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Article

Hans Ottomeyer

The name derives from the first French Empire under Napoleon I (see Bonaparte family, §1). The dates defining the period of the Empire historically (1804–14) and the duration of the style itself are at variance: the early phase, referred to by contemporaries as ‘le goût antique’, was a late form of Neo-classicism and became more developed as the chaos resulting from the French Revolution subsided c. 1797. The Directoire style and the Consulate style—terms similarly derived from political periods in France—were both part of the development of the Empire style.

The term was originally applied to architecture, but because Napoleon rejected the building of new castles and palaces as wasteful, the style was especially used in interior design and decoration, later being extended to other decorative arts and fashion. There was strong conscious allusion to the civilization of imperial Rome through the building forms and motifs used by the first Roman emperors, who pursued goals of internal peace and a new order together with an expansionist military policy, as did Napoleon. Personal taste and comfort became of secondary importance to the demonstration of wealth and power. The Empire style spread throughout Europe and acquired fresh impetus with the Napoleonic conquests....

Article

Damie Stillman

Architectural and decorative arts style that flourished in the USA from shortly after the acknowledgement of independence in the Treaty of Paris (1783) until c. 1820. The term is derived from the period surrounding the creation of the federal constitution in 1787 and was in use in a political sense by that year. Essentially it was a form of Neo-classicism, strongly influenced by manifestations of that style in England and, to a lesser extent, in France; but at times certain more conservative qualities inherited from the previous Colonial period are also present. The inspiration of European, and especially English, Neo-classical architecture was to be expected in a society grounded in that of 18th-century England; but an added impetus was the association often cited at the time between the fledgling American republic and the ancient Roman one.

Although a few indications of European Neo-classical influence are found in the American colonies before the Revolution began in ...

Article

Rococo  

Richard John and Ludwig Tavernier

A decorative style of the early to mid-18th century, primarily influencing the ornamental arts in Europe, especially in France, southern Germany and Austria. The character of its formal idiom is marked by asymmetry and naturalism, displaying in particular a fascination with shell-like and watery forms. Further information on the Rococo can be found in this dictionary within the survey articles on the relevant countries.

Richard John

The nature and limits of the Rococo have been the subject of controversy for over a century, and the debate shows little sign of resolution. As recently as 1966, entries in two major reference works, the Penguin Dictionary of Architecture and the Enciclopedia universale dell’arte (EWA), were in complete contradiction, one altogether denying its status as a style, the other claiming that it ‘is not a mere ornamental style, but a style capable of suffusing all spheres of art’. The term Rococo seems to have been first used in the closing years of the 18th century, although it was not acknowledged by the ...

Article

revised by Margaret Barlow

A renewed interest among artists, writers, and collectors between c. 1820 and 1870 in Europe, predominantly in France, in the Rococo style in painting, the decorative arts, architecture, and sculpture. The revival of the Rococo served diverse social needs. As capitalism and middle-class democracy triumphed decisively in politics and the economy, the affluent and well-born put increasing value on the aristocratic culture of the previous century: its arts, manners and costumes, and luxury goods.

Among the earliest artists in the 19th century to appreciate and emulate 18th-century art were Jules-Robert Auguste (1789–1830), R. P. Bonington, Eugène Delacroix, and Paul Huet. For these young artists the Rococo was a celebration of sensual and sexual pleasure and a product of a free and poetic imagination. Looking particularly at the work of Watteau, they sought to reproduce the Rococo capacity for lyrical grace, its sophisticated understanding of colour, and its open, vibrant paint surfaces in their work. These qualities can be seen in such re-creations of 18th-century scenes as Eugène Lami’s ...