The Rococo style of art emerged in France in the early 18th century as a continuation of the Baroque style. In contrast to the heavier themes and darker colors of the Baroque, the Rococo style was characterized by an opulence, grace, playfulness, and lightness. Rococo motifs focused on the carefree aristocratic life and on lighthearted romance rather than heroic battles or religious figures; they also revolve heavily around nature and exterior settings. In the mid-late 18th century, rococo was largely supplanted by the Neoclassic style.
The word Rococo is apparently a combination of the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style. Due to Rococo love of shell-like curves and focus on decorative arts, some critics used the term to derogatively imply that the style was frivolous or merely fashion; interestingly, when the term was first used in English in about 1836, it was a colloquialism meaning "old-fashioned". However, since the mid 19th century, the term has been accepted by art historians. While there is still some debate about the historical significance of the style to art in general, Rococo is now widely recognized as a major period in the development of European art.
Rococo developed first in the decorative arts and interior design. Louis XV's succession brought a change in the court artists and general artistic fashion. By the end of the old king's reign, rich Baroque designs were giving way to lighter elements with more curves and natural patterns. These elements are evident in the architectural designs of Nicolas Pineau. During the R�gence, court life moved away from Versailles and this artistic change became well established, first in the royal palace and then throughout French high society. The delicacy and playfulness of Rococo designs is often seen as a reaction to the excesses of Louis XIV's regime.
The 1730s represented the height of Rococo development in France. The style had spread...