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In certain fields (particularly architecture, the decorative arts and painting) a century of baroque eventually proves too rich a diet. The reaction, beginning in France in the early 18th century, is to take it all rather more lightly - in the double sense of more frivolously and with a lighter decorative line.

The word rococo is believed to derive from the French rocaille, used of the fanciful shell patterns which decorate the grottoes of the time. Enchantment and delight provide the new mood, replacing the emotion and extravagance of the 17th century. But this is refinement rather than revolution. Severity is not yet back in fashion.

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