French Royals and their styles
Did you know that Louis XVI was a huge lock-picking expert? Louis XV’s favorite animal was his white angora cat, while his mistress Madame de Pompadour (whose name rhymes with amour) kept chickens in the gardens of Versailles. Get to know the quirky characters of the French Royals, Emperors and rulers that inspired many of the beautiful styles that you find in our shop!
Louis XIII was the king of France from 1610 to 1643, climbing the throne at the age of only 8 years old. He was known as Le Juste, the Fair. Louis XIII was the first king to wear a wig, solely inspiring the trend of male wig wearers. This trend is still present in court rooms today. His friendship with his chief ministers, Charles d’ Albert and Cardinal Richelieu, would inspire Alexandre Dumas to write his famous novelThe Three Musketeers. The favourite instrument of Louis XIII is the lute, which he could play by the age of 3!
Solid furniture. First influenced by the neighbouring countries, especially Flanders and Spain, and drawing inspiration from the Renaissance style, the Louis XIII style develops to become the first full French style. It gives a lot of space for woodturning and carving. Seats and tables, mostly made in walnut, show richly turned beaded, twist or baluster legs. Mouldings are usually very deep: we often see the diamond-shaped design or the Maltese cross.
Louis XIV is known as Le Roi Soleil, the Sun King, and reigned from 1638 to 1715. He disliked the rebellious city of Paris so much that he built the Palace of Versailles. The Sun King was a talented dancer and often danced in ballets where he played the part of Apollo, the Sun, or other godlike personas. All this dancing caused his legs to be very well-defined, which he was very proud of. He often requested for full-length portraits where he could show off his legs!
Over-the-top Baroque period with classicism reaching its peak. The influence of Italian art is strongly present. The furniture is typically large and voluptuous. One of the main features of this style is its symmetry, full of right angles and straight lines. Furnishings are characterised by weighty brocades of red and gold. Until 1680, furniture was massive, decorated with sculpture and gilding. Thanks to the development of the craft of marquetry, the furniture was decorated with different colours and different woods. The most prominent creator of furniture in this period was André Charles Boulle.
Philippe d'Orléans, Duke of Orléans and nephew of the Sun King, reigned as Regent of France from 1715 to 1723. Never intended to be King, he was brought up to have a military career. Philippe II was a zealous student. He studied the violin, diplomacy and riding, acted in several plays, composed two operas, and was a gifted painter and engraver. These cultural interests are reflected during his reign: he collected many paintings and purchased the world’s largest known diamond, a 141 carat cushion brilliant, now known as Le Régent.
The Régence aesthetic tends towards the rococo style. Symmetrical lines are still very present, but decoration is completely renewed and lines start to curve. The emblematic design of the rococo style is that of the shell. As a transitory style, the Régence style also heralds the great themes of Louis XV with, for example, the apparition of chinoiseries.
Louis XV reigned from 1715 to 1774, becoming King at the age of 3. Louis XV was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer and very fond of architecture. His favourite animal was his white angora cat. He was a ladies’ man, although he was described being extremely shy. His most famous mistress is Madame de Pompadour. During his reign, he had many military set-backs. His attempts to modernise French politics came to nothing and caused him to continuously raise the taxes – to extreme dissatisfaction of the French people.
Furniture reaches its golden age. The Louis XV style is deeply marked by the rococo aesthetics of asymmetry and exuberant S- and C-curves. Mirrors play with the perception of positive and negative space. Furniture pieces become smaller and more intimate. Chairs and couches are designed for comfort and luxury with cushioning and upholstery that could be changed per season. Furniture was heavily gilded and often incorporated exotic elements like Chinoiserie motifs or Japanese lacquer.
Madame de Pompadour
Madame de Pompadour was the favourite mistress of Louis XV. The King gifted her the title of de Pompadour, which she loved because it rhymes with ‘amour’. When she was 8 years old, a fortune teller predicted that she would grow up to win the heart of a king. Madame de Pompadour became a patron of the arts and instigated Salons that attracted a varied group of painters, sculptors, philosophers, and writers, including Voltaire. She collected books and her personal library consisted of over 3.500 volumes. Whenever Louis XV’s attention waned, she would go on a strict diet of celery, vanilla and truffles. Madame de Pompadour kept chickens in the gardens of Versailles.
Rococo Loco. This new decor was filled with comfortable sofas, promoting conversations and amour! The centre of society was no longer Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, but the salons of Paris, where philosophers and artists would gather for discussions and pleasant debate. Madame de Pompadour had a hairstyle named after her lovely locks, which was revived by Elvis Presley.
Louis XVI was the last King of France before the French Revolution. He was interested in lock-picking. The blunt table knives that we use today are heavily influenced by Louis XVI, as he ordered that all pointy knives were grinded down to reduce the rebellious atmosphere in France. Unfortunately, this did not affect the events that lead to the French Revolution. In 1789, during the last weeks of his life, Louis XVI was referred to as Citizen Louis Capet. In hindsight, it is unfortunate that a few years before the guillotine was used to chop his own head off, Louis XVI made several suggestions to improve the effectiveness of the machine.
Neoclassical designs, flying away with straight lines. However, strongly influenced by the neoclassical mood that spread across Europe after the discovery of the Pompei sites, Louis XVI is adorned with ovals, arches, medallions, wreaths, garlands, urns and flourishes. Expensive woods are used, such as ebony, rosewood and mahogany. New pieces of furniture appear, for instance the living room table. In chairs, expect to find fluted and slightly tapered legs and medallions with backrests.
Marie Antoinette became the first and only Queen of France when she married Louis XVI in 1770. When first arriving in Paris, she wanted to ride horses in the city. This caused protest from the courts as they feared for her safety. She compromised by riding a donkey instead. She was referred to as the Queen of Taste, as she often sported an intricate hairstyle that was decorated with unbelievable objects, such as a battleship replica of a French warship. She died at the guillotine during the French Revolution, where she was accused of being an Austrian spy and causing the French financial crisis with her lavish spending. Her last words were, “pardon me sir, I meant not to do it ” after stepping on her executioner’s toes moments before being beheaded.
The bigger, the better. After becoming queen, Marie-Antoinette embraced her new nation’s passion for fashion. She favoured pastel colours, frills and lace and liked to highlight her neck with velvet ribbons, adorned with a flower or jewels. In 1778, a major conflict between France and Britain took place during which the Belle Poule, a French frigate, damaged a British ship badly. Paris was enflamed by the news. Marie-Antoinette even wore a battleship in full sails as a hair piece to commemorate this battle.
Napoléon proclaimed Emperor of the French in 1804 and reigned until 1814. He achieved many victories, as he was extremely military cunning. He considered himself to be a scientist and when he tried to invade Egypt, he brought along 150 scientists, engineers and scholars to study the history and topography of Egypt. Mandatory right-hand traffic was introduced in Europe by Napoléon as a strategy to prevent sword fighting on horseback. He could neither dance or sing and he liked to show his affection by pinching people in both ears. Napoléon was so extremely fond of liquorice, that in the last days of his life, he only wanted to drink liquorice flavoured water.
The Empire style turned towards the opulence of Imperial Rome. Very sensitive to luxury and appearances, Napoléon ordered refined furniture for his own residences, but also gave importance to functional furniture adapted to everyday life. Expect straight shapes, highlighted by gilt and chiseled bronze. The inlaid work disappears almost completely. Mahogany is often used, next to walnut, elm and ash. The designs drew inspiration from ancient Greek and Roman symbols: sphinx, palmettes, bay-tree leaves and spears.
Louis Philippe reigned from 1830 to 1848. He had fled France during the French Revolution of 1789 when his father, Louis XVI, was beheaded. Louis Philippe lived in exile for 21 years, during which he travelled through Europe and North-America. He supposedly never stayed somewhere for more than 48 hours. Louis Philippe’s regime, known as the July Monarchy, was a liberal constitutional monarchy and he was referred to as Le Roi Citoyen, King of the People. After the French Revolution of 1848, he fled Paris in disguise, calling himself Mr. Smith. He lived in a mansion in Surrey, England, until his death in 1850. Louis Philippe survived seven assassination attempts.
The bourgeois Louis-Philippe style gives rise to very comfortable and sturdy pieces with a sober decorative aspect. Craftsmen create a style adapted to the middle-class. The first machines appear: mechanic sawing is one of these novelties, and glue is used more often. The style is very sober and focuses on comfort and sturdiness. It favours mahogany veneering and woods like walnut and cherry. The carving disappears almost completely. The tables and seat legs are usually moulded. The umbrella foot is a novelty.
Napoléon III, president of France from 1848 to 1870, became the first French ruler elected by popular vote. Before becoming Emperor, he attempted several coups d’état. Imprisoned after his second coup, he wrote several articles, poems, and essays, becoming well known for his support for the poor. He escaped prison by disguising as a lumberjack and simply walking out of the prison. During his regime, NapoléonIII restored several important landmarks and commissioned Baron Haussmann to re-design the city centre of Paris. He also directed development of the French railway network. After the fall of his reign, Napoléon III passed the time with designing a stove that would be more energy efficient.
The beginning of industrialisation caused the appearance of new materials like bamboo, iron frameworks and papier-mâché. The Napoléon III style is highly eclectic and gives importance to ornamentation; gilt bronzes, mother-of-pearl-inlay or porcelain plates are in fashion. Natural wood disappears and is replaced by (black ebony) veneers, polychrome wood, and wood painted with black lacquer. Small pieces of furniture win in popularity over more imposing ones.
We restore all armoires and cabinets. During the restoration, we try to preserve the original patina as much as possible.
We work together with our Italian dealers to find the most outstanding vintage chandeliers around, all originating from Venice.
We specialise in 18th and 19th century mirrors, focussing on a broad range of styles including Louis Phillipe, Rococo, Louis XV and Louis XVI.