Rococo style art as a monarchy’s attestation of power and wealth

With the movement of Rococo Art that resonated in the luxurious decoration of royal palaces in 18th century France and the many portraits painted of nobles during the reign of Louis XV and Louis XIV, there is this evidence of great indulgence portrayed by this extravagant style of art. These indulging patterns displayed in the luxurious garments, decorations, and poses of aristocrats who paid high sums of money for their portraits to be painted, are argued to be one of many reasons for the growing unhappiness found within the French population during this time period which ultimately culminated with the French Revolution.

With a shift from an artist’s inspiration driving their creativity and production, instead, to a means of survival, requiring now a patron to sponsor their work, it is clear that there is more superficiality and aesthetic pleasure sought than depth or meaning by the artist in Rococo portraits especially. The portrayal of the Marquis de Pompadour (or Jeanne Antoinette Poisson) by Francois Boucher in his portrait displayed below is a great example of the asymmetrical and extravagant, ornate design and traits of Rococo paintings. Her green dress is riddled with detail seen in the folds, ruffles, and red decorative flowers and flows over the entire painting as she seems to be comfortably almost sprawled on her “throne” looking to the side with an air of contentment and richness.

The Marquis de Pompadour appears in several Rococo portraits done namely by Francois Boucher and reflect the possibility of ascending in status within a royal court by becoming the King’s mistress. She benefitted from all the extravagant luxuries as she was taken in as Louis XV’s mistress and went on to spread the Rococo decorative art movement by developing the manufactory of Sevres, which became a highly successful porcelain manufacturer in France and employed many skilled artists throughout the 18th century and in later years. She also had a great interest in literature  (influenced by Voltaire and vice versa) as can be seen in her pose in which she is holding a book and appears to be deep in thought, reflecting, almost, on her readings.

This noble woman was not the only symbol of indulgence, power, and wealth as Marie Antoinette’s lifestyle and portrayal in famous portraits both serve to surpass in indulgence Pompadour’s extravagant way of life. This surpassing is clearly seen with her additions to an already embellished and magnificent home, that being the Palace of Versailles. According to the Versailles tour readings, “ Si Madame de Pompadour, qui souhaitait « désennuyer le roi », fut l’instigatrice de ce petit château (Le petit trianon) que Gabriel édifia dans les années 1760, c’est le souvenir de Marie-Antoinette qui plane sur l’édifice”. Seen below is the Petit Trianon that Marie-Antoinette would come to see as her home away from an already distant home from her people in Versailles.

Finally, the “appartements de la Reine” are a great example, too, of not only the emphasis on detail (which was preceded by a Baroque art movement later replaced by the Rococo style), but also serves as a source of pride for the French monarchy whose lineage comes from the birth of its male heirs born in that very room and reflects the monarchy’s ability to afford such decoration and luxury.

Having visited this castle many times throughout my study abroad experience in Paris, I can certainly attest to a still present resentment of the French people toward such indulging tendencies of the Ancien Regime. The French Revolution is arguably an outcry for a move from such superficial emphases placed on wealth and aesthetic pleasure with this dominant Rococo style, to focusing more on the sharing of wealth and simply meeting the needs of a simpler people instead of overindulging.



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