Intimate and ornate, rococo design has long been associated with feminine taste. Madame de Pompadour, the official mistress of Louis XV, was one of the supreme patrons of the rococo style. In 1990 artist Cindy Sherman pictured herself as Madame de Pompadour, emblazoning her image on a porcelain tureen commissioned by Artes Magnus. The curvaceous female form is a recurring image across the history of rococo-inspired art and ornament, from the glowing maidens seen in paintings by François Boucher to the sensuous muses that grace the Art Nouveau posters of Alphonse Mucha.

Before the twentieth century, women had little opportunity to actively create works of design and decorative art outside the areas of domestic handicraft. Today, women have taken a place among the world’s most innovative and influential designers. Cooper-Hewitt’s exhibition Rococo: The Continuing Curve, 1730—2008 includes work by over a dozen women who, as creators and co-creators, have participated in an ongoing rebellion against the static, the formal, and the classical in favor of the sensual, organic, and sinuous.

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