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Explore the Allure of 18th Century French Furniture

The 18th century saw a remarkable rise in the influence of French furniture style, thanks to the discerning taste and artistic finesse of the French Royal court. Their impeccable craftsmanship and fashionable designs made French...

The 18th century saw a remarkable rise in the influence of French furniture style, thanks to the discerning taste and artistic finesse of the French Royal court. Their impeccable craftsmanship and fashionable designs made French furniture highly coveted across Europe. Let's delve into the different styles that emerged during this period and discover the unique features that defined them.

Régence 1700 - 1730: A Fusion of Artistry and Exoticism

One of the highly revered masters of the Régence and early Rococo periods was Charles Cressent. His work was characterized by the use of exotic timbers like palissandre and amaranth. The bombé commodes he created were lavished with sculptural and decorative ormolu mounts, sacrificing form and function for curvaceousness and movement. A prime example is the stunning commode from Waddesdon Manor, crafted around 1730.

The Régence period marked the transition from the heavy baroque classicism of Louis XIV to the beginning of the Rococo. It was driven by the desire for a lighter and more youthful style, away from the omnipresent pomp and majesty of Versailles. The Régence style embraced comfort, gracefulness, and elegance, with a reduction in highly sculptural baroque elements. Notable designers of this period included Jean Berain, Claude Audran, and Pierre Le Pautre.

Characteristics of the Régence style Characteristics of the Régence style

Rococo 1730 - 1755: A Fancy and Opulent Era

The Rococo period, which fell under the reign of Louis XV, expanded on the ideas and styles of the Régence period. It emerged as a fanciful and opulent style that deviated from the classical roots of the Baroque. Pleasure, informality, and intimacy took precedence, leading to changes in room design and French furniture style. Parisian houses embraced tall windows, pier mirrors, and pastel-colored paneling with carved rocailles, creating a sense of space and enhancing natural light.

The Rococo style was characterized by asymmetrical decorative elements, such as rocaille ornamentation inspired by rocky waterfalls, shell works, and icicles. It also incorporated Singeries and Chinoiseries, introducing surprise and exoticism. Examples of Chinoiseries can be found in the Grand and Petit Singeries at the Château de Chantilly. However, the Rococo began to decline in the mid-1750s due to the rise of classicism and criticism of its association with immorality and wayward behavior.

Neo-Classical 1755 - 1798: A Return to Classical Elegance

With the rise of classicism, French furniture style took a new direction. The revival of ancient Greek and Roman sources, dating back to the Renaissance, became the foundation for the last decades of the 18th century. Classicism had a moral purpose, cleansing itself from the extravagances of the Rococo and reinterpreting the period's opulence. The influence of classicism extended beyond France, with countries like England embracing the style through architects like Robert Adam.

Jean Henri Riesener was a prominent furniture maker during the neo-classical period. His work showcased decorative motifs like running guilloche, egg and dart, and fluted, tapered legs. His designs, such as the one pictured above from Waddesdon Manor, not only exhibited decorative excellence but also offered a glimpse into the opulence that ultimately led to revolution.

The Enduring Appeal of French 18th Century Furniture

French 18th century furniture stands out for its exceptional craftsmanship and the stamp of master craftsmen who meticulously created each piece. Stamping furniture was a practice enforced by guild regulations, ensuring quality control and identification of the master responsible for its creation. Stamped French furniture holds historical and decorative significance, making it highly sought after by collectors.

The allure of French furniture from this era extends beyond museums and country houses. Pieces with stamps from Louis XIV through to the Empire period can be found at Nicholas Wells Antiques. Whether you're searching for a commode, chair, or desk, these stunning examples of French craftsmanship are waiting to find their new home.

Immerse yourself in the elegance and artistry of 18th century French furniture, and bring a touch of history and beauty into your own space.