A few weeks ago we introduced a fun new series of posts to acquaint you with a few of our favorite men named Louis. No, not Louis Vuitton, Louis Armstrong – or even Louis Bardo Bullock, Sandra Bullock’s adorable new baby! We have talked about the differences between Louis XIII, Louis XIV (the Sun King) and Louis XV (Rococo) styles of French furniture. Below is the final installment about Louis XVI (Neo-Classical).
Louis XVI (1774-1792)
We are all aware of the political turmoil that took place during the reign of Louis XVI. The French Revolution, which occurred at the end of the era, brought about the end of the monarchy as well as the lives of many of the wealthy French. Louis XVI himself was guillotined in 1793.
The Louis XVI style furniture – also known as Neo-Classical – was greatly influenced by the excavations at Pompeii and Herculaneum. The classical architectural elements of columns and pediments were adapted for use on furniture, a definite departure from the more stylistic approach of the Louis XV period.
Where the Louis XV style is very asymmetrical, the opposite holds true for Louis XVI. Symmetry was dominant throughout this era, with the chairs favoring straight legs and well-defined joints. Canopy beds were in vogue as well. According to Artquid, “The beds most frequently seen are the lits à la polonaise with a domed canopy and the lit à la duchesse, having a rectangular canopy supported from the ceiling.”
Other popular pieces during this time period were the square-backed fauteuil, semi-circular commodes, tripod stands and athéniennes tables. Among the popular motifs of the Louis XVI period are columns, pilasters, wreaths, drapery, urns and ancient mythology.
The decline of the extravagant Louis XV style began just before the American War for Independence. The Louis XVI style ended by 1792 amid the growing unrest and riots of the French Revolution.
In general, the evolution of the four Louis reigns followed a simple pattern. Louis XIII furnishings were a push to create more elaborate furniture than that of the Renaissance Era. After Louis XIII, in the Louis XIV reign, furniture grew more elaborate and even more intricate in the Louis XV reign. The designs finally moderated during the Louis XVI reign when style tempered and grew more conservative. While this general pattern helps apply a simple model of understanding to the four styles, it’s important to note that even though style is less excessive in the Louis XVI reign, furniture was still produced by a handful of artisans, with expensive materials, for the very rich.
We hope you enjoyed our lessons on furniture styles of the famous four French Kings named Louis. Which Louis style is your favorite!