Jacques Charton From: Collection de plantes etrangeres en fleurs, fruits, corail et coquillages Paris: 1784 Hand-colored copperplate engravings Paper size 17" x 11"
In the early 18th century, France turned away from imperial aspirations to focus on more personal and pleasurable pursuits. As political life and private morals relaxed, the change was mirrored by a new style in art, one that was more intimate, and decorative.
Louis XIV’s desire to glorify his dignity and the magnificence of France had been well served by the monumental and formal qualities of most seventeenth-century French art. But members of the succeeding court began to decorate their elegant homes in a lighter, more delicate manner. This new style has been known since the last century as rococo, from the French word, rocaille, for rock and shell garden ornamentation. First emerging in the decorative arts, the rococo emphasized pastel colors, sinuous curves, and patterns based on flowers, vines, and shells. Painters turned to the sensual surface delights of color and light, and from weighty religious and historical subjects to more intimate scenes.