Neoclassicism in France

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Neoclassicism in France
Jacques-Louis David, Le Serment des Horaces.jpg
Madeleine Paris.jpg
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Chateau de Malmaison - Bibliotheque 001.jpg
Years activec. 1760–1830

Neoclassicism is a movement in architecture, design and the arts which was dominant in France between about 1760 to 1830. It emerged as a reaction to the frivolity and excessive ornament of the baroque and rococo styles. In architecture it featured sobriety, straight lines, and forms, such as the pediment and colonnade, based on Ancient Greek and Roman models. In painting it featured heroism and sacrifice in the time of the ancient Romans and Greeks. It began late in the reign of Louis XV, became dominant under Louis XVI, and continued through the French Revolution, the French Directory, and the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the Bourbon Restoration until 1830, when it was gradually replaced as the dominant style by romanticism and eclecticism. [1]

Baroque cultural movement, starting around 1600

The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, dance, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed the Renaissance style and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well. The Baroque style used contrast, movement, exuberant detail, deep colour, grandeur and surprise to achieve a sense of awe. The style began at the start of the 17th century in Rome, then spread rapidly to France, northern Italy, Spain and Portugal, then to Austria and southern Germany. By the 1730s, it had evolved into an even more flamboyant style, called rocaille or Rococo, which appeared in France and central Europe until the mid to late 18th century.

Rococo 18th-century artistic movement and style

Rococo, less commonly roccoco, or "Late Baroque", is an exceptionally ornamental and theatrical style of decoration which combines asymmetry, scrolling curves, gilding, white and pastel colors, sculpted molding, and trompe l'oeil frescoes to create the illusions of surprise, motion and drama. It first appeared in France and Italy in the 1730s and spread to Central Europe in the 1750s and 1760s. It is often described as the final expression of the Baroque movement.

Pediment element in classical, neoclassical and baroque architecture

A pediment is an architectural element found particularly in classical, neoclassical and baroque architecture, and its derivatives, consisting of a gable, usually of a triangular shape, placed above the horizontal structure of the entablature, typically supported by columns. The tympanum, the triangular area within the pediment, is often decorated with relief sculpture.


Prominent architects of the style included Ange-Jacques Gabriel (1698-1782), Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806) and Jean-François Chalgrin (1739-1811); painters included Jacques-Louis David (1748-1825) and his pupil, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867).

Ange-Jacques Gabriel French architect

Ange-Jacques Gabriel was the principal architect of King Louis XV of France. His major works included the Place de la Concorde, the École Militaire, and the Petit Trianon and opera theater at the Palace of Versailles. His style was a careful balance between French Baroque architecture and French neoclassicism.

Jacques-Louis David French Neoclassical painter

Jacques-Louis David was a French painter in the Neoclassical style, considered to be the preeminent painter of the era. In the 1780s his cerebral brand of history painting marked a change in taste away from Rococo frivolity toward classical austerity and severity and heightened feeling, harmonizing with the moral climate of the final years of the Ancien Régime.

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres 19th-century French Neoclassical painter

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres was a French Neoclassical painter. Ingres was profoundly influenced by past artistic traditions and aspired to become the guardian of academic orthodoxy against the ascendant Romantic style. Although he considered himself a painter of history in the tradition of Nicolas Poussin and Jacques-Louis David, it is his portraits, both painted and drawn, that are recognized as his greatest legacy. His expressive distortions of form and space made him an important precursor of modern art, influencing Picasso, Matisse and other modernists.


Neoclassicism in France emerged in the early to mid-18th century, inspired in part by the reports of the archeological excavations at Herculaneum (1738) and especially Pompeii (1748), which brought to light classical designs and paintings. The news of these discoveries, accompanied by engraved illustrations, circulated widely. The French antiquarian, art collector and amateur archeologist Anne Claude de Caylus travelled in Europe and the Mideast, and described what he had seen in Recueil d'antiquités, published with illustrations in 1755. [2]

Herculaneum Roman town destroyed by eruption of Mount Vesuvius

Located in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in 79 AD. Its ruins are located in the comune of Ercolano, Campania, Italy.

Pompeii Ancient Roman city near modern Naples, Italy

Pompeii was an ancient Roman city near modern Naples in the Campania region of Italy, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Pompeii, along with Herculaneum and many villas in the surrounding area, was buried under 4 to 6 m of volcanic ash and pumice in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Volcanic ash typically buried inhabitants who did not escape the lethal effects of the earthquake and eruption.

Anne Claude de Caylus French antiquarian

Anne Claude de Tubières-Grimoard de Pestels de Lévis, comte de Caylus, marquis d'Esternay, baron de Bransac, French antiquarian, proto-archaeologist and man of letters, was born in Paris.

In the 1740s, the style began to slowly change; decoration became less extravagant and more discreet. In 1754 the brother of Madame de Pompadour, the Marquis de Marigny, accompanied the designer Nicolas Cochin and a delegation of artists and scholars to Italy to see the recent discoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum, and made a grand tour of other classical monuments. They returned full of enthusiasm for a new classical style, based on the Roman and Greek monuments. In 1754 they published a manifesto against the Rocaille style, calling for a return to classicism. Marigny, after the death of Louis XV, later became director of buildings for Louis XVI. [3]

Nicolas Cochin (1610–1686), called the Elder, was a French draughtsman and engraver. He was born at Troyes in 1610, the son of a painter named Noel Cochin. About 1635, he went to Paris, where he died in 1686. He often imitated and copied Jacques Callot, but chose for his model Stefano della Bella, some of whose drawings he engraved. Like these two artists he excelled in small figures, which he grouped and delineated with lifelike animation. His specialty was topography, including battles, sieges, and encampments. He engraved several hundred subjects, the most important of which are those he executed for the "Glorieuses Conquêtes de Louis le Grand", called the "Grand Beaulieu", published between 1676 and 1694. The best of these plates may be the "Siege of Arras", engraved on 16 plates by Cochin and Jean Frosne.

The style was given a philosophical appeal by the Philosophes, including Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who called for a restoration of moral values in society, and by the Abbé Laugier, who wrote L'essai sur l'architecture, a call for a return to pure and uncluttered forms of architecture. The archeological sites in Greece and Italy became mandatory stops for aristocratic and scholarly visitors on the Grand Tour of Europe. The best young painters in France competed for scholarships to the French Academy in Rome. Ingres studied there, and later became its director. In 1757 the French architect Jean-François Neufforge published Recueil élémentaire d'architecture, an illustrated textbook of the style. The new taste was originally called le goût grec (the Greek taste). It called for geometric forms and decoration in "the sober and majestic style of the architects of ancient Greece." [4]

Denis Diderot French Enlightenment philosopher and encyclopædist

Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer, best known for serving as co-founder, chief editor, and contributor to the Encyclopédie along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert. He was a prominent figure during the Enlightenment.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau Genevan philosopher, writer and composer

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer and composer. His political philosophy influenced the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe, as well as aspects of the French Revolution and the development of modern political, economic and educational thought.

Grand Tour Journey around Europe for cultural education

The "Grand Tour" was the 17th- and 18th-century custom of a traditional trip of Europe undertaken by upper-class young European men of sufficient means and rank when they had come of age. Young women of equally sufficient means ("debutantes"), or those of either gender of a more humble origin who could find a sponsor, could also partake. The custom—which flourished from about 1660 until the advent of large-scale rail transport in the 1840s and was associated with a standard itinerary—served as an educational rite of passage. Though the Grand Tour was primarily associated with the British nobility and wealthy landed gentry, similar trips were made by wealthy young men of other Protestant Northern European nations, and, from the second half of the 18th century, by some South and North Americans. By the mid 18th century, the Grand Tour had become a regular feature of aristocratic education in Central Europe, as well, although it was restricted to the higher nobility. The tradition declined as enthusiasm for neo-classical culture waned, and with the advent of accessible rail and steamship travel—an era in which Thomas Cook made the "Cook's Tour" of early mass tourism a byword.

In the last years of the reign of Louis XV and throughout the reign of Louis XVI, the new style appeared in the royal residences, particularly in the salons and furnishings of the Dauphine and then Queen Marie Antoinette, and of the Paris aristocracy. It combined Greek, Roman, and what was loosely called Etruscan styles with arabesques and grotesques borrowed from Raphael and the Renaissance, and with chinoiserie and Turkish themes, Between 1780 and 1792, the style also appeared in architecture, in classically buildings including the Petit Trianon in Versailles and the Château de Bagatelle (1777). It also appeared in other art forms, including in particular the paintings of Jacques-Louis David, especially the Oath of the Horatii (1784).

Marie Antoinette Last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution

Marie Antoinette was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor. She became Dauphine of France in May 1770 at age 14 upon her marriage to Louis-Auguste, heir apparent to the French throne. On 10 May 1774, her husband ascended the throne as Louis XVI and she assumed the title Queen of France and Navarre, which she held until September 1791, when she became Queen of the French as the French Revolution proceeded, a title that she held until 21 September 1792.

Raphael 16th-century Italian painter and architect

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino, known as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form, ease of composition, and visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period.

<i>Chinoiserie</i> European interpretation and imitation of Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions, especially in the decorative arts, garden design, architecture, literature, theatre, and music

Chinoiserie is the European interpretation and imitation of Chinese and East Asian artistic traditions, especially in the decorative arts, garden design, architecture, literature, theatre, and music. The aesthetic of Chinoiserie has been expressed in different ways depending on the region. Its acknowledgement derives from the current of Orientalism, which studied Far East cultures from a historical, philological, anthropological, philosophical and religious point of view. First appearing in the 17th century, this trend was popularized in the 18th century due to the rise in trade with China and East Asia.


Louis XIV, XV and Louis XVI

Classicism appeared in French architecture during the reign of Louis XIV. In 1668 the king rejected a baroque design for the new east facade of the Louvre by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the most famous architect and sculptor of the Baroque era, in favor of a more sober and classical design with pediments and colossal columns by Claude Perrault. Under Louis XIV, the Roman dome and facade of monumental columns became the dominant features of important new churches, beginning with the chapel of Val-de-Grâce (1645-1710), by Mansart, Jacques Lemercier and Pierre Le Muet, followed by the church of Les Invalides (1680-1706). While the basic features of the architecture of these churches were classical, the interiors were lavishly decorated in the baroque style. [5]

In the latter part of the reign of Louis XV, the neoclassical became the dominant style in both civil and religious architecture. The chief architect of the king was Jacques Gabriel from 1734 until 1742, and then his more famous son, Ange-Jacques Gabriel until the end of the reign. His major works included the École Militaire, the ensemble of buildings overlooking the Place Louis XV (now Place de la Concorde (1761-1770)) and the Petit Trianon at Versailles (1764). Over the course of the reign of Louis XV, while interiors were lavishly decorated, the facades gradually became simpler, less ornamented and more classical. The facades Gabriel designed were carefully rhymed and balanced by rows of windows and columns, and, on large buildings like those the Place de la Concorde, often featured grand arcades on the street level, and classical pediments or balustrades on the roofline. Ornamental features sometimes included curving wrought-iron balconies with undulating rocaille designs, similar to the rocaille decoration of the interiors. [6]

The religious architecture of the period was also sober and monumental and tended, at the end of the reign, toward neo-classical; major examples include the Church of Saint-Genevieve (now the Panthéon), built from 1758 to 1790 to a design by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, and Church of Saint-Philippe-du-Roule (1765-1777) by Jean Chalgrin, which featured an enormous barrel-vaulted nave. [7]

During the reign of Louis XVI, neoclassical was the dominant architectural style in Paris and in the provinces. Notable examples include the Hotel de la Monnaie in Paris (1771–76) by Jacques Denis Antoine, as well as the Palais de Justice in Paris by the same architect; and the theater of Besançon (1775) and the Chateau de Benouville in the Calvados, both by Ledoux. The École de Chirurgie, or School of Surgery in Paris by Jacques Gondoin (1769) adapted the forms of the neoclassical town house, with a court of honor placed between a pavilion with a colonnade on the street and the main building. He also added a peristyle and another floor above the columns, and transformed the entrance to the courtyard into a miniature triumphal arch. [8]

The new theaters in Paris and Bordeaux were prominent examples of the new style. The architect Victor Louis (1731-1811) completed the theater of Bordeaux (1780); its majestic stairway was a forerunner of the stairway of the Paris Opera Garnier. [9] In 1791, in the midst of the French Revolution, he completed the Comedie Francaise. The Odeon Theater in Paris (1779-1782) was built by Marie-Joseph Peyre (1730-1785) and Charles de Wailly (1729-1798). It featured a portico in the form of a covered gallery and columns in advance of the facade. [10]

One of the best-known neoclassical buildings of the period is the Chateau de Bagatelle (1777), designed and built by François-Joseph Bélanger for the Comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's brother. The small chateau was designed and completed in just sixty-three days, to win a bet with Marie Antoinette that he could build a chateau in less than three months. Marie Antoinette had a similar small neoclassical belvedere created by architect Richard Mique, who had also designed her picturesque rustic village in the gardens. It was completed in 1789, the year of the French Revolution.

Another notable example of the neoclassical style in Paris is the Hôtel de Salm (now the Palais de la Légion d'Honneur), built by Pierre Rousseau in 1751-83. The facade is distinguished by its simplicity and purity, and its harmony and balance. A colonnade of Corinthian columns supports the entablement of the rotunda, which is surmounted by statues. The facade is also animated by busts of Roman emperors in niches, and sculptures in relief above the windows of the semicircular central avant-corps. [11]


A few architects adapted the neoclassical style to more functional purposes. Claude-Nicolas Ledoux designed the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans with exaggerated neoclassical buildings arranged in circles around a central "temple", where the director's home and office was placed. He also designed several rotundas for the new customs barriers installed around Paris between 1785-89. These barriers became highly unpopular (due to the taxes, not the architecture) and most were destroyed during the Revolution, though those at La Villette and Monceau still stand. [12]

The most visionary French neoclassical architect was certainly Etienne-Louis Boullée. His designs for an immense spherical monument to Isaac Newton (1784) and a vast new royal library in Paris in the form of a giant barrel vault (1785) were never seriously considered, but foreshadowed the architecture of the 20th century. [13]

Revolution, Directorate and Empire

During the French Revolution construction virtually stopped in Paris. The aristocrats fled, churches were closed and sacked. The one large project carried out between 1795 and 1797 was the building of a large new chamber within the Palais Bourbon, which eventually became the home of the French National Assembly. The École des Beaux-Arts was re-organized and reconstituted, with the architecture department under Quatremère de Quincy (1755-1849). De Quincy was an amateur archeologist and a classical scholar, as well as an architect. He was sentenced to death by a revolutionary court in 1793, but was spared by the downfall of Robespierre. He was charged with the conversion of the Church of Saint-Genevieve into the modern Panthéon, and assured that architectural studies taught the classical traditions. [14]

After Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, the most influential architects were Charles Percier (1764-1838 and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853). Their grand projects for Napoleon included the Rue de Rivoli, with its uniform neoclassical facades, modeled on the squares built by Louis XIV and Louis XV. They also designed the interior of the Château de Malmaison, the residence of Napoleon, into the model of the neoclassical style. (1803) Fontaine designed another Napoleonic landmark, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (1806-1808) in the courtyard of the Louvre. [14]

Other Napoleonic neoclassical projects included the grand stairway of the Luxembourg Palace (1801) by Jean Chalgrin (1801), and the Arc de Triomphe (begun by Chalgrin in 1808, but not finished until 1836). Pierre-Alexandre Vignon (1763–1828), a student of Ledoux, was charged with remaking the Church of the Madeleine, begun in 1761 but abandoned during the Revolution, into a "Temple of Glory" dedicated to Napoleon's army. This project was abandoned in 1813 after a series of defeats of Napoleon's army; it became a church again, but was not completed until 1843. Napoleon also added a neoclassical facade with twelve Corinthian columns to the facade of the Palais Bourbon. It was in an entirely different style than the palace behind it, and was not aligned with it; it was aligned instead with the new Temple of Glory (now the Madeleine) which he was building, facing it, on the far side of the Place de la Concorde.

The Restoration and arrival or romanticism

After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, the neoclassic style continued to be used during the French Restoration, particularly in Paris churches. Examples include Notre Dame de Lorette (1823-26) by Louis-Hippolyte Lebas and Saint-Vincent-de-Paul by Jacques-Ignace Hittorff (1824-44). By the 1830s, the architectural style was succeeded by Baroque Revival and Beaux-Arts architecture.

A change of style began to appear early in the 19th century, particularly after the publication in 1802 of le Génie du christianisme by one of the leading figures of French romanticism, François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848). He appealed for a return to the Gothic style, which, as the style of the great cathedrals, he considered was the only truly great French style. The movement toward romanticism and gothic was accelerated by the publication of the hugely successful novel Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo in 1821, and then the program of restoration of French Gothic monuments led by Prosper Mérimée and conducted by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879). This, along with the French Revolution of 1830 brought to a close the era of French neoclassicism. [15]


The dominant figure in French neoclassical painting, even before the Revolution, was Jacques Louis David (1748-1825). He began as a classical and religious painter, an admirer of Jean-Baptiste Greuze, the history and genre painter. He was recommended to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts by a family friend, François Boucher, master of the rococo style. He won the prestigious Prix de Rome and went to study there in 1775. He discovered the treasures excavated from Pompeii and other ancient sites, and entirely changed his style. Beginning in 1784 he painted works based on stories from classical literature, including Oath of the Horatii (1781), a celebration of duty and sacrifice in Roman times. When the French Revolution began in 1789, David became an active participant in the most extreme wing, the Jacobins, He supported the dissolution of the Academy of Fine Arts, and designed sets for revolutionary pageants and ceremonies. His most famous picture of the period, Marat Assassiné (1793), adapted the facial expression and the limp arm of Christ in Michaelangelo's Pieta to depict the assassinated Jacobin leader, Jean Paul Marat. When the Jacobins fell in 1794, he was imprisoned twice for several months, but then resumed an active career as a portraitist and then as court painter for Napoleon Bonaparte. When Napoleon fell and the monarchy was restored, he went into exile in Belgium. [16]

French painting was dominated for years by David and his pupils, including Antoine-Jean Gros (1771-1835), and later Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867). The later neoclassical painters put aside the political messages and concentrated on idealized figures and ideas of beauty; they included François Gérard, who like David, made a famous portrait of Madame Récamier, much to the annoyance of David; Jean-Baptiste Regnault (1754-1829); Pierre-Paul Prud'hon (1758-1823); Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842) and Anne Louis Girodet-Trioson (1767-1824). [17]


The most prominent French sculptor in the early neoclassical period was Étienne Maurice Falconet (1716-1791). whose work included the heroic statue of Peter the Great on horseback in Saint Petersburg, Russia (model made in 1770, but not cast until 1782). He was named professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Paris in 1766, and from 1757 onward he directed the modeling of small sculptures in porcelain at the Sèvres Porcelain manufactory. His work remained closer to the statues in full movement of the French baroque than the new, more serene style. In his later years he designed small ornamental sculptures of cast bronze such as the Seated Girl (1788), now in the Metropolitan Museum. [18]

The first more clearly neoclassical major figure was Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828). He studied at the French Academy in Rome,where he made detailed studies of the anatomy of the ancient Roman and Greek statues on display there. He became famous for his busts and portrait sculptures, most notably his seated statue of Voltaire (1779-81), now on display at the Comedie Française, and his busts of Benjamin Franklin and other political figures of the day. He also created several allegorical works illustrating winter and summer in a style entirely more expressive than traditional classicism, such as his La Frileuse (woman in winter), in the Musée Fabre in Montpellier. [19]

The sculptor Claude Michel (1738-1814), also known as Clodion, also studied at the Academy in Rome between 1762 and 1771. His works varied widely from neoclassical to rococo; he conceived a terra-cotta model for an extraordinary monumental sculpture, covered with statuary of angels and cupids, to celebrate the first balloon flight in Paris (1784).

Augustin Pajou (1730-1809) also studied at the French Academy in Rome from 1752 and 1756. He returned to Paris to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts, and became rector in 1792. He made a series of highly expressive statues on mythological subjects, including Psyche and Amour.

Interior decoration

The goût Grec or "Greek taste" in design was introduced in France in 1757 by Jean-François de Neufforge in his book Recueil élémentaire d'architecture, which praised "the majestic and sober style of the architects of ancient Greece." He offered engravings of classical vaults, garlands of laurel leaves, palmettos and guilloches (braided interlaced ribbons) and other motifs which soon appeared in Paris salons. [20]

Beginning in the 1770s, the style pompéien or Pompeii style came into fashion in Paris, based on reproductions of designs found in Pompeii, augmented with arabesques, griffons, sphinxes, horns-of-plenty and vases on tripods, interlaced with vines and medallions and painted on tall rectangular panels on the walls painted white and bordered with gilded stucco. The new style also took inspiration from the decorative grotesques of Raphael painted at the Vatican in 1510. The boudoir of Marie-Antoinette at the Palace of Fontainebleau, designed by Rousseau de la Routière in 1790, just after the Revolution began, is a notable example. [21]

During the French Revolution, the aristocracy fled Paris, and most of the palaces and town houses were stripped of furnishings and decoration. A new version of neoclassicism appeared briefly during the French Directorate (1795-99), which mingled elements the Pompeiian style with the Adam style from England. When Napoleon Bonaparte seized power from the Directory, the neoclassical style began to take on a new form, called Empire Style (1799-1815).

The Empire Style had extraordinary coherence and audacious simplicity, thanks to Napoleon's two energetic chief designers, Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine (1762-1853). The motifs were usually symbols of empire, including crowns and laurel wreaths, medals, lyres, horns of plenty, and classical heads seen in profile. Rooms sometimes had the walls draped in fabric, representing the tents of an army on campaign. Interiors and furniture often featured classical columns carved of wood. Egyptian motifs and mythical beasts from antiquity, such as the sphinx, griffon and the chimera, were popular. Imperial emblems, including the eagle, the bee, and the letter N with a crown, were also common. [22]


The first "Greek taste" furniture in France, made in 1756 and 1757 to designs by Jean-François de Neufforge (1714-1791) and Jean-Charles Delafosse (1734-1791), was massive, rectangular and heavily decorated, with gilded columns, friezes and hanging garlands. However, soon afterwards the royal cabinet maker Jean-Francois Oeben produced much lighter and more graceful works for Louis XV and Madame Pompadour. These were a hybrid of the curves of rococo with the right angles of neoclassicism. The chairs had curving à cabriolet legs and cartouche-shaped backs, combined with neoclassic garlands and friezes. Oeben refurnished Versailles and other royal palaces with innovative new kinds of furniture; the cylinder, or roll-top desk; the table with a mechanical writing surface that could be raised; and the drop-front desk. [23]

After the death of Oeben, his place was taken by two of his disciples, Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) (who married Oeben's widow); and Jean-François Leleu. Riesener and Leleu produced furniture with superb wood-inlay, or marquetry, often in floral designs; and cabinets of mahogany decorated with glided bronze floral decor and column legs. [23]

In Louis XVI furniture, particularly in the 1780s, the furniture styles became lighter, more geometric, and more simply ornamented, following the tastes of Marie Antoinette. The leading French designers during this period were Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (1748-1803) and Georges Jacob (1739-1814). At the very end of the reign of Louis XVI, Sené and Jacob were producing highly original and imaginative forms, including chairs with lyre-shaped carved wooden backs and the "Etruscan chair", a type conceived by the painter Hubert Robert for the fantasy "rural hamlet" of Marie-Antoinette at Versailles. The ornament on the chair, which remained popular long after the period ended, was borrowed from ancient Grecian vases. [24]

The furniture craft was upended by the French Revolution; the aristocratic clients fled, and the furniture of the royal palaces was sold in enormous auctions; a large part went abroad. One positive development for furniture-makers was the abolition of the old guild rules; after 1791 the makers of furniture frames could collaborate with those who did the marquetry inlay. The Etruscan taste disappeared, but the neoclassic style flourished under the French Directory (1793-99), the French Consulate (1799-1804), and the Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The last leading furniture designer for Louis XVI, Georges Jacob, formed a new firm with his two brothers, and, between 1796 and 1803, became the most prominent designer of the later neoclassical period. He made an effort to find classical forms that were more authentic. The type of Greek chair called the klismos became especially popular; Jacob produced a variety of neoclassical divans and stools, as well as the Lit de Repos, or day bed, which appeared in Jacques-Louis David's portrait of Madame Recamier. Another popular form was the folding stool, modeled after those that were used in Roman army encampments. After Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798, Egyptian designs, in stylized geometric form, appeared on furniture. Gilded bronze ornaments of extremely fine craftsmanship were made in Paris workshops and exported to the royal houses of Europe. The continual European wars and blockades made it difficult to import exotic woods, and sometimes local woods such as lemon trees were used; mahogany remained the choice for prestige furniture. The master furniture craftsmen of the late Empire style included Bernard Molitor, who made the furniture for the Chateau of Saint Cloud, and the architects Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, who made furniture as authentic as possible to Greek and Roman models for the residences of Napoleon and for clients of the new Napoleonic aristocracy. [25]


  1. Riley 2004, p. 126.
  2. de Morant 1970, p. 389.
  3. Wiegandt 2005, p. 54.
  4. Riley 2004, p. 128.
  5. Ducher (1988) pg. 124.
  6. Ducher (1988) p. 140
  7. Ducher (1988) p. 140
  8. Prina and Demartini (2006), pg. 249
  9. Prina and Demartini (2006), p. 249.
  10. Renault and Lazé (2006), pg. 77.
  11. Ducher 1988, pp. 162-3.
  12. Toman 2007, pp. 77-85.
  13. Toman 2007, pp. 84-86.
  14. 1 2 Toman 2007, p. 87.
  15. Toman 2007, p. 101.
  16. Toman 2007, pp. 367-79.
  17. Toman 2007, pp. 378-396.
  18. Toman 2007, p. 254.
  19. Toman 2007, pp. 256-57.
  20. Riley, Noël, Grammaire des arts decoratifs(2004), pg. 126
  21. Ducher 1988, pp. 158-59.
  22. Renault and Lazé (2006), pg. 90
  23. 1 2 Riley 2004, p. 130.
  24. Riley 2004, p. 134.
  25. Riley 2004, pp. 136-137.


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Jules Hardouin-Mansart French Baroque architect

Jules Hardouin-Mansart was a French Baroque architect and builder whose major work included the Place des Victoires (1684-1690); Place Vendôme (1690); the domed chapel of Les Invalides (1690), and the Grand Trianon of the Palace of Versailles. His monumental work was designed to glorify the reign of Louis XIV of France.

Rocaille architectural element

Rocaille was a French style of exuberant decoration, with an abundance of curves, counter-curves, undulations and elements modeled on nature, that appeared in furniture and interior decoration during the early reign of Louis XV of France. It was a reaction against the heaviness and formality of the Style Louis XIV. It began in about 1710, reached its peak in the 1730s, and came to an end in the late 1750s, replaced by neoclassicism. It was the beginning of the French baroque movement in furniture and design, and also marked the beginning of the Rococo movement, which spread to Italy, Bavaria and Austria by the mid-18th century.

<i>Louis Quinze</i>

The Louis XV style or Louis Quinze is a style of architecture and decorative arts which appeared during the reign of Louis XV of France. From 1710 until about 1730, the period known as the Regency, it was largely an extension of the "Style Louis XIV" of his great-grandfather and predecessor, Louis XIV of France. From about 1730 until about 1750, it became more original, decorative and exuberant, in what was known as the rocaille style, under the influence of the King's mistress, Madame de Pompadour. It marked the beginning of the European Rococo movement. From 1750 until the King's death in 1774, it became more sober, ordered, and began to show the influences of neoclassicism.

French Baroque architecture architecture of the Baroque era in France

French Baroque architecture, sometimes called French classicism, was a style of architecture during the reigns of Louis XIII (1610–43), Louis XIV (1643–1715) and Louis XV (1715–74). It was preceded by French Renaissance architecture and Mannerism and was followed in the second half of the 18th century by Neo-classicism. The style was originally inspired by the Italian Baroque style, but, particularly under Louis XIV, it gave greater emphasis to regularity, the colossal order of facades, and the use of colonnades and cupolas, to symbolize the power and grandeur of the King. Notable examples of the style include the Grand Trianon of the Palace of Versailles, and the dome of Les Invalides in Paris. In the final years of Louis XIV and the reign of Louis XV, the colossal orders gradually disappeared, the style became lighter and saw the introduction of wrought iron decoration in rocaille designs. The period also saw the introduction of monumental urban squares in Paris and other cities, notably Place Vendôme and the Place de la Concorde. The style profoundly influenced 18th-century secular architecture throughout Europe; the Palace of Versailles and the French formal garden were copied by other courts all over Europe.

Jean Chalgrin French architect

Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin was a French architect, best known for his design for the Arc de Triomphe, Paris.

Château de Louveciennes

The Château de Louveciennes in Louveciennes, in the Yvelines département of France, is composed of the château itself, constructed at the end of the 17th century. It was then expanded and redecorated by Ange-Jacques Gabriel for Madame du Barry in the 18th century, and the music pavilion was constructed by Claude Nicolas Ledoux (1770–71). The pavilion sits in the middle of a park that was designed in the 19th century.

Claude Nicolas Ledoux French Neoclassical architect

Claude-Nicolas Ledoux was one of the earliest exponents of French Neoclassical architecture. He used his knowledge of architectural theory to design not only domestic architecture but also town planning; as a consequence of his visionary plan for the Ideal City of Chaux, he became known as a utopian. His greatest works were funded by the French monarchy and came to be perceived as symbols of the Ancien Régime rather than Utopia. The French Revolution hampered his career; much of his work was destroyed in the nineteenth century. In 1804, he published a collection of his designs under the title L'Architecture considérée sous le rapport de l'art, des mœurs et de la législation. In this book he took the opportunity of revising his earlier designs, making them more rigorously neoclassical and up to date. This revision has distorted an accurate assessment of his role in the evolution of Neoclassical architecture. His most ambitious work was the uncompleted Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans, an idealistic and visionary town showing many examples of architecture parlante. Conversely his works and commissions also included the more mundane and everyday architecture such as approximately sixty elaborate tollgates around Paris in the Wall of the General Tax Farm.

French Renaissance architecture Style of French architecture

French Renaissance architecture is a style which was prominent between the 15th and early 17th centuries in the Kingdom of France. It succeeded French Gothic architecture. The style was originally imported from Italy by the French kings Charles VIII, Louis XII, and François I. Several notable royal châteaux in this style were built in the Loire Valley; notably the Chateau d'Amboise, the Chateau of Blois, the Chateau of Gaillon, and the Chateau of Chambord, and, closer to Paris, the Chateau of Fontainebleau.

Salon dHercule

The Salon d'Hercule is on the first floor of the Château de Versailles and connects the Royal Chapel in the North Wing of the château with the grand appartement du roi.

Jean-Michel Chevotet was a French architect. He and Pierre Contant d'Ivry were among the most eminent Parisian architects of the day and designed in both the restrained French Rococo manner, known as the "Louis XV style" and in the "Goût grec" phase of early Neoclassicism. His grandson was Pierre-Jean-Baptiste Chaussard.

Louis XVI style neoclassical style within architecture and design

Louis XVI style, also called Louis Seize, is a style of architecture, furniture, decoration and art which developed in France during the 19-year reign of Louis XVI (1774–1793), just before the French Revolution. It saw the final phase of the baroque style as well as the birth of French neoclassicism. The style was a reaction against the elaborate ornament of the preceding baroque period. It was inspired in part by the discoveries of ancient Roman paintings, sculpture and architecture in Herculaneum and Pompeii. Its features included the straight column, the simplicity of the post-and-lintel, the architrave of the Greek temple. It also expressed the Rousseau-inspired values of returning to nature and the view of nature as an idealized and wild but still orderly and inherently worthy model for the arts to follow.

Architecture of Paris

The city of Paris has notable examples of architecture of every period from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. It was the birthplace of the Gothic style, and has important monuments of the French Renaissance, the Classical revival, and flamboyant style of the reign of Napoleon III; the Belle Époque, and the Art Nouveau style. The great Paris Universal Expositions of 1889 and 1900 added Paris landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower and Grand Palais. In the 20th century, the Art Deco style of architecture first appeared in Paris, and Paris architects also influenced the postmodern architecture of the second half of the century.

Style Louis XIV style of Louis XIV period

The Style Louis XIV, also called French classicism, was the style of architecture and decorative arts intended to glorify King Louis XIV and his reign. It featured majesty, harmony and regularity. It became the official style during the reign of Louis XIV (1643–1715), imposed upon artists by the newly established Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture and the Académie royale d'architecture. It had an important influence upon the architecture of other European monarchs, from Frederick the Great of Prussia to Peter the Great of Russia. Major architects of the period included François Mansart, Jules Hardouin Mansart, Robert de Cotte, Pierre Le Muet, Charles Perrault, and Louis Le Vau. Major monuments included the Palace of Versailles, the Grand Trianon at Versailles, and the Church of Les Invalides (1675–91).

Louis XV furniture

The furniture of the Louis XV period (1715-1774) is characterized by curved forms, lightness, comfort and asymmetry; it replaced the more formal, boxlike and massive furniture of the Style Louis XIV. It employed marquetry, using inlays of exotic woods of different colors, as well as ivory and mother of pearl.

Louis XVI furniture

Louis XVI furniture is characterized by elegance and neoclassicism, a return to ancient Greek and Roman models. Much of it was designed and made for Queen Marie Antoinette for the new apartments she created in the Palace of Versailles, Palace of Fontainebleau, the Tuileries Palace, and other royal residences. The finest craftsmen of the time, including Jean-Henri Riesener, Georges Jacob, Martin Carlin, and Jean-François Leleu, were engaged to design and make her furniture.

The French Restoration style was predominantly Neoclassicism, though it also showed the beginnings of romanticism in music and literature. The term describes the arts, architecture, and decorative arts of the Bourbon Restoration period (1814–1830), during the reign of Louis XVIII and Charles X from the fall of Napoleon to the July Revolution of 1830 and the beginning of the reign of Louis-Philippe.