Louis XVI

Louis XVI

Following the death of Louis XV in 1774, the crown passed to his grandson, Louis XVI who’s reign would represent the final chapter of French Monarchy. The visual and decorative arts of the period evolved in kind and began to represent the collective consciousness of a nation on the verge of revolution. The style was also influenced by the recent unearthing of the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Representing a transition toward neoclassicism, the excesses of earlier Rococo styles were done away with and replaced by more subtle ornamentation drawn from earlier styles.

Furniture in the style of Louis XVI, or Louis Seize, mostly retained the same basic configuration as those of Louis XV but the decorative aesthetic returned to a more reserved, linear form. The curved shapes of Louis XV were replaced by straight lines and right angles. Vertical, sometimes tapered legs replaced the serpentine cabriole that had been so popular before. Decorative themes drew from nature, classical antiquity, and the Louis XIV style. Laurel wreathes, ribbons, floral medallions featured heavily along with figures of animals, mythical beasts, and foliage.

Materials and techniques remained largely unchanged from the preceding period. Ebony, which had fallen from popularity, was once again in vogue. Satinwood, another rarely seen wood was also popular during this time. Veneers, marquetry, and lacquering were also used much as they had in the past. The incorporation of metals for decorative uses was also notable. Many tables and desks featured copper galleries around the rim. Brass fittings were also made with exquisite detail and decoration akin to the work of a goldsmith.

Thanks to its more reserved aesthetic, Louis Seize furniture remains the most popular of the styles originating during the period of French Monarchy. Even today, their dignified lines and classical decorative motifs make them a perfect fit for almost any home.

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