a history of western art

from the renaissance to the present

The French Baroque and Rococo


people, terms, and concepts: King Louis XIV, Apollo, absolutism, geocentrism, heliocentrism


This topic looks at the transition from the Baroque to the Rococo period in France, with special attention to the use of art to enhance the political power of the French monarchs.


          What is absolutism? How does it differ from democratic systems of government? How is it relevant to the history of art?

          How did French kings use the power of art, architecture, and design, and especially the ‘pomp and splendor’ Baroque style, to promote their political power?

          What are the differences between Baroque and Rococo art in terms of typical subject-matter, form or style, and purpose?


Fragonard, The Swing, French Rococo, 1767

How is this work typical of the Rococo stye in terms of both its subject and its style? How does Rococo art help to cement the reputation of the eighteenth-century French aristocracy as corrupt and interested only in their own pleasure?


Le Veau and Mansart,Versailles palace and gardens, 1678-85 (details below)

What are the key themes in the design of Louis XIV’s palace and gardens at Versailles, France? How do they promote the power of the King, and even suggest his divine right to rule?

Rubens, Henry IV receiving the portrait of Marie de’ Medici, Flemish Baroque, 1621-25

How did Rubens use the ‘pomp and splendor’ Baroque style to promote the power of French King Henri IV and his new wife Marie de’Medici? How does he use classical references to even suggest their divine right to rule?


Le Vau and Mansart, Details of Versailles:  the Orangerie, the Grand Canal, and the Fountain of Apollo, 1678-85

Boucher, The Shepherd's Presents, French Rococo, 1737


How is this work typical of the Rococo stye in terms of both its subject and its style? How does Rococo art help to cement the reputation of the eighteenth-century French aristocracy as corrupt and interested only in their own pleasure?