Understanding the rococo style is not easy. Reading Fiske Kimball on rococo is even denser. If you are in New York and have the opportunity to get to Christie’s before April 14, I strongly recommend a visit to see the rococo brackets (Lot 200) that Christie’s attributes to Matthias Locke based on a 1752 drawing by him. Locke’s ability to understand and execut e rococo design is magnificent.
I would suggest to anyone trying to appreciate the rococo style that they focus on structure and how the visual weight of a rococo object is sustained. When it works well, the object has a certain weightlessness, or more accurately, the object has enough drama so that it doesn’t need supporting. For anyone that really wants to be wowed by rococo, a visit to Claydon House is a must as there are roomfuls of it.
I recoiled from the rococo style when I first came upon it in the 1970’s. I thought it frou-frou, kitsch, frivolous and marginal. I didn’t get it at all. Well it can be frivolous, and frou-frou and even kitsch, but if it is done well, it is never marginal. Not unlike any style that is debased by bad copies, rococo really suffers when it is poorly executed. Every style needs to be done well and when it is, it really sings. But rococo is fabulously beautiful when everything is right. By everything, I mean the craftsmanship and design have to be intensely symbiotic. Look at the Thomas Johnson candlestands in the Philadelphia Museum of Art with stalactites, stalagmites, dolphins and scrolls. As Martina Gruenewald my intern says, “they look like they were born, not made”.