We continue this week with Part II of our history of French furniture…a brief overlook at some key changes and events that lead to many of the pieces on our website today; from Rococo to Country Farmhouse, it all has a history and story.
Last week we ended Part I on the beginnings of Baroque, perfect to lead into our addition of 3 new stunning Baroque ranges just before the New Year in white, silver and gold leaf. For those that haven’t given those a look yet, they are perhaps the most ornate and lavish collections we offer. We resume onward from Baroque in 1715, with the start of Regency:
1715-1723 — Regency Style
When Louis XIV died in 1715 his five year old great-grandson whose parents and brother had already passed away, became Louis XV. He was too young at the time to take the throne, so his Uncle Philippe the Duke of Orleans was appointed Regent until the King attained legal majority in 1723. This transitional period between the opulent baroque period and the less formal rococo era of Louis XV became known as French Regence.
Design during the Regency era came to focus on being more practical and comfortable for every day use. The beginnings of the Louis XV style started here, with the flowing curves, scallop shell and acanthus leaf we associate with the Rococo style becoming prominent.
1723-1774 — Louis XV Style – Rococo
Regarded by many as the Golden Age of French furniture, Louis XV’s reign was a time of peace and prosperity, and soon became one of the greatest periods in French furniture design: Rococo style. It was frivolous and decadent, bending the rules of how furniture should appear with lack of symmetry and featured love, music and nature-inspired motifs and themes, including shells, waves, birds, and flowers. The vast history of Rococo was recently covered in-depth on our blog, with an article titled: Rococo; An Ornate And Illustrious History.
1774-1789 — Louis XVI Style – Neo-Classical
Rococo’s success became its downfall, eventually considered too frivolous. A classical revival was inspired by the discovery of Pompeii in 1748 and the resulting style became known as neo-classicism. Designers also started to look to the more architectural French furniture of the Louis XIV period. Curves were replaced with crisp and clean straight lines, but with magnificent carved detail running the length of the piece. Mahogany also became popular during this period and could be used both as a carcass wood for painted pieces and as a veneer.
1804-1815 — Empire Style
In 1804 Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor, ending years of political instability and creating what we call the Empire period. Empire furniture is typically sombre and architectural. Bold symmetrical designs replaced ornate carvings and rounded romantic shapes. Designs were often defined by architectural elements such as columns and pilasters.
1815-1830 — Restoration Style and Charles X
Napoleon’s love and desire to create an empire and conquer led to his downfall. He abdicated in 1814 following heavy military losses and defeat. The French restored the monarchy, reinstating Charles X. The royalty and aristocracy wanted to return to their previous luxurious Royal lifestyle and this marked a return to delicate rounded forms and decoration in their furniture. At the same time the middle class were on the rise, reflecting growing prosperity and providing an increasing demand for furniture.
1830-1848 — Louis-Philippe Style
By 1830 Charles X “had fallen from favor and was overthrown during three days of fighting known as Les Trois Glorieuses”. Louis Phillipe, Duke of Orleans, became France’s new leader. He managed both royalists to his right and radicals to the left, while sympathising with the bourgeois class.
Up until this point furniture had been sold piece by piece. The Industrial Revolution however brought in new production processes and craftsmen began to make furniture sets for the bedroom and dining room.
Although the movement started around 1910, the term Art Deco was only used in 1925 at the Paris design exhibition. Shapes were elegant and sophisticated, featuring bold geometric designs. Interior designers experimented with exotic woods and new finishes and materials including metals, mother-of-pearl, ivory, wrought iron, unusual wood veneers, lacquers and plastics. Inspiration was taken from geometric forms, as well as motifs from ancient Egypt and the Empire and Louis XVI periods.
Country French furniture style doesn’t refer to a historical period, but more to capturing a way of life. It draws inspiration from many eras, and represents relaxed country living. Designs are found in the country homes of Normandy and Provence.
Country French concludes our look at the various styles and history of French furniture. Hopefully there is now a little more information into the variety in style we have on offer throughout the thousands of antique French items we stock.