Before Neo-classicism

By the 1720s European taste was embracing the looser, curvaceous lines of rococo decoration. Rococo style, called ‘modern' at the time, was lively and charming, dominated by asymmetric scrolls and naturalistic forms. Originating in France, the designs were used predominantly in the decorative arts, particularly by ceramic manufacturers, silversmiths and in the textile industry. Rococo forms, derived from nature, mixed well with sinuous Chinese motifs, creating Chinoiserie. This was a decorative interpretation of what people believed represented the style of the Orient, and popular among those keen to display their good taste.

However, by the middle of the century, rococo began to be seen as decadent. A desire for the ‘purer' ideas and designs of the ancient world and renaissance emerged, and, based on surviving neo-Palladian principles, a revival of true classicism began.  

 

Images

An illustration from an 18th century design manual showing the 'Chinese' forms favoured in chinois

An illustration from an 18th century design manual showing the 'Chinese' forms favoured in chinois