Embarkation for Cythera

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Antoine Watteau, Embarkation for Cythera, 1710

The Rococo style emerged right in the middle of the Enlightenment, an era where religion was questioned and science took its place. Philosophers and scientists garnered respect and fame, entering the global stage as figures of authority. For once, religion fell to the wayside in favor of humanity and its comforts - specifically the lavish lifestyles of the wealthy. In all aspects of art, ranging from architecture to painting, the Rococo style celebrated glamour and was the first art style to so highly elevate nobility in such flamboyant manners.

Watteau paints these rich nobles in their expensive attire enjoying the beauty of nature and the beauty of their possessions. All around them the landscape is "blooming," filling the canvas entirely. In signature Rococo style, Watteau's Embarkation to Cythera was thought to be the re-discovery of sense of self and humanity. Sense of self was very important during this period, specifically through scientific humanism. Descartes describes this idea, declaring, "I resolve to seek no other knowledge than that which I find within myself, or perhaps in the great book of nature.” The Enlightenment was a time of great prosperity and decadence as the noblemen of France became able to show off their lives in art, gaining celebrity along the way. This piece is adorned with gold, soaked in color revealing the desire for human intimacy with one another and with nature. The figures in the scene prance around and enjoy each other’s company, in their own fairytale world that they made sure to have painted so that others can look on in envy.

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