The 18th century. Men wore wigs. Powdered. Women wore gowns that changed their natural forms so much they needed double doors to walk through and an army of servants to get dressed. A hoop gown like that could help to fit out a dozen basketball courts.
By the middle of the century, Barocco (which was the style, the trend, the it-thing for more than a hundred years in those countries that had been looking up to the Pope for guidance despite all the protestant media buzz) was giving way to Rococo. Everything remained basically the same, except women were allowed to use some rogue on their cheeks, and the palette shifted more to the pastel range. Barocco was an Italian child; Rococo was a product of decadent France. A great export product, by the way. It was the UNNATURAL age of exaggerated feelings, magnified passions, and elegance blown up out of proportion to the extent that only artificiality was seen as not vulgar and acceptable.
It was the age when men were buying not perfume for their ladies, but vessels to carry it. Like this one, modelled on a pistol:
Were it advertised today, the poster would say something like:
“Rococo Perfume Holder. To hold smells that shoot right through the heart.”
Visual arts were fast to jump on the Rococo wagon of sexual dreams and carnal desires. Alas, German manufacturers were often faster than Rococo’s French fathers to churn out things that were catering to the “Rococovian” tastes. Germans at Meissen porcelain factory were minting out figurines that were the perfect illustration of the spirit of Rococo.
No symmetry. Lots of gold. Ironic smirk at the subject matter and life in general. Passion. Pastel colours. Floral explosion. The peak of Rococo.
A man is about to erotically grasp the left breast of a musically inspired lady. Today, we are more likely to see a lady trying to seduce a man playing a computer game. I wonder what kind of a figurine that would be!
A lady with the fashionable accessories of the times: a black servant and a lap-dog.
German manufacture has always been efficient. Use the same chassis for Audi, VW and Porsche, just name the features differently. Here, it is basically the same lady, but in a different story.
The dog seems to be dangerously jealous about who’s got the right to slobber the lady’s hand. The gentleman does look more than a bit cautious. He’s yet to earn the right to grab the left breast and keep both of his arms unbitten.
Moneywise. A Meissen figurine like that made in the 20th century, would cost about € 1K to 5K; a 19th century copy would set you back € 5K to 15K; 18th century originals can be found anywhere between € 50K and the record €650K. Today, the cunning Meissen produces 2 to 5 “art series” figurines a year to support their prices.
Yet, there was one Rococo area the French were holding firmly at their hands: painting. It was not about manufactuing things. But that’s a different story.
P.S. Figurines in this post were taken unawares at the Geneva museum for ceramics and glass. Even some ancient porcelain can be interesting and funny, when you know from which angle to look at it.