Louis XIII Style Furniture
1610 - 1643
The later period, or the end of, French Renaissance furniture is seen during the reign of King Louis XIII, or Louis Treize.
In the early seventeenth century French furniture moved in a new artistic direction, during the era of King Louis 13th in the years 1610 to 1643, when Cardinal Richelieu was prime minister and Simon Vouet a leader in the art world. Life in France became more luxurious and the demand for fine home furnishings more widespread. Styles of ornament became more varied, with much scroll and shell carving.
At the beginning of the 17th century France greatly prospered. Damasks, damascenes, fancy velvets, cloths of gold, taffetas, silk, wool, cotton and other fiber mixtures, poplins, brocatelles, dimities, fustians, filatrices and feradines, as well as fabrics of low price were made, and Italy soon was pushed into the background. The discovery of the passage around the Cape of Good Hope (1579) allowed for new trade in silks from the eastern part of Asia.
Fabric designs were of the Renaissance types, including griffins, birds, vases, bouquets, garlands, branches of leaves and fruits, masks, serpentine meanderings, birds and hounds, oriental motifs, flowers, sprays, spots and curly-cues. Typical of the Louis XIII is the Arabian style, a survival of the Arabian popular under Francis I, sometimes called Moresque or Arabesque. As early as 1540 books of patterns were issued at Lyons and these Arabesque styles, which are clearly used again in the Louis XIII period, were thought of as as elegant and refined.
In 1603 the Jesuits, who had been expelled from France in 1595, were recalled and in their zeal put much effort into promoting classic styles in art. Not only marquetry, ebony furniture and painted furniture were made, but the oriental spirit during the age of Louis XIII became conspicuous in the woods that were used and the styles of the fabrics.
Ebony Cabinet, 1640-1650.
Ebony, on an oak and pine carcase, with carved decoration; interior with marquetry including ivory and several woods, mirror glass and gilded balusters.
Cabinets like this one were the height of fashion in France from about 1640 to 1660. They were used to house collections of precious objects and natural rarities, such as unusual shells, but they were also admired as luxury objects in their own right. Ebony was at that time the most fashionable wood for veneering cabinets. It was imported into France at great expense from Africa, Madagascar and India. In France the skilled woodworkers who made cabinets of this kind came to be called "ébénistes", after the wood they used most. The outside of this cabinet is carved with scenes taken from the engraved illustrations to a novel first published in Paris in 1624. It is the story of the goddess Diana and her love for the youthful shepherd Endymion.
An increasing variety of forms in furniture appeared with many more types of furniture being made for everyday use. Many forms of chairs and sofas became common, and the divan and console were products of the Louis the Thirteenth time. Louis XIII chairs, as a rule, were more comfortable, and were more commonly used for ordinary domestic purposes. Sometimes they were made in sets, and were usually upholstered in velvet, brocade, tapestry, and needlework. Bedroom furniture became more luxurious and the walls were commonly decorated with ornamental friezes above paneled wainscots and bed draperies were used and canopies were in vogue.
Louis XIII Bedroom Interior.
Cane was imported as seat coverings. Chairs were covered with leather or fabrics and upholstered very heavily. Reception beds were introduced. The Louis XIII period saw the introduction of the use of table covers and scarfs. Many of these trends remained in effect through to the great period of French baroque furniture.