80 (2017), Heft 4

Themenschwerpunkt:                                                                Penser le rococo                                               Gastherausgeber/innen: Carl Magnusson und Marie-Pauline Martin

Carl Magnusson (The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA, USA) : Le rococo, une construction historiographique : introduction

Marie-Pauline Martin (Le Musée de la musique, Paris, Frankreich) : ‹ Rococo › : du jargon à la catégorie de style

Today there is a consensus on the definition of the term ‘rococo’: it designates a style both particular and homogeneous, artistically related to the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. But we must not forget that in its primitive formulations, the rococo has no objective existence. As a witty, sneering, and impertinent word, it can adapt itself to the most varied discourses and needs, far beyond references to the eighteenth century. Its malleability guarantees its sparkling success in different languages, but also its highly contradictory uses. By tracing the genealogy of the word ‘rococo’, this article will show that the association of the term with the century of Louis XV is a form of historical discrimination that still prevails widely in the history of the art of the Enlightenment.

Catherine Thomas-Ripault (Université de Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, Frankreich) : Evasion temporelle et fantaisie créatrice : usage des peintures du XVIIIe siècle dans les fictions romantiques

After 1830, many Romantic authors, inspired by the delicate and poetic paintings of the eighteenth century, endeavored to recreate their mood in novels or short stories. Through those pictorial representations, they imagined a blithe, refined, and dreamlike world, tinged with melancholy, allowing them to forget their own colorless time and express a degree of nostalgia for a bygone age. In the style of Rococo painters, however, Romantics also emphasized imperfection and weakness, gently mocking the ornate and frivolous forms the eighteenth-century artists played with. From their perspective, Rococo art therefore remained in an inferior position within the artistic hierarchy. Its singular forms, however, echoed their own quest for fancy and originality, and ultimately enabled them to depart from earlier Romanticism.

Etienne Tornier (Musée des Arts décoratifs et du Design, Bordeaux, Frankreich) : « This new-born word is rococo ». Généalogie et fortune du rococo aux États-Unis

This article deals with the use of the term ‘rococo’ in the English language and more specifically in the United States, where it is today used to describe both the style of eighteenth-century cabinetmakers, and American mid-nineteenthcentury furniture. Yet, the term was not favored by furniture makers and dealers before the end of the nineteenth century. Offering a precise analysis of the roots of the term in the United States, this article sheds light on its semantic evolution since the 1830s, through a variety of sources including newspapers, art journals, and ephemera, and in relation with the fluctuating taste of middle- and upper-class American households throughout the nineteenth century.

Jean-François Bédard (Syracuse University, NY, USA) : La vitalité du décor : Fiske Kimball, du rococo au Colonial Revival

In 1943, the American historian of architecture Fiske Kimball (1888 – 1955) published The Creation of the Rococo, a milestone in the study of this movement. Thanks to a close examination of archival documents and drawings, Kimball sought to trace ‘objectively’ the evolution of the rocaille. Despite his claims to scholarly neutrality, however, Kimball multiplied value judgments in his writings. For Kimball, the rococo exhibited “vitality”, a quality he also found in the classical-inspired buildings of colonial America. Like other members of the conservative establishment, Kimball promoted these – and, more generally, the work of American Renaissance architects – as the only legitimate forms of contemporary architecture. The ‘vitality’ of Kimball’s rococo thus matched the one Anglo-Protestant elites celebrated in the Colonial Revival, a style they espoused to combat the ‘impurity’ of cosmopolitan Modernism.

Carl Magnusson (The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA, USA) : Le rococo est-il décoratif ?

In Rococo historiography, the first half of the eighteenth century is generally described as the golden age par excellence of decoration. The so-called major arts are often considered to have played a lesser role in its artistic development. The period is thus systematically associated with artefacts produced by artisans, hence belonging to a less dignified category in the artistic hierarchy. In order to investigate the ideological background of this assumption, the article focuses on the debates on art which emerged, mainly in France, in the 1740s. These highly biased discourses, targeting the so-called bad taste of contemporary French painting and interior decoration, shaped a vision of the first half of the eighteenth century of which many aspects were later inherited by Rococo historiography, especially in its relation to decoration.

David Pullins (The Frick Collection, New York, NY, USA) : “Quelques misérables places à remplir”. Locating Shaped Painting in Eighteenth-Century France

This article addresses in depth for the first time the irregularly shaped canvases known as tableaux chantournés (cut-out paintings) that were produced in vast numbers by leading academicians between the 1730s and 1750s and occupy a tenuous place between fine and applied or decorative arts. Through an examination of the term’s first uses in regard to painting and eighteenth-century critics’ responses to these works, tableaux chantournés are positioned as a means of rethinking the extraction of painting from a richer visual field and the relationship of this medium-specific agenda to the historiography of the rococo.

Bérangère Poulain (Université de Genève, Schweiz) : Rococo et fugacité du regard : émergence et modifications de la notion de ‹ papillotage ›

The word ‘papillotage’ was introduced into art discourse by Roger de Piles in the late seventeenth century. Then, and throughout the eighteenth century, the term referred to an unpleasant physiological effect on the eye (a flickering effect) created by a disordered pictorial composition or insufficient contrast between colors. From the mid-eighteenth century, however, the term acquired a second and vaguer meaning in the context of moralistic and critical discourses. Essentially, the term became synonymous with superficiality, instability, and frivolity. Used in diatribes against voluptuous paintings, ‘papillotage’ reflected an ideological posture. A similar use of the term is evident in historiographical discourses characterizing Rococo art.


Laurence Terrier Aliferis, L’imitation de l’Antiquité dans l’art médiéval (1180–1230) (Répertoire iconographique de la littérature du Moyen Âge, Études du RILMA, vol. 7) (Paul Williamson, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Großbritannien)

Jérôme Delaplanche, Un tableau n’est pas qu’une image. La reconnaissance de la matière de la peinture en France au XVIIIe siècle (Christoph Martin Vogtherr, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Deutschland)

Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Monumenti antichi inediti spiegati ed illustrati, Roma 1767. Text, hg. von Adolf H. Borbein und Max Kunze | Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Monumenti antichi inediti spiegati ed illustrati, Roma 1767. Kommentar, hg. von Adolf H. Borbein, Max Kunze und Axel Rügler (Martin Dönike, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg, Deutschland)

Guillaume Cassegrain, La coulure. Histoire(s) de la peinture en movement, XIe – XXIe siècles (Anna Degler, Freie Universität Berlin, Deutschland)