Sunday, February 26, 2012

Imported Prints: Rococo

Above: two rococo prints as quilt borders
Watching Downton Abbey occasionally inspires me to toss out the American walnut pie safe and buy a Rococo Revival armoire. It's highly unlikely---but I have been noticing more Rococo design in antique fabrics.

The Drawing Room at the real castle
was decorated in the 19th century,
an example of Rococo revival.

The footed vase is a staple of rococo design

Rococo (pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable) is a style of European decoration---high fashion in the 18th century there and lagging behind a few decades here.  It's characterized by a plethora of pattern---layers of decorated surfaces, in particular shell-like shapes. The word Rococo, applied in the 19th century when the revivals began, is thought be a combination of French and Italian from the French rocaille for stones and coquilles for shell, a play on the word Baroque.

My grandmother loved this look.  (Probably why I collect plain walnut pie cupboards.) William Morris was not fond of it either.

Characteristics include the scroll, the s-curve, the double s-curve, trailing ribbons, gold leaf, the illusion of net and the cartouche...
Cartouche- a scrolling frame

Cartouches & Baskets

Many of the furnishing-scale prints, the chintzes, of the 1800-1820 era show rococo influence.

Above are two small scraps from a quilt finished in the year Britain's Princess Charlotte died, 1817. The quilt was shown at the New England Quilt Museum last summer.

If you want a good stash of early prints look for cartouches, scrolls,

and curves.

Rococo detail is not a good clue to date since it's been revived so many times.

But it is a definite look in early 19th century chintzes

This John Hewson vase printed in Philadelphia
about 1800 shows a European rococo influence.

So where are you going to find rococo repros? The look is popular in decorating weight prints
and check out Kaari Meng's Paniers des Fleurs for French General and Moda.

The irony in the old quilts---in case you haven't noticed it---is the combination of the over-the-top rococo prints with simple and direct patchwork. 

A quilt probably from the 1840s
 with a border chintz in courtly Rococo style
 and blocks in Germanic folk art style

Read more about Rococo at these links:

The Cooper Hewitt Museum had an exhibit a few years ago:

Heckscher, Morrison H. "American Rococo". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003)

"Identifying Stylistic Trends in 18th Century Dress Silks" by Sherri Shokler

Knowing more about Rococo style explains some of those strange shapes that float through chintzes.

1 comment:

gaye ingram said...

Barbara, particularly enjoyed this installment. Appreciate the references. And love the period.

BTW you could buy a Louisiana Creole armoire that is more chaste than English high rococo style, but still somehow romantic in spirit. Closer to your walnut pie safes. I say go for it. Or a second Empire piece. Quilts really deserve such housing.