Principles of Rococo

Ideological principles of rococo were expounded yet at the end of 60th of XVII of a century of J. La Fontaine. In a preface to the story of "Love of Psyche and Cupid" (1669), he marked: "My primary objective is certainly to be liked.

To attain it, I studied the tastes of our century. Moreover, after the protracted experiments, I concluded that they gravitate to gallant and humorous things, and that is not because we despise passions. Opposite, not finding them in a novel, poem, or play, we grumble about their absence. However, in such story, like mine where wonders and pleasant jabber combine and that can to deprive children even, it follows from start to finish being playful. I would add to aspire to the gallantry and, simultaneously,
to waggery"
Becoming of this phenomenon of art takes place in the direction of stormy and fundamental changes in the character of the artistically-vivid mastering of the world . Also, there is a man on the fracture of ХVII-ХVIII of century. Art of baroque, that was marked with difficult, superfluously emotional tense metaphors, allegories gradually went away to the past. New vivid reference, points and models of the artistic thinking, that not hesitate unusual device, fantasy, appeared with travesties and parodies.

First Factor

New attitude declared about itself in a philosophical mind that expounded mistrust to possibilities of a rational way to get to know the world. The French philosopher Pierre Bayle came forward as expression of such ideas in the "historical and critical dictionary" (1702). He marked that a mind is "capable to tangle everything and cause a doubt in everything". An idea gives birth that personality is the passible plenitude of happiness already by the fact of the birth. Enlighteners caught up that idea in the future. They rethink it in their conception of "natural man". Appropriately, that like attitude conflicted with principles of morals in Counter-Reformation. Its main thesis was about the necessity of "alienation" of man from itself, from the natural beginning. It is impossible also not to notice the copula of rococo with philosophical sensationalism that educed interest in the sensual and empiric shell of the world, its external material variety of forms.

Fantasy and Illusion

The closeness of rococo to the sensual ideas did possible liking to new

interest in fantasy, illusion, wakes up attention fabulousness in a rococo to the literary fairy-tale. Already from the end XVII of century of fairy-tale begin to be printed as independent literary works that show of the special genre. In 1687 four small books of "fairy-tales were printed. The fairies of baroness d’Aulnoy, and in the following collections of Henriette-Julie de Murat, Charlotte-Rose de Caumont de la Force, Marie-Jeanne l’Héritier de Villandon appeared. "New fairies" are the main personages of these fairy-tales, provided with the thin porches of dragonflies that flew round sweet-scented gardens, wonderful fountains, marble pools. The new wave of interest in a fairy-tale was expounded by the translation of "Thousand and one night", carried out by Charles Gallant during 1704-1717. This translation opened for European artistic consciousness "east exotic things" that became one of the leading reasons in literature.

Scroll to Continue

Thousand and One Night by Edmund Dulac

Thousand and One Night

Thousand and One Night

The Second Arab Factor

In contrast, it is necessary also to mark that the French artists, philosophers took for the explanation of the works not only an external orientalism decorative pattern. Acquaintance and study of religious and philosophical doctrines of Islam in a great deal imprint on their manner of reflection and artistic interpretation of reality in the epoch of Enlightenment. There were some aspects of Moslem culture, related to the development of French culture. It says about "adab", i.e. the set of requirements in relation to the all-round developed and educated personality,adib. The elucidative role of adab consisted in that literature is sanctified to it underlined independence of adab from religion and theology. That in general eliminated neither the gravitation of some theologies to acquisition of lines of adib nor necessity last to meet with the sciences related to dominating ideology. Adab and literature got popularity in an epoch, when on Moslem East the process of differentiation of sciences increased and differences were determined.

Quotation from Ibn Qutaybah looks so: "Who wishes to become a scientist (alim), must study the separate branches of knowledge (fann), and who wishes to become an author (adib) must only reflect about sciences".

Louis XIV with Persian Ambassadors by Antoine Coypel

Persian Ambassadors in Versaille

Persian Ambassadors in Versaille


For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. What was an art period of Rococo?
    • In the 1600s
    • In the 1700s
    • In the 1800
  2. Is there high moral message on the Swing of Jean-Honoré Fragonard?
    • No, it is just rich people having fun in the park
    • Yes, it requires considering problems of poor people
  3. Why is the dog fluffy on the Love Letter?
    • This is because it is white
    • This is because it has ribbons and bows in its hair

Answer Key

  1. In the 1800
  2. No, it is just rich people having fun in the park
  3. This is because it has ribbons and bows in its hair

Denmark, Amalienborg Palace in the Rococo Style


Related Articles