ColorTherapy: A Few Notes on Rococo

While yet again playing hooky on the Upper East Side, I recently found myself at Rococo—The Continuing Curve at the Cooper Hewitt Museum. What got me going on this occasion was the unmistakable color of Sèvres porcelain, and the question of where that came from. But let’s back track a bit.

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Rococo as a period began under the Regency of Duc D’Orléans (1715-1723) and flourished under Louis XV. Rococo was feminine, soft, asymmetrical, curvaceous and playful—a pendulum-swing reaction to the heavy-handed masculinity of the Baroque/Louis XIV period before it. Though the Rococo style eventually spread to England, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, there is something about it that remains whimsically and quintessentially French.

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Simply put, the Rococo palette is blue, pink, pastel and gold, but at this point I’ll take my cues from a broader frame of reference as I try to be more specific. The Sèvres porcelain factory was established by Madame de Pompadour for Louis XV, to compete with the porcelain of Saxony. Color began with lapis, pink and daffodil, and expanded to include apple green, violet, royal blue, and what came to be know as “Pompadour Rose.”

François Boucher was a personal favorite of Mme de Pompadour and a court painter at Versailles. He caused a sensation at the court with his paintings of lush pastoral scenes, and was involved in the development of interiors and decorative objects for the royal apartments as well. We may still view the Boucher and Fragonard rooms at the Frick, which feature paintings by the artists mounted in boiserie painted in the typical Rococo color of celadon.

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We may also look for Rococo color cues at the royal apartments of the Petit Trianon at Versailles. These, too, were painted celadon, pale blue and pink with gold.

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Rococo—The Continuing Curve closes July 6.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

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