Hello everyone. I’m Caleb May, Mary’s stepson. First, I want to thank my mum for giving me a chance to add my two cents on her blog and thank all of you for taking the time to keep up with her blog. She works hard and diligently, and I know how much she appreciates your support in a craft she truly loves.
Second, Mary has a teaching style that is personal and real. She engages the audience with candor in a way you can sense. I want to assure you, it is not my goal to change this dynamic nor do I wish to promote myself as any kind of expert. Being new to the world of woodcarving myself, I simply had a few questions. What exactly is a “cartouche” (my dad, Stephen, says “bless you” every time we say the word) and what’s this “Philadelphia Highboy” I keep hearing about (I hear the term so often I think I’m starting to develop a twitch)? Seriously though, I enjoyed what I learned and upon sharing the information with Mary, we decided you might also enjoy the tidbits we gleaned.
Lastly, I am anxious to get your feedback so be free with your opinion and any knowledge you may have and maybe we can learn a little more together.
During the course of the “Carving a Cartouche” video lesson, I decided to satisfy my curiosity with a little research, during my designated breaks, of course (actually it took me the better part of a day). Mary agreed to let me exercise a little creative freedom at the beginning of Episode 1 and the result was a brief, slideshow that hit a few key points which came full circle in a way we found satisfying. But what of the mysterious “kidney shape” in the Rococo style ornament? Today, we’ll explore a little history, and tomorrow, I’ll lead you through a few of my theories regarding the origin of the central feature of the lesson which has garnered so much interest.
Wedged between the Baroque and Neoclassical periods, the Rococo period spanned over one-and-a-half centuries of art in all its forms (approximately 1600-1770). I have two words for you: fabric and motion. Somewhere between Baroque and Rococo, artists perfected the depiction of fabrics and their natural drapes, wrinkles, and folds. They flowed more naturally instead of appearing stiff and forced. The grand gestures, of the Baroque subjects became playful, natural motions you might see in real life. Not everyone has seen a rearing horse or angel on the wing, but most people can relate to a lady on a swing, her slipper thrown from her foot by inertia.
The Rococo was a creative dive into the deep end for music, painting, sculpture, woodworking, architecture, design, and even theatre. As with most new styles of art, the Rococo was considered controversial and extreme; a mockery of the current Baroque. In the picture above, a woman of her time would be scandalized for baring her ankle, let alone her leg, and certainly to a man on the ground who stares so openly in the sight of witnesses. The style favored asymmetry over rigid structure, the flowing whimsy and meandering detail of nature over the broad, no-nonsense angles of architecture. Expansive natural scenery invaded the epic, stand-alone figures mounting clouds in Baroque sky-scapes. The new style exaggerated Baroque forms which, are noted to this day for the indisputable use of dramatic gesture and palpable tension. The Rococo style pressed beyond the boundaries of an already grand style to become something wittier, more ornate, playful, and arguably impractical. It grew in popularity as the avant-garde style of its time.
“So… About that kidney shape.” We’ll get there, I promise. I have three theories. Tune in tomorrow for our conclusion.
– Caleb May