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Rococo et fugacité du regard :émergence et modifications de la notion de ‹ papillotage ›

Bérangère Poulain

Published online:

30 Dec 2017



The word ‘papillotage’ was introduced into art discourse by Roger de Piles in the late seventeenth century. Then, and throughout the eighteenth century, the term referred to an unpleasant physiological effect on the eye (a flickering effect) created by a disordered pictorial composition or insufficient contrast between colors. From the mid-eighteenth century, however, the term acquired a second and vaguer meaning in the context of moralistic and critical discourses. Essentially, the term became synonymous with superficiality, instability, and frivolity. Used in diatribes against voluptuous paintings, ‘papillotage’ reflected an ideological posture. A similar use of the term is evident in historiographical discourses characterizing Rococo art.

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