Louis XVI Furniture, French Neo Classical Style
Louis XVI - 1774 - 1792
Several years before the accession to the French throne of Louis XVI, or Louis Seize, we meet what is almost the exact opposite of the Rococo furniture of the preceding Louis XV age. Inspired by the discoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum, which revealed something of the character of the interiors and furniture of the ancient classical civilizations of Rome and Greece, a new form of furniture design, the neo classical, comes to dominate the world of French furniture.
In Louis XVI furniture there is an emphasis on straight lines and right angles, seriousness, logical design, a sharp move away from the curves of the Rococo. Furniture becomes restrained in its form and decoration, with much use of fluted columns, carved friezes, oak and laurel leaf, wreaths, the Greek band, and other various neo classical attempts to imitate the furniture and architecture of the Romans and Greeks.
Side Table, circa 1800.
Carcase of oak, pine and walnut, veneered with African ebony, tortoiseshell and stained wood; gilt-bronze mounts.
The Louis XVI neo classical style is also often associated with the "Etruscan" style, which was characterised by a fairly complex mixing in of sculpture like ornamentation and metal and ceramic mounts. After about 1770 we note the popularity of more simple furniture based on the classical architectural orders from ancient architecture.
The taste of Queen Marie Antoinette, queen to Louis 16th, is given a great deal of credit for the existence of the neo classical style in furniture design. She was much responsible for the making of many small pieces of furniture that suited the furnishings of her apartment at Versailles.
Marie Antoinette's Bedroom.
A reproduction of Queen Marie Antoinette's bedroom at the Little Trianon, in Versailles.
Late 18th century furniture makers in France included Jean Henri Riesener, Jean Guillaume Beneman, Jean Henri Martin Carlin, and Adam Weisweiler.
Louis XVI Sofa.
The downfall of the Louis XVI style was of course the downfall of Louis himself in the French Revolution of 1789 and from this time French furniture lost its position of dominance. However the tradition of neo-classical furniture did linger on into a second phase, called Directoire furniture.