Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A style of decorative art associated with the rococo and characterized by intricate rock, shell, and scroll motifs.
  • noun Decorative rockwork, often incorporating these motifs.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In gardening, rockwork; especially rockwork that does not attempt to imitate the natural formation of rocks, but combines pebbles, shells, etc., into conventional figures of sea-gods, dolphins, or marine and rustic ornaments for the decoration of grottoes, fountains, etc.
  • noun The scroll ornament of the eighteenth century, and especially of the epoch of Louis XV., combining forms apparently based on those of water-worn rocks and those of shells or deduced from them. See rococo.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun Artificial rockwork made of rough stones and cement, as for gardens.
  • noun The rococo system of scroll ornament, based in part on the forms of shells and water-worn rocks.

Etymologies

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[French, rock fragments, rocaille, from Old French, rocky ground : roc, rock; akin to roche, rock (from Vulgar Latin *rocca) + -aille, collective and pejorative suff. (from Latin -ālia, neuter pl. of -ālis, adj. suff.)]

Examples

  • French Rococo came to creation during the late 17th and late 18th centuries, with the word originating from a combination of the French word "rocaille," or shell, and the Italian "barocco," or Baroque style.

    WN.com - Business News

  • French Rococo came to creation during the late 17th and late 18th centuries, with the word originating from a combination of the French word "rocaille," or shell, and the Italian "barocco," or Baroque style.

    WN.com - Business News

  • Although a bit overly restored for my taste, it bears witness to a naturalist style in French decorative arts known as rocaille which came to its apogee during the reign of Louis XV (1715-1774).

    Beth Arnold: Letter From Paris: Art Market Buzz

  • Although the rocaille style would soon begin to see its demise (ironically, with Joseph at the helm in the creation of severely neoclassical furniture) the asymmetrical cartouche flanked by "wet leaves" and c scrolls crowning the top drawer draw directly from its repertoire.

    Beth Arnold: Letter From Paris: Art Market Buzz

  • The pavilion, built of stone in the taste of Mansard, wainscoted and furnished in the Watteau style, rocaille on the inside, old-fashioned on the outside, walled in with a triple hedge of flowers, had something discreet, coquettish, and solemn about it, as befits a caprice of love and magistracy.

    Les Miserables

  • The name, first used in the 19th century, combines the French rocaille, from the shell-embedded rocky grottoes popular in design and illustration, with the Italian barocco, the elaborate 17th-century Baroque that replaced a more restrained Renaissance classicism, to suggest a freely fluid alliance of nature and art.

    The Lure of the Curve

  • The rocaille (shell) ornament on the Chippendale as well as the cabriole leg copied from Italy and France, and the Dutch foot from

    The Art of Interior Decoration

  • They fitted naturally into the developing _rocaille_ style (corrupted into Rococo outside of France), and it is not surprising that they were also produced extensively in Paris.

    John Baptist Jackson 18th-Century Master of the Color Woodcut

  • This was in keeping with the delicate French _rocaille_ tradition on which Papillon was nurtured; to him any other contemporary style of book decoration was evidence of bad taste.

    John Baptist Jackson 18th-Century Master of the Color Woodcut

  • After the death of its owner society, in a fit of madness, plunged into the _rocaille_.

    The House in Good Taste

Comments

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  • But conversant as she was with the decorative arts of France, Auntie Mame's heart was more with the Bauhaus of Munich than with the rocaille and coquaille.

    For a time, however, she was able to fight down her progressive impulses and string along with the staff at Elsie de Wolfe's, chirping prettily over dim ormolu wall sconces and inaccurate cupid clocks.

    Patrick Dennis, Auntie Mame (New York: Broadway Books, 2001), p. 43 (orig. pub. 1955)

    June 1, 2016