Virtual: 18th-Century French Gallery

The Rococo period, as it came to be known, followed the unprecedented seventy-two-year reign of King Louis XIV over France. The Duke of Orléans and Louis XV, the respective successors to the king, both turned away from the piety of their predecessor and, together with the country’s elite, moved toward a love of excess, indulgence, and pleasure. Most members of French society, however, did not have the means to enjoy such luxuries, a disparity that led to social and political unrest.

The paintings and sculptures in this gallery reflect the dramatic state of this period. With their carefree subject matter, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s Shepherdess painting and Clodion’s sculptures of Greek nymphs and satyrs embrace the Rococo aesthetic, while Martin Drölling’s The Music Lesson subtly comments on the deprivation caused by the ensuing French Revolution.

Take a tour through the gallery and learn more about the works on view, with Tanya Paul, Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art. Press the play button above to begin.

  • Jean-Honoré Fragonard (French, 1732–1806), The Shepherdess, ca. 1750/52. Bequest of Leon Kaumheimer, M1974.64. Photo by John R. Glembin