ococo was a style in architecture which was born in France in the 18th
century. The style received its name in the 19th century from French émigrés
to designate the noble elegance and aristocracy of the Old French Architecture
as opposite to the succeeding more simple new styles. The style name was
probably derived from the French words rocaille and coquille
(rock and shell) – natural forms prominent in the Italian Baroque decorations
of interiors and gardens. The name fits a life without worry, refined and
gallant, closely related to nature. In fact this style was an inheritor
of the French baroque (French Classicism) and was regarded either as an
evolution or a degeneration of the Baroque. The first expression of the
Rococo was the transitional régence style which began towards the
end of the reign of Louis XIV and was interrupted by the 1789 French Revolution.
However, it was widely spread in Europe and reaching Germany and Austria
found a most favorable ground. It was less popular in Italy and England.
It is believed that the engravings of Juste Aurèle Meissonier and
Nicolas Pineau contributed to the spreading of the style throughout Europe.
In contrast to the heavy
Baroque plasticity and grandiloquence, straight and stiff lines, Rococo
created a dream world using reflections and mirrors to blur limits and
fitting harmoniously in the landscape. The stern geometrical lines and
forms were substituted or completely superseded by curves or counter curves
and interruptions reminding the irregular and undulated shape of the shells
and sea stones. All the simple laws and rules had been set aside in favor
of free and enchanting imaginativeness.
As its effect was less pronounced
on architectural construction than elsewhere, some believe that Rococo
is not so much a real style, as a new kind of decoration. Indeed, most
influenced by this style were the interior arrangements and the decorative
arts. That is the reason why Rococo is less associated with garden art
than with sculpture, painting, tapestry or any other fine art.
Nevertheless, there are still
existing marvelous examples of the Rococo garden art created in different
parts of Europe. They were designed using a combination between the formality
of long vistas and geometric patterns with informal winding paths, off-centered
design thus reaching a “regular irregularity”, elegance and freedom.
Probably due to the relatively
short duration of this period many of the Rococo gardens did not survive
till now. Others were restored or are undergoing restoration with guidance
from the archeological excavations and preserved paintings with the aid
of heritage institutions. Remarkable examples of Rococo gardens represent
the Painswick Rococo garden in Britain, the Boboli gardens in France, Charlottenburg
and Potsdam gardens in Germany, Schönbrunn
gardens in Austria, etc.