Literary Rococo: what it is, how it arose, characteristics, main works and authors


What was Rococo?

It was an artistic movement that was born in France, but it did not take long to develop in other areas of the European continent between 1730 and 1760. It is important to consider that it will have a great impact in different artistic fields, especially, and the one we will deal with on this occasion, in literature. It consisted of an independent style in which joy and festivity stand out in each of its manifestations.

Rococo was mainly characterized by including in its literary development themes related to love, which is why it was catalogued as an artistic movement interested in the mundane, away from religious influences and paying more attention to themes that are part of the life of human beings and their daily lives.

How did Rococo come about?

The origin of Rococo is located in the early seventeenth century during the transition period between the Baroque movement, which we have already discussed in depth in another section, and Neoclassical art. Although it coincides with the Baroque in terms of its interest in the use of details and ornaments, the Rococo will distinguish itself by including dramatism reflected in fun and pleasure.

As for the term rococo, it comes from rocaille, which refers to a kind of garden decoration using seashells and was widely used in France and Italy. The term was applied to the artistic movement because of its resemblance to the effects it sought for decoration. It was a movement interested in celebrating life, so that aspects such as joy, eroticism and humor were recurrent in its artistic and literary development.

On the other hand, it is possible to identify three events that motivated the emergence of this movement, on the one hand the death of King Louis XIV, also the influence of the Marquise de Pompadour, favorite of King Louis XV and finally the exchange of artists that took place within the courts of the European continent. Thus, a new way of making art arose that sought to delight the idle and affluent society, based on the different dimensions of art.

What was Rococo

Later, Rococo was seen as an unacceptable style, especially by Enlightenment thinkers such as Voltaire, who considered that reason should be above the passions, always taking care of the general good, which is why Rococo was accused of being immoral. This would be one of the main causes of its decline, diminished by philosophical and political thought, returning the art to the moral and the academy.

Development of Rococo in literature

Now, the development of rococo in literature concerns more recent dates where it was a very controversial style, having as first instance its development in Spanish literature, particularly in poetry with Joaquín Arce. One of the best known authors during the course of the trend was John Polt, who referred to the style as a lyrical poetry in which erotic, elegant and frivolous aspects are reinforced and exposed with dyes towards sensuality. It is important to remember that in this artistic field, it was a trend with light themes that was characterized by the use of a refined writing since it was especially addressed to the educated classes and in general, to the higher classes of society.

Main characteristics of Rococo

It is time to take a look at the most important distinctive features of this literary movement that took place after the Baroque and that had so much importance in the development of later literature. Among these main characteristics we find the following:

Rococo themes

We start from one of the central axes of its development and it has to do with the most used themes in this movement. In this case, the most frequent themes of his works were related to adventures of a sentimental nature, as well as amusing events of domestic life and the elite in leisure, pastoral scenes, among others. Most of their works were connected with their authors’ own experience.

Use of the festive

One of the main characteristics of Rococo art and literature is mainly related to the use of the festive and includes a humorous and humorous character. This is because it was a style in which the interest was in the expression of joy. For this he used the ornate, building environments that allowed him to give this impression.

Absence of solemnity

Another relevant aspect to be considered in this movement is the lack of solemnity. It is a style that seeks fun and mischief, which is why solemnity is left out and proposes a calm posture as opposed to the etiquette that was practiced by the elite.

Intention to amuse

Pleasure and grace were the main objectives of Rococo literature, which is why they use different elements of everyday life to reflect them. Although religious, historical and mythological themes were not totally absent, they were treated without falling into solemnity, so that their pedagogical and/or moralizing character were absent from these works.

Main Rococo works and authors

As for its most important authors, we find Friedrich Hagedorns, Salomon Gessner, Ewald Christian von Kleist, groups of poets from the University of Halle, such as Johann Wilhelm Ludwig Gleim, Johann Nikolaus Götz, Joaquín Arce, Johann Peter Uz, also Salomon Gessner, Friedrich Hagedorns, Ewald Christian von Kleist, among others.

Remember that if you want to know more about other trends, movements and in general, elements of literature, in our section dedicated to this artistic expression you can find much more information to continue learning.