French Restoration Furniture
Louis XVIII: 1815-1824 & Charles X: 1824 - 1830
The styles associated with the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X are largely in line with the earlier Empire furniture although they are seen by many as a decline into decadence.
Dressing Table, circa 1825.
Solid mahogany, veneered on beech, oak and poplar, with lacquered brass mounts and a white marble top.
This type of dressing-table, with looking-glass attached, was a form developed in the early years of the 19th century, and some exceptionally grand examples were made by Parisian cabinet-makers, for example Jacob-Desmalter & Cie and Francois Remond.
At the beginning of the Restauration period, under Louis XVIII, furniture was designed still mostly in the Empire style with the difference that the symbols used during the reign of Napoleon I were no longer used for obvious reasons.
A softer version of the Empire style came into vogue at this time in the early 19th century in France. While cabinetmakers continued to employ the strong geometrical patterns of the Empire period they also added a some amount of whimsy and fantasy in their designs. Musical instruments were carved into the legs of small tables and desks. Woods were lighter in both color and density and the art of marquetry returned with decorative flowers, garlands and rosettes, and detailing that highlighted the architecture and geometry of furniture.
Restauration Commode, circa 1825.
Mahogany veneered on oak and poplar, with lacquered brass mounts and a white marble top.
This commode, with its naturalistic floral mounts, is likely to have been made in the years of the Restauration of the Bourbon monarchy.
Furniture making slowed down due to economic uncertainty and furniture was not a focus of the French kings of this period. Rooms and interiors were being designed with more emphasis on comfort than display and the old way of keeping seat furniture against the walls was abandoned.
Smaller sized pieces of furniture were made with "Bateau" (boat shaped) beds, gondola chairs, and three-legged tables being important items of early nineteenth century French furniture.
Chair design reflected the change to make rooms more intimate and personal with conversational seating arrangements. The predominant shape in chairs was the "gondole", or gondola. The gondole design was comfortable and the smaller size made it easily portable. During the reign of Charles X the use of "bois clair", or blond woods, became popular and dark wood marquetry with palmette motifs was used for decorative effect rather than bronze.
For contrasting effects in marquetry light French and exotic woods were used : burr ash or elm, flecked maple, satin wood, sycamore, walnut were used together with types of rosewood, mahogany, and ebony. There was also some use of gilt bronze.
What is termed the Restoration period in French history sometimes includes the time of Louis Philippe furniture looked at in the next section.