Once the era of the absolute monarchs began to wane with the death of Louis XIV in 1715,  the severity of the Baroque visual image dissolved. The Rococo style of the eighteenth century reflected a newly found sense of casual elegance. Increases in capitalism and technology offered the upper class more leisure time. Rather than painting dark images of dirty commoners, artists focused on narratives of elegant parties in the countryside for the interior decoration of the homes of the aristocrats.


Jean-Antoine Watteau’s The Pilgrimage of Cythera, 1717, depicts couples wrapping up a day of love on Cythera, the isle of Venus. A statue of Venus, at far left, oversees the couples. The sun is beginning to set and the lovers are getting up and heading back to port for the journey home.

This category of content was named fete champetre or countryside party. Anatomy? Figures have no bone or muscle. Proportion? Their heads are very small and bodies elongated, as if porcelain dolls. Mass? They have no hills and valleys and seem to float across the composition. Dress or Drapery? Watteau represented drapery as the beautiful patterns, textures, and colors of the silks and satins resemble fashion illustrations rather than clothing as worn. Botany? The trees are fuzzy and, like fingers, seem to wrap around the figures visually pushing them back to port. Geography? The landscape is fictional with rolling terrain that appears more graceful than substantial. Physics? Light and shade are well done. The melting sunshine is beautifully reflected in the water. Overall, the motivation of Rococo artists was fantasy/virtual reality. This is a painting of a realm of escape from social and objective reality. While not directly representing the Geist of the 18th century, it represents an aesthetic reaction against the true turmoils of life as lived.