In the Name of RococoAuthor(s): Nicholas NewmanSource: RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics,No. 40 (Autumn, 2001), pp. 129-134Published by: The University of Chicago Press on behalf of the Peabody Museum ofArchaeology and EthnologyStable URL: Accessed: 28-12-2018 02:57 UTCJSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a widerange of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity andfacilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available atPeabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, The University of Chicago Pressarecollaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to RES: Anthropology andAestheticsThis content downloaded from 22.214.171.124 on Fri, 28 Dec 2018 02:57:39 UTCAll use subject to
In the name of rococoNICHOLAS NEWMANThe jumble called rococo is, in general, detestable. A parrotseems to have invented the word, and the thing is worthy ofhis tawdriness and his incoherence.Leigh Hunt, 1855]Like Gothic, baroque, neoclassical, and Impressionist, theword rococo began as a pejorative expression. But unlikethose terms, it has not completed its evolution and becomemerely descriptive or honorific, as words signifying an ageor a style, or both.William Park, 19922When reviewing the scholarly literature on artisticpractice in the early eighteenth century, one cannot helpbut be struck by the anxious need of each writer, as ifundergoing a rite of passage, to grapple with themeaning of the name assigned to this period, rococo. Allacknowledge that, at the earliest, the word was coinedin the last decade of the style's currency, the 1750s, withmost scholars postdating the term's invention to the lateeighteenth or even nineteenth century. Since most arthistorians also date their academic discipline's currentform to the decades of the 1750s and 1760s, withJohann Joachim Winckelmann figured as a founder, itmight be worth interrogating the uniquely closehistorical concurrence of the naming of a particular stylewith the naming of a new field of study that conjoinedfor the first time the terms art and history.Upon such scrutiny, the concept rococo appears tobe a foundational figure required to anchor art historicaldiscourses; the core of this article will discuss the waysin which its visual and textual dimensions findcondensation in the word rococo itself, such that theword bears the marks of its own forging. The word isneither singular nor even a thing, and may be incapableof becoming "merely descriptive or honorific"; rather, itis an event. It is critical to suspend the search for whatmeaning resides in the term rococo by insteadinterrogating what is done in the name of rococo.