The Rococo Style

In total contrast to Baroque, the Rococo style dances, plays itself out completely. Its lilting tones sing with the passion of the castrati, glorifying God with the fervor of an entire era.

This very fervor comes through in the work of the Venetian painter Jean-Baptiste Tiepolo, for instance in his "La Montée au Calvaire" (The Way to Calvary), one of the rare episodes of the Christian epic he chose to stage. What we see here goes counter to all that precedes it: gone from the scene are the dark-light essentiality, immobilism, silence and, above all, vital confidentiality between the viewer and the work. This work lives autonomously, exalting its own prowess, dancing and singing to its own glory.

Clearly, all the lines of this work progress upwards, towards the heights of Golgotha. The colors too - all the reds, blues, whites, golds, yellows, flesh colors in various shades - all progress upwards. The artist obviously enjoyed playing with space, producing something that is basically theatrical. In its contrast with the work of Caravaggio, Meylan, Guido Reni, van der Werff and Piazzetta, this painting serves as a masterful introduction to pictorial Rococo.

It also points the way to architecture: just as the Baroque paintings led us to the Il Gésu choir in Rome, so this painting by Tiepolo guides us to Rococo architecture, in particular as exemplified by Bavarian constructions. Here again, we will find ourselves far from the austere cult of the divine mystery. Instead, we will be confronted with works that translate a stylistic explosion accomplished with supreme mastery.


Distinguishing between Baroque and Rococo -The Rococo Style - The Age of Rocaille - Bavaria - Six Marvels in a Nutshell - A Foretaste of Paradise - In the Main Roles - The Fabulous 18th Century - 18th-Century Composers