Rococo is sometimes called Late Baroque. It is an exceptionally ornamental and theatrical style of architecture, art, and decoration. Rococo architecture and Rococo art combine asymmetry, scrolling curves, gilding, white and pastel colors, sculpted molding, and more to create a surprising illusion of motion and drama.
Many historians call it the final expression of the baroque movement. The rococo style began in France in 1730 as a reaction against the more formal and geometric Louis XIV style. Initially, it was known as the French rocaille style. Soon after, it spread to other parts of Europe, namely Austria, northern Italy, southern Germany, Russia, and Central Europe.
Quick History of Rococo Architecture
We said before that initially, it was called rocaille architecture or rocaille style. It was used as an amusing variation of the French word rocaille, which involved using little rocks and seashells as adornment in decorative arts. The term rocaille was popular since the Renaissance. Here is a quick history of the Rococo style.
- Originating in Paris in the 1730s as a response to the style of Louis XIV, especially the geometric aesthetic popularized by the king of France. Rococo on the other hand was more playful, ornamental, and full of gilded objects
- One of the first Rococo architect designers was Germain Boffrand, who designed the mansion Hotel de Soubise, emerging as one of France’s prominent architects
- Rococo era started in a more secular style in homes, where it flourished as interior decoration for entertaining salons. But it then extended to more spiritual buildings, influencing churches built during that period in Portugal and South America
- By the end of the 18th century, Late Baroque style architecture was less in demand
- In opposition to Rococo, the neoclassical style emerged, making way for symmetrical columns, buildings, and pieces
Main Characteristics of Rococo Style
Before we take a look at some of the notable buildings from the Rococo period, let’s talk about what made the architectural style stand out. Here are some of the main Rococo features.
- Curves, the style had a frilly style replete with serpentine curves, spirals, and more serving as an opposite to straight lines of French classicism
- Sense of awe, Rococo interior would surprise and delight you. During this style, even a grand staircase could become a centerpiece of a room. Or a ceiling painting could become the most important part of the room
- Stucco, the common material, could be molded to a shape and design to awe the viewer
- Pastel colors, a key element of Rococo design was the brightness of pastel colors, a palette consisting of a few powdery hues, including cream tones, light yellow, lilac, pale blue, and more
- Asymmetry, the style featured asymmetrical flourished on everything from trimming to Rococo furniture pieces
- Nature and elements of wildlife, both flora and fauna become important parts of Rococo paintings
- Trompe l’oeil, this is a French word for “deceive the eye”, was a standard artistic device employed to give perspective to fine art. It suggested depth in two-dimensional painting or created the illusion of motion in static artworks
Now that we explained the Rococo architecture history and its main features, let’s take a look at some of the notable Rococo buildings.
Fun fact: only one letter can make a huge difference. This building from Rococo history is a great example. Amalienborg is the winter home of the Danish royal family located in Copenhagen, Denmark.
It consists of four identical classical palace facades with a rococo interior. It was originally built for four noble families.
Read on to see how one letter makes a difference.
See? Instead of “o” we have “u”, and it is a completely different building. Amalienburg is a hunting lodge built in Munich’s Nymphenburg Palace Park. It is one of the best examples of the German rococo style.
Constructed in 1730, the ornate interior design features gilded curves.
The ceiling of this famous Italian palace exemplifies the aesthetic of the Rococo period. Frescoes on the ceiling of Ca’ Rezzonico feature theatrical tableaux and trompe l’oeil that are typical for Rococo art.
Palace of Versailles
This might come as a surprise, but many parts of Versailles demonstrate Rococo style. No, the entire building is not an example of Rococo-style architecture.
But some parts, including the dramatic statues in the garden’s fountains and the rich decorations in the salon, are.
Another building in Munich serves as an example. St. Johan Nepomuk, or known as the Asam Church is located in Munich, southern Germany. Built from 1733 to 1746 as a private church, brothers Egid Quarin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam had to make it accessible to the public following resistance of citizens.
It is widely considered the most important building of the main representatives of southern German Late Baroque.
The 18t8-century magnate’s mansion in Warsaw, Poland is one of three with the same name in Warsaw. The rococo palace was inspired by French palaces.
The layout of the palace was shaped like a horseshoe with a central part and two side wings. The main entrance was decorated with a portico of four columns that had sculptures on the top.
The building was damaged and burned down in 1939 during World War II. But it was completely restored and rebuilt in 1967 based on paintings by Bernardo Bellotto.
Another German palace, this one is located in Schloss, southwest Bavaria. It is the smallest of the three palaces built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
It is much smaller than Versailles, but it is evident that the French Palace served as an inspiration. For example, the staircase is a reduction of the famous Ambassador’s staircase in Versailles.
The Polish library was built in Warsaw from 1747 to 1795 by Josef Andrzej Zaluski and his brother. Both were Roman Catholic bishops. The library was the first Polish public library and the largest in Poland.
It was also one of the early public libraries in Europe.
The Rococo palace in the town of Tsarskoye Selo is 25km southeast of St. Petersburg, Russia. It served as the summer residence of Russian tsars.
The largest palace in Berlin, Germany, and the only surviving royal residence in the city dating back to the Hohenzollern family.
Built at the end of the 17th century, it was greatly expanded during the 18th century. The palace includes exotic internal decorations in both baroque and rococo styles.
The magnificent Rococo church in Copenhagen, Denmark, was built between 1754 and 1759. Originally built by the German community as a church, it served that purpose until the end of the 19th century. Today, it is a regular parish church within the Danish National Church.
The main summer residence of the Habsburg rulers in Vienna has its roots in Rococo history. The name Schönbrunn translates to beautiful spring.
It is a 1,441 room Rococo palace, making it one of the most important architectural, cultural, and historic monuments in history.
The history of Schönbrunn Palace spans over 300 years, reflecting the life of successive Habsburg monarchs.
The 18th-century palace in Warsaw, Poland, takes an unusual name from its copper roof. It is a rarity in the first half of the 18th century.
Since 1989 the palace is a branch of the Royal Castle Museum.
The historic former picture palace built in 1929 was closed in 1970. It was then restored and reopened in 1996 as a live theatre in Melbourne, Australia.
The building has several styles, including a Gothic-style lobby, Spanish baroque style plaza ballroom, and more.
Another name for this rococo building is Old Residence Theatre. A former court theatre of the Residenz in Munich, the space is decorated in red and gold.
One of the notable features is the Electoral loge opposite the stage extending from the second to the third tier.