"Après Nous, le Déluge" ~ The Rococo and Its Legacies

One of the earliest inspirations for Parrot & Lily was the Rococo era. A time of whimsy and fantasy, many of our earliest pieces are in this style.

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The Rococo style is characterised by curves, swirls and a sense of light and movement.
If the Baroque was encapsulated in 17th century Rome, then Rococo resided in 18th century Versailles. 

17th century Rome was the domain of Bernini- an ambitious Church-sponsored endeavour to preserve the glory of Rome and claim the legacy of the Roman Empire. Grand ambition, of course, is never too far removed from a sense of desperation. 18th century Versailles had no such insecurities to speak of. It was a land where greatness had been achieved, power had been secured and the highest human desires fulfilled, seemingly.
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An asymmetric brass casting to keep the candles burning in the ballroom or the salon
By the start of the century, the Palace of Versailles had been established as the centre of the French universe, France had been established as the centre of the European universe and Europe had assumed itself the centre of God's universe. 

Artistic production was flourishing under the French Académies. Louis XIV's royal patronage had inspired the nobles to follow suit and patronise art themselves. The artistic industries established by Colbert in the 17th century were leading the world by the 18th. European industries for painting, sculpture, tapestry, pottery and of course, furniture, were all led by France. After a solemn Regency period where austerity prevailed, the Louis XV style gradually abandoned Classicism until the whimsical rocaille took shape. Ornamentation derived from the younger, lighter brother of the Grotesque- the Arabesque.
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The cockle shell became the ubiquitous motif of the Rococo style. The swirling rocaille imitated waves to convey a sense of being underwater. 
After the death of Louis XIV, the hold of Versailles weakened and the nobility sought to establish themselves elsewhere. The Parisian townhouse became important and French nobility gradually flocked away from Versailles to revive their own châteaux. Rooms became less formal and more functional. The grand vision of the Baroque was sacrificed without hesitation to build an antechamber or two. The Rococo certainly lacked the gravity of the Baroque, it was a frivolous and mostly decorative style.
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A demi-lune console, one of the many iterations of the table that were conceived during the Rococo period.
While the Rococo is often attributed the name of Louis XV, it was his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, who lent her personal taste to the time. Jeanne Antoinette Poisson became influential as the King's favourite and remained that way. She became a champion of the French identity, using her personal patronage to elevate French artistic industries and intellectual life to what we would now consider the world of luxury. Her power and influence were not just perceived, she had the real power to make appointments in the King's court,  a strong influence over the country's tastes and the thought and will to use her situation systematically. She was a keen diplomat and educated in politics. She kept her eye on France's foreign policy through the Seven Years' War, and her influence drew criticism as France's position suffered a series of blows in the years that followed. In other words, she was the leading #influencer of 18th century France. Many icons of France's history are a result of her taste and patronage.

Meanwhile, furniture under the likes of Gaudreau developed a highly specialised vocabulary. There was a table for every occasion and a chair for every mood. Ormolu casting and plaster work both achieved a level of refinement that could give life to the expression of the rocaille. 
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An early Parrot & Lily bedroom, straight out of Beauty and the Beast
Given its penchant for whimsy and fantasy, it is no surprise that Disney chose the Rococo style to illustrate its fairy-tales. Here are some snippets from "Inspiring Walt Disney" and the Parrot & Lily pieces that they remind us of. 
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While everyone enjoys a bit of whimsy, France soon took the skills and industries developed under the Rococo and returned them to the more formal classical tastes with the Louis XVI style. More on that another day. 

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