Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Rococo Across the Disciplines

The Rococo was a style of not only visual or decorative arts, but also music, literature, theatre, fashion, and garden design. Rococo interiors were characterized by ornateness, pastel colors, curving lines, and shell, pebble, and floral motifs. Indeed, the term "Rococo" comes from the French rocaille (stone) and coquilles (shell) ( Other art forms followed the lighthearted spirit of visual Rococo elements; for instance, Rococo literature and theatre have themes of sensuality, frivolity, and wit.

Several widely known Rococo works are worth mentioning before explaining Rococo influence in the other art forms. Jean-Honoré Fragonard's painting "The Swing" epitomizes the flirtatious nature of the Rococo as well as pastel colors and floral motifs. Furthermore, the Wieskirche in Steingaden, Germany (shown below) is a prime example of an ornate Rococo interior. Chippendale chairs were also a trademark of Rococo furniture design.

 Jean-Honoré Fragonard's "The Swing",


Chippendale chair,

Rococo music was also elaborate, lighthearted, and playful, with major tonality. You can hear a Rococo musical composition at http:// (Tchaikovsky, Variations on a Rococo Theme").

Correspondingly, the aim of the "rococo philosophy of literary production...was to innovate, to bring pleasure, and to create communities" (Amazon review of Allison Stedman's "Rococo Fiction in France, 1600-1715: Seditious Frivolity (Transits: Literature, Thought & Culture, 1650-1850)"). In Stedman's book (the first chapter of which is available online), the author explores these sensuous, often experimental literary pieces. She also covers women writers of the Rococo like d’Aulnoy, Lhéritier, Murat, and Durand. http://

As for Rococo theatre, "the book The Rococo states that no other culture "has produced a wittier, more elegant, and teasing dialogue full of elusive and camouflaging language and gestures, refined feelings and subtle criticism" than Rococo theatre, especially that of France" (The Rococo - Google Libri,, retrieved from Adaptations of Italian Commedia dell’Arte theatrical works were prominent during the Rococo period. These plays features stock characters such as "separated lovers...the arrogant soldier...the tyrannical guardian and often a deluded older woman" ( Theatre buildings themselves during the Rococo were flowery and ornate, such as the Residenztheater in Munich, Germany, which compares to (a more heavily decorated) Teatro alla Scala in Milan.


The video trailers at show the types of theatrical plays recently performed at the Residenztheater as well as plays coming up in the current season (although the website is in German, the videos still display the visual experience of these plays). Although some of these dramas seem lighthearted, others seem more serious and intense and have strayed from this Rococo theater's original intent!

Rococo fashion was likewise ornate and decorative. Women wore wide skirts to emphasize curvaceousness; sometimes these skirts were so wide with hoops and layers of fabric that women had to pass through doors sideways. The Metropolitan Museum of Art website explores Rococo dress in depth and has images of the fashions and textiles of the Rococo. "The elegant life of the eighteenth century was lived among mirrors that reflected the immediate, and some would say ephemeral, radiance of fashion" (Oriole Cullen, Victoria and Albert Museum,

Ironically, one of the most well-known Rococo gardens is in England, although largely the English stayed away from the Rococo style (they thought it too French) or produced less frivolous Rococo designs. The Painswick Rococo Garden in Gloucestershire, however, epitomizes the ornate, organic beauty of Rococo garden design. As can be seen in the two pictures below, Rococo garden design is far more free and winding than the orderly Baroque.

The video at provides a virtual walk around the lush, beautiful Painswick Rococo Gardens.

And a reference to the Rococo in pop culture...Madame du Barbie, 1997.


Summary of Helpful Links:



10: Appearances of the Baroque on Imgur and Reddit.

Let's end this blogging session with a flourish.

Top Comment: Enough of the jokes, we need to bring the economy BACH

Top Comment: And to think he started out Baroque

Top Comment: If its not Baroque, don't fix it.
Top Comment: This pun Baroque my will

You also get this: Imgur Art History PT 2
And this: Imgur Art History PT 1

Baroque Salzburg: "These Are a Few of my Favorite Things"

Salzburg, a stunningly beautiful city in the Austrian Alps, is known across the world as the spectacular setting for the iconic film The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer (Salzburg is also the birthplace of musical genius Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). However, the city of Salzburg is also a triumphant monument to the beauty of Baroque architecture. The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and The Sound of Music highlights numerous Baroque marvels in the city.

Stylized image from The Sound of Music,

During my study abroad semester, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to the beautiful city of Salzburg and take the official Sound of Music tour! I saw a multitude of the city's Baroque sites including Residenzplatz Fountain, Mirabell Palace and Gardens, and Leopoldskron Palace. At the beginning of Julie Andrew's song "I Have Confidence" in The Sound of Music, Andrews splashes her hand in the Residenzplatz Fountain. The Salzburg Travel Guide website provides a description of the fountain: "four snorting horses seem to spring forth from the spouting rock. Giants rooted in the rock carry the lower basin, in which three dolphins balance the scalloped upper basin. The upper basin holds a Triton, a jet of water shooting into the air from his conch-shell trumpet...It is considered to be one of the most significant baroque monuments in Europe today. The work is attributed to the Italian sculptor, Tommaso di Garone" (

Residenzplatz Fountain,

Residenzplatz Fountain, 

Mirabell Palace and Gardens can be seen in the film as well. This clip from the movie shows the "Do Re Mi" song in which Julie Andrews and the children sing and dance in the memorable scene (the part in the Mirabell Gardens starts at 3:57 in the video):

Leopoldskron Palace is another Baroque structure in Salzburg. The Palace was actually not depicted in the film, but the view from the Palace's yard facing the lake was used in the scenes facing the lake (such as when Julie Andrews and the children fall out of a fishing boat, to Captain von Trapp's chagrin). A different palace was used for camera shots of the "Von Trapp villa," so certain dialogues in this back yard were filmed in two different locations.

Schloss Leopoldskron,

The UNESCO website at offers a breathtaking gallery of high-quality images of Salzburg architecture.

Furthermore, offers a complete concert by the Vienna Philharmonic performing Mozart's compositions in Salzburg. Perhaps Mozart was inspired by the breathtaking surroundings in his city.

Summary of Helpful Links:

9: AV Mapping of the Ruins of St. Paul's Macao

In class, as the sole example of the colonial baroque in East Asia, we discussed the ruins of St. Paul's in Macao (the former Portuguese trade hub on the pearl river delta, long since supplanted by Hong Kong in importance), and the fact that there is an active Catholic following that still utilize the standing facade as a processional gateway.

If the building had belonged to a much larger complex I would have been satisfied with this answer, but it is not much larger than the stairwell plus the original groundplan of the church. And so I went searching for other uses.

As it turns out, the facade is occasionally used as a backdrop for theatrical performances and for AV display lightshows. Now I had seen such things done with facades in Europe, but never before in Asia, so dont ask me what the following means.

8: Discussion of the Banqueting House, Whitehall

The Banqueting House at Whitehall is the last remaining vestige of what some sources note as the first *neo-classical* building to be built in England. Other sources note it as Palladian. Others still as Rococo because of certain features such as the pilasters, dual towers at each gate, and processional interior space arrangement.

Uncertain as this is, the building ought not to be ignored, even perhaps only for its historical significance. This courtyard, and the window from the upper story of the banqueting hall, was the location of the scaffold that was used in the public execution of King James I in the aftermath of the English civil war.

The path Inigo Jones took in designing it trumped Versailles, Schonnbrunn, and all other palaces in Europe in size, and allegedly brought England up to date architecturally with the forefront of European post renaissance architectural sensibilities. English architecture up until this point had, except in private residences and the occasional church, been neo-medieval by primary influence.

Part of this quick jump forward was Inigo Jones' brilliance, and part of it was his decision to import several artists, such as Peter Paul Reubens, from the continent to contend with the decoration.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

7: Diffusion within the Habsburg Realms: Facades Exhibiting Selective Ornamentation Outside the Ibero-American Sphere.

One of the most iconic features of the B/R era in Spain and in Spanish colonial possessions is selectively ornamented portions of especially exterior facades, separated by relatively large expanses of empty space. In the colonial variants, this tended to affect the interiors as well, particularly in Brazil.

But one of the things I noticed was that in studying the B/R churches, particularly in Germany and Bavaria, but also in Austria, the exteriors of the buildings tended to, in their own way, use the same patterns. For example the pilgrimage church at Kappell, St. John Nepomok in Zdar, and the pilgrimage shrine of our lady of Lorezo, Prague.

Although it is the general style in the Germanic sphere to simply adorn the planes of the building, the punctuated courses or highly contrasted areas do resemble Iberian styles.

One commonality between these two areas was, despite their geographical and in places religious sectarian disparity, they were ruled for a fashion by the same dynasty: The Habsburgs. It is not inconceivable to believe that they would have exercised some personal sensibilities and personal preferences.

6: Comparative Scale: Respect for human scale in B/R churches

Despite the artistry and brilliance that certain B/R churches exude, one thing I did notice over the course of the semester was that, with only a precious few exceptions, human scale was not respected except perhaps in plan. In my opinion, and in the university's opinion, a work of architecture is incomplete and flawed unless it respects human scale.

So I wanted to explore churches in this post, perhaps more generally by examining national styles and regional variants, on the B/R, as well as the circumstances surrounding the construction.

The Italian baroque style tended to produce a myriad of smaller churches for which it was much easier to respect human scale, although in fairness here a much more urban environment exists in many more locals than in Northern Europe and as such planners and architects ought to have been working more with the site than with their users.

The English and French baroque produced numerous churches that, although in equally urban environments, were larger by far. This opportunity was sometimes afforded them by good civic planning or fire, but usually just meant occupying large swathes of cheaper land. Generally larger congregational churches, in my opinion do not respect human scale.

The Germanic baroque certainly offers us a better alternative. Despite the fact that across the empires churches were constructed at all scales, the internal decoration tended to respect human scale.

 Privately constructed and patronized churches, that is to say, churches that did not have a papal or church order for their construction, too, as above here with Asamkirche (St. Johann Nepomuk) tended to work within their context more fluidly.