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FRENCH FURNITURE STYLES

This page represents a superficial stab at defining and describing the furniture styles of nineteenth century France in which we specialize. At the end of our list, we also include a number of links to "Further Reading" that may interest you. While we can find very little specifically directed at the nineteenth century, these articles provide an interesting overview of furniture-making, French furniture in general, and several specific French periods, as well as a dating chart and glossary.


 


same style

HENRI II STYLE
1860-1900

Henri II style (also known as Renaissance Revival) furniture is massive, characterized by complex, heavy cornice and base moldings, bun feet and elaborately turned columns and spindles. Chairs have stretcher bases, and were frequently upholstered in deeply sculptured, dark brown leather, much of which does not survive intact. Dining room furniture in this style is the most common, including such pieces as buffets, servers, tables and side chairs. Salon furniture is relatively rare. Henri II furniture is warm and dark, its tone serious.

 


same style

LOUIS XV STYLE
1860-1910

Louis XV Revival represents the single most popular style of furniture in France itself. It is characterized by the cyma or s-curve, cabriole legs terminating in scrolled feet, asymmetry and shell and floral carving. The elaborateness of the carved elements made it an expensive style to manufacture, and pieces in this style were never produced in great quantity. At its best, the style is exuberantly playful, elaborately beautiful. The most common forms from that period available today are bedroom pieces: beds, nightstands and armoires.

 


same style

LOUIS XVI STYLE
1875-1920

Louis XVI style was revived by 1875, most frequently for salon sets and occasional tables. Toward the end of the century, dining room furniture became important in this style, partly as a counter-movement to the evolving Art Nouveau. The style features straight lines, turned and fluted legs, and relief carved, generally symmetrical acanthus leaves, floral swags, rope beadings and rosettes. Louis XVI style displays restrained elegance, which may range from the uncomplicated look of late, Deco-influenced oak and walnut pieces to the demanding nature of bronze-mounted and inlaid satinwood or mahogany furniture. The simplicity of line is classic and today is reproduced in quantity.

 


same style

ART NOUVEAU
1895-1920

Art Nouveau was produced for only a relatively short time. The style is characterized by flowing, curved lines, asymmetry and natural subjects, especially flowers and plants. It was always expensive to manufacture, as its originality required an artist's vision from the designer and the highest skills from the executing cabinetmaker. Furthermore its very sensuousness resulted in its falling into discredit as decadent when World War I reintroduced cultural regimentation. The most common forms were dining and bedroom pieces; the single form displaying the widest range of the style’s application was the chair.

 


same style

ART DECO
1915-1930

Art Deco furniture is perhaps France’s final expression of originality in furniture design and decoration. While it is characterized by a return to the straight line, its authors also experimented with new or exotic finishes and materials including metals, mother-of-pearl, ivory, unusual wood veneers, lacquers and plastics and by stylizations inspired by nature or the use of geometric forms in the decorative elements. The sources of influence from the past include themes and motifs from ancient Egypt, the Empire and Louis XVI periods. Proportions changed dramatically — principally through minor elongation and substantial height reduction — to accommodate, among other things, lower ceiling heights. The most common forms from the Art Deco period are dining room and bedroom pieces.

 

 

 

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