We have 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 want to talk about the differences among Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI styles of French furniture. Before you can truly distinguish one Louis from another, you’ll have to know a bit about their historical time periods. We started with Louis XIII last week – now we are on to the Sun King (le Roi Soleil), Louis XIV.
Louis XIV (1643-1715)
If Louis XIII-style furniture was simplistic in its design, then Louis XIV-style furniture, also known as Baroque, was a flurry of materials and design motifs. Louis XIV furniture is very heavy and opulent; some might even call it pompous, just like King Louis XIV himself!
With world trade bringing a newfound wealth to the crown, Louis XIV – or Louis Quatorze in French – used his grandiose lifestyle to express his power. Solid-silver furniture and other elaborate materials reflected the wealth of the empire. Louis XIV used the furnishings and grandness of the royal palace at Versailles as an expression of his riches and power.
John Kroger on the website French Accents observes that design motifs proclaimed the king as all-powerful. Furniture was interlaced with “L,” fleur-de-lis, and the sunburst (Louis XIV was known as the Sun King). The French king was not only advertising his power over the church in these furniture designs, he was also positioning himself as a semi-deity to his people.
The fauteuil or open-arm chair became popular and was typically carved with popular motifs of flora and fauna. During the Louis XIV reign, the bureau and the commode came into wide use. Other important Louis XIV pieces making their debut are armoires and the tall four-post bed (lit à colonne) covered with luxurious fabric.
This concludes the Louis lesson for today; check back next week when we learn about the Rococo style of Louis XV.