Louis XVI style

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.

Notable architects of the period included Victor Louis (1731-1811) who completed the theater of Bordeaux (1780), The Odeon Theater in Paris (1779-1782) was built by Marie-Joseph Peyre (1730-1785) and Charles de Wailly (1729-1798).François-Joseph Bélanger completed the Chateau de Bagatelle in just sixty-three days to win a bet for its builder, the King’s brother. Another period landmark was the belvedere of the Petit Trianon, built by Rchard Mique. The most characteristic building of the late Louis XVI residential style is the Hôtel de Salm in Paris (Now the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur, built by Pierre Rousseau in 1751-83.

Superbly crafted desks and cabinets were created for the Palace of Versailles and other royal residences by cabinetmakers Jean-Henri Riesener and David Roentgen, using inlays of fine woods, particularly mahogany, decorated with gilded bronze and mother of pearl. Equally fine sets of chairs and tables were made by Jean-Henri Riesener and Georges Jacob.

The Royal tapestry works of Gobelins, Aubusson and Beauvais Tapestry continued to make large tapestries, but an increasing part of their business was the manufacture of upholstery for the new sets of chairs, sofas and other furnishings for the royal residences and nobility. Wallpaper also became an important part of interior design, thanks to new processes developed by Reveillon.

Origins and influences
The Lous XVI style was a reaction to and transition the French Baroque style, which had dominated French architecture, decoration and art since the mid-17th century, and partly from a desire to establish a new Beau idéal, or ideal of beauty, based on the purity and grandeur of the art of the Ancient Romans and Greeks. In 1754 The French engraver, painter and art critic Charles-Nicolas Cochin denounced the curves and undulations of the predominant rocaille style: “Don’t torture without reason those things which could be straight, and come back to the good sense which is the beginning of good taste.”

Louis XVI himself showed little enthusiasm for art or architecture. He left the management of these to Charles-Claude Flahaut de la Billaderie, the Count of Angiviller, who was made Director General of Buildings, Gardens, Arts, Academies and Royal Manufactories. Angeviller, for financial reasons, postponed a grand enlargement of the Palace of Versailles, but completed the new Château de Compiègne (1751–83), begun by Louis XV, and decorated it from 1782 to 1786. The King’s principal architectural addition to Versailles was the new library on the first floor (begun 1774). He was much more generous to Queen Marie-Antoinette; she redecorated the Grand Apartments of the Queen at Versailles in 1785, and carried out important works on her apartments at the Palace of Fontainebleau and Compiegne, as well as new apartments in the Tuileries Palace. The King also gave the Queen the Petit Trianon at Versailles, and in 1785 bought a new chateau for her at St. Cloud.

Classicism, based Roman and Greek models had been used in French architecture since the time of Louis XIV; he rejected a plan by Gian Lorenzo Bernini for a baroque facade of the Louvre, and chose instead a classical facade with a colonnade and pediment. The architects of Louis XIV, Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Jacques Lemercier, turned away from the gothic and renaissance style and used a baroque version of the Roman dome on the new churches at Val-de-Grace and Les Invalides. Louis XV and his chief architects, Jacques Ange Gabriel and Jacques-Germain Soufflot continued the style of architecture based upon symmetry and the straight line. Gabriel created the ensemble of classical buildings around the Place de la Concorde while Soufflot designed the Panthéon (1758–90) on the Roman model.

An influential building from the late Louis XV period was the Petit Trianon at Versailles (1762-1764), by Jacques Ange Gabriel , built for the mistress of the King, Madame Pompadour. Its cubic form, symmetric facade and Corinthian peristyle, similar to the villas of Palladio, made it model for the following Louis XVI style.

Another notable influence on the style was the architecture of the Renaissance architect Palladio, which influenced the building of country houses in England, as well as the French architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806). Palladio’s ideas were the inspiration for the Château de Louveciennes, and its neoclassical music pavilion (1770–71) built by Claude Nicolas Ledoux for the mistress of Louis XV, Madame du Barry. The pavilion is cubic in form, with a facade of four pilasters supporting the architrave and the pilaster of the terrace. It became the model for similar houses under Louis XVI.

Main features
The Louis XVI furniture is in opposition to the Louis XV style: it rejects the Rococo forms of the Louis XV style and returns to the rigor of geometric shapes inspired, among other things, by the discovery of remains of antiquity in Herculaneum and Pompeii (two cities near Naples engulfed by the volcanic eruption of Vesuvius ). The structure of the furniture is enhanced with rectilinear forms. The rigorous forms such as the rectangle, the square, the round and the oval borrowed from neoclassical architecture. The base of the furniture takes the elements of the antique style including the fluted foot or the square column.

Ornamental elements are also minimalist. The ornaments are symmetrical in shape and their inspiration is found in plant nature and ancient themes. Among the most classic elements are the ribbon bow, the festoon and the drapery. The gildings are affixed by small keys in sticks or angles (where they serve to reinforce the weak points of the pieces of furniture).

Civil Architecture
Notable monuments of Louis XVI civil architecture 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 latter building has geometric architecture, a flat ceiling, and a portico in the colossal order of corinthian columns. 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 he entrance to the courtyard into a miniature triumphal arch.

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. 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.

One of the best-known buildings of the period is the small 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 unusual architectural project was the transformation of the Palais Royal in the heart of Paris, into a grand shopping mall. In 1781 the Duc de Chartres, needing money, commissioned architect Victor Louis to create an arcade of shops, cafes and clubs on the ground floor. In 1788 he added a covered cirque in the center, a covered promenade and space for concerts and entertainments, with a trellis roof supported by seventy-two ionic columns.

The most characteristic building of the late Louis XVI residential style is the Hôtel de Salm in Paris (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.

Religious architecture
The Pantheon, designed by Jacques Germain Soufflot as the Church of Sainte-Geneviève and begun in 1757 under Louis XV, was the most prominent example of religious architecture under construction during the period. It replaced the colossal columns modeled after those of the Church of the Jesu and St. Peter’s in Rome with slender, graceful corinthian columns supporting a continuous entablement. The plan was also classical; the long nave with a vaulted ceiling was replaced by a Greek cross, with the dome in the center. Soufflot employed novel engineering techniques to support the dome; a system of contreforts and arches, and the use of iron bars to support the stone structure. The building was begun in 1764 but not completed until 1790, after the Revolution.

Another important church completed in the Louis XVI period was Saint-Philippe-du-Roule (1768-1784) by Jean-François-Thérèse Chalgrin. It was one of the last churches finished before the Revolution. The church is inspired by paleo-Christian architecture; it features massive columns and a pediment, and an interior with vaulted ceiling that suggests a vast Roman basilica.

Functional and utopian architecture
The architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux specialized in designing functional buildings in greatly simplified the classical style. Examples included his simplified neoclassical design for the customs barrier at La Villette in Paris (1785-1789), with its classical facade and rotunda. He was especially known for his project for the Royal Saltworks at Arc-et-Senans (1775–79) This was a model industrial site, in an elliptical shape, with the house of the factory director in the center, with a rustic neoclassical colonnade, surrounded by the workshops, storerooms and offices in concentric rings.

Etienne-Louis Boullée (1728-1799) was another visionary architect of the period; his projects, never built, included a monument to Isaac Newton (1784) in the form of an immense dome, with a perforated top allowing the light to enter, giving the impression of a sky full of stars. His project for an enlargement of the Royal Library (1785) was even more dramatic, with a gigantic arch sheltering the collection of books. While none of his projects were ever built, the images were widely published and inspired architects of the period to look outside the traditional forms.

Interior decoration
The Louis XVI style of decoration marked the triumph of neo-classicism, which had been underway in Europe since 1770. It reflected the murals and designs found in the early archeological excavations in Herculaneum and Pompei, and the travels of groups of artists to Greece and Asia Minor. The “Taste Pompeiian was followed by “the taste Entruscan. Motifs in interior decoration included arabesques and grotesques on the Pompeiian model. Bas-reliefs in the Greek and Roman style were popular, often in the form of rectangual friezes in bronze on furniture, or stucco, marble, molded stucco, baked earth, or simply painted in tromp l’oeil over doors. Other popular motifs included garlands of oak leaves or olive leaves; interlaced flowers, ribbons or vines; crowns of roses, flaming torches, horns of plenty, and particularly vases from which emerged flowers or vines.

In the early part of the reign of Louis XVI, interior decoration was designed to overwhelm the viewer with its scale, majesty and opulence. Grand halls served multiple purposes, for theater entertainments, balls, or banquets. An example of the early Louis XVI style is the dining room of the Chateau de Maisons, rebuilt between 1777-1782 by François-Joseph Bélanger for the Comte d’Artois, the brother of Louis XVI. This dining room, inspired by grand style of Louis XIV and Louis XV. It features columns of the colossal order, inches, frontons, consoles, sculpture in relief, and a gigantic fireplace.

Later in the reign, the tendency shifed to smaller, more intimate and comfortable salons, studies, dining rooms and boudoirs, as the Cabinet Doré of Marie Antoinette at the Palace of Versailles (1783) and the boudoir of Marie Antoinette at Fontainebleau, in the Pompeiian style (1785). The Pompeiian style featured mythical animals, such as sphinxes and griffons, horns of plenty, and vases of flowers mounted on tripods. The style also was frequently used in friezes and cameos, in medallions and in white on blue Wedgewood porcelain. In the laster years of the Louis XVI style, the decorative panels were divided into often geometric divisions, either circles or octagons,

Louis XVI style furniture, particularly the furniture made for the royal palaces, is among the most finely-crafted and valuable ever produced in France. Much of it was produced at the Garde-Meuble du Roi, the royal furniture worship, directed by Francois II Foliot (1748-1808). produced at the Among the notable craftsmen of the period were Georges Jacob, who made a suite of sofas and chairs for the apartments of Marie Antoinette at Versailles and for those of the Comte d’Artois, the King’s brother, at the Temple. Oak, mahogany and walnut were the woods most commonly used. The chairs of the early period made for Marie Antoinette were richly decorated gilded carvings, usually with floral patterns. The chairs and sofas were usually upholstered in satin, with more elaborate medallions embroidered in silk attached. Later in the period, more exotic themes, often taken from popular theater productions in Paris, appeared in decoration of furniture,{ These included Chinese, Arabesque, and Etruscan figures. A variety of specialized pieces of furniture were created. These included lightweight chairs for men sitting at gambling tables, and specialized chairs for boudoirs, dressing rooms, libraries, and antechambers.

The beds, especially in the chambers de parade or ceremonial bedrooms of the royal palaces, were of extraordinary proportions, and were usually separated from the rest of the room by a balustrade. reached monumental proportions. These beds were termed à la Duchesse, and featured an ornate canopy over the bed. The sculpted and gilded wood frame of the silk embroidered canopy over the bed of Marie Antoinette at Fontainebleau, installed in 1787, was so heavy that that two additional columns were placed under it at night avoid its collapse.

Iconic Louis XVI style furniture

The seats
The lines of the seats are straight and geometric. Dices connecting to the corners of the seat 5 accentuate the classic look of the style. We still see the re-styled ” cabriolet-back ” wheelchair. New armchairs are also created during this period. One can quote the chairs with “file of right plane”, with “file in medallion” or with “file in balloon”. These seats have fluted feet, characteristic of this style. The shepherdess is always popular; his lines are straighter.

Tables and pedestal tables
The tables are very varied due to the various uses that are made of them. We find in particular the “table gueridon” which is often used as a game table. The oval table is rather popular during this period.

Cabinets and dressers
The cabinets are solid wood and have a structure very similar to the Louis XV style. The showcase is a derivative of the cabinet that is created at that time. Dressers have sheathed feet. They have two to five drawers where the divisions between the drawers are often hidden. The handles are simplified and look like a ring. The “half moon dresser” is a creation of the time.

Writing furniture
The secretary is rectangular in shape and has a flap or if there is none, a zipper that serves as an inkstand. The cylinder desk differs very little from the one invented during the transition period. His feet and forms (except the quarter circle curtain) are rectilinear.

The beds
There are two main types of bed : the French bed and the Polish bed. The French bed has only one bedside and is surmounted by a canopy of the same size as the bed frame. The Polish bed has two bedside tables, sometimes three; his canopy , which is often ” imperial ” in shape, is smaller than the bedstead. This canopy is supported by arched rods, which extend the small columns of the bed. It is rather intended to be placed in an alcove. The Polish bed becomes fashionable under Louis XVI and tends to dethrone the French bed.

New furniture
The feminine influence is rooted in the design of the furniture, it is thus that one sees appearing furniture reserved for a feminine use, the tables with work, whose tray is often in the shape of trough, a board is pull (zipper) to receive the necessary work.

The ” Happiness of the day ” is a furniture that appears during the transition, its structure is a mix between the secretary and the office, its shape is very geometric, refined, it appears when the reference to antique hardens and the style is very much purified.
The “armchair with medallion backrest” is also a creation of the Louis XVI style. It has an oval shaped file. Created by Louis Delanois in 1769.
The ” showcase furniture ” is created at this time. It usually takes the form of a small cabinet where the wooden doors are replaced by showcases.
The ” table pedestal ” type hot water bottle game, designed for a board game called hot water bottle game, this table is round and has a belt drawer and four feet. The table top is in marble 5 . To play, a wooden top was placed on the marble, this removable top has, most of the time, disappeared. In the middle, there was a so-called hot water bottle whose base consists of notches to hold the players’ pawns. On a painting: presumed portrait of Louis Thomassin , preserved in the Museum of Fine Arts of Pau, one distinguishes very well the plateau.

Carcasses of carpentry furniture are most often made of beech or walnut ; on the other hand, in the case of cabinetmaking furniture, fir or oak is used for framing and mahogany , amaranth or violet wood for veneering.

For finishing, shellac and French varnish are always used. Porcelain pieces, often from the Manufacture Royale de Sèvres , decorate the furniture. Wrought iron is used to mimic the antique style. Steel plates decorate the belt of the furniture. The ornamentation is completed by copper and bronze.

Cabinet-making and Marquetry
The craft of the Ebenist, or cabinet-maker, was considered separate from that of other furniture-makers. About a third of the Ebenists in Paris were of foreign origin, either second-generation immigrants from Belgium and the Netherlands or first-generation from the Rhineland. The latter group included some of the most famous craftsmen, including Jean-Henri Riesener, who became a master in 1768, and David Roentgen. They received special protection and patronage from Marie-Antoinette, who admired German craftsmanship.

Several new varieties of the furniture were introduced, including a commode in the form of half-moon form, and the commode dessert, which had a door in the front with shelves on either side. The commode bonheur-du-jour was a dressing table for a boudoir, with a small armoire on top, with either a mirror or a curtain. The table a la Tronchin was a table with a built-in-shelf which could be raised by a mechanism for reading. some of the furniture was small and designed to be easily moved, to quickly re-earrange salons. These included the table bouillotte, a small round table with four legs and drawer.

The tables and cabinets were usually decorated with sculpted and gilded bronze ornament, often in the forms of stylized roses, knotted ribbons, or pine cones. The surfaces were frequently inlaid with plaques of different colored exotic woods or mother-of-pearl, forming either a checkerboard pattern, a pattern of cubes, or more intricate designs. The Commodes Sometimes the wood was dyed to achieve the color contrast, or pieces of wood were laid with the grain in different directions. Rissener were especially known for their richly ornamented surfaces. David Roentgen was particularly famous for his desks, which featured a variety of mechanical features as well as superb woodwork.

The Tapestry
The royal tapestry workshop of Gobelins Manufactory continued to produce high-quality large works for royal residences and the nobility, but tastes had changed. The immense tapestries celebrating historical events were largely out of style. Instead of creating new designs, the manufactories of Gobelins, Beauvais and Aubusson recycled old designs, such as the Metamorphoses of Boucher. An increasing amount of the work was the creation of designs, especially polychrome floral patterns, for the upholstery of the royal furniture. The other two major tapestry workshops, Aubusson and the Beauvais Manufactory, also oriented their work primarily to furniture upholstery.

Wallpaper and printed fabric
Hand-painted wallpaper had been used since in the 16th century for interior decoration, followed by wood block prints. French aristocrats often used tapestries in the major rooms, but in the antechambers and lesser rooms they often used painted or printed of painted paper designs imported from China, India, and especially England. In 1765, the French government placed a heavy tax on imported wallpaper, stimulating French production. During the reign of Louis XVI, the largest French enterprise for making wallpaper was created Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, In 1784 they received the title of Royal Manufactory, opened a large depot near the Tuilieries Palace, and hired a group of noted artists and illustrators, including the son of the painter Boucher, to design wallpaper. They also soon developed a process for printing the wallpaper in long rolls. He also made the colorful paper that covered the balloon that made the first manned flight in 1783. Their factory in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine . became on of the largest in Paris, and was an early target of demonstrations at the beginning of the French Revolution.

Another popular style that developed during the period was the decoration of rooms with panoramic scenes, composed of a number of painted or printed panels put together. These were commonly used in boudoirs and bath chambers. The salon of the pavilion of the Countess of Provence in Montreuil, and the country “Cottage” of the Prince de Condé at Chantilly had a similar panorama installed in 1775.

Another popular form of decoration was printed fine cotton, with elaborate arabesques and floral patterns. The most famous variety was toile de Jouy. The fabric was made with wood block prints, was usually white and red or blue and red, was used to cover beds, for curtains, and for the covers of furniture. Another important industry was that of the manufacture of silk products. The best quality silk was made in Lyon, and was sold to Catherine the Great of Russia, Frederick the Great of Prussia, and other royal clients. Lampas silk coverings with motifs of arabesques and medallions covered the walls of the billiards room of Marie-Antoinette in 1779, and thereafter became fashionable in Paris residences.

Painting and sculpture
The most famous painter of the later French baroque was François Boucher, who perfectly captured the spirit and style of the period. After his death in 1770, shortly before the beginning of the reign of Louis XVI, he had no real successor in the baroque style. The end of the reign of Louis XV also brought to prominence the first artist to paint in the neoclassical style, Joseph Marie Vien, who painted scenes of Rome inspired by the discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii. Vien became the last holder of the title of first painter of the King, which he held from 1789 to 1791. Jean Peyron was another neoclassicist in the early Louis XVI reign. Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun was noted for her portraits of the royal family and nobility, including of Marie Antoinette and her children. The most prominent neoclassicist by far was Jacques-Louis David whose works well before the revolution expressed the Roman virtues of noble and grave simplicity. His major early works included Belisarius asking for alms (1781),The Agony of Andromique (1783), and especially Oath of the Horatii (1784), exalting the willingness of Roman soldiers to give their lives for the nation. The painting was so popular when shown at the Salon of 1785 that David was permitted to establish his studio in Louvre, a particular honor for artists. This painting became a model of the style that dominated French art during and after the Revolution.

Sculpture evolved from the more animated forms of the baroque to the more serene neoclassical style. The sculptors who were most prominent in the period included Étienne Maurice Falconet, who created table sculptures on classical and romantic themes for many Parisian salons, as well as the famous statue of Peter the Great on horseback for St Petersburg. Another notable portrait sculptor was Augustin Pajou, who also made statues of Greek and Roman gods, illustrating virtues; his statue of Mercury represented commerce. The most celebrated portrait sculptor was Jean-Antoine Houdon, known for his busts of leading figures of the period, including, in 1790, in the midst of the Revolution, Louis XVI himself. Louis-Simon Boizot was prominent for making busts of the nobility, including Marie Antoinette, but also for modeling figures for the Sevres porcelain factory, which became better known than his more formal sculpture. Examples include his The Toilet of Madame, made of hard-paste porcelain, mounted on a plaque of marble and gilded bronze.

Musical tastes at court were guided by Marie Antoinette. The Queen played the harp and sang, and had been, in Vienna, a student of Christoph Willibald Gluck. Her favorite composers were Gluck and Grétry, and she regularly attended concerts at the Academy of Music and the Concert Sprituel, a society created to support new religious music. Gluck came to Paris in December 1776 for performances of his opera Iphigenie en Tauride, and remained to compose seven operas. However his opera, Echo et Narcisse in 1779, was a failure, and he departed Paris, never to return.

Mozart came to Paris in 1778, where he conducted two symphonies, including the Parisian and gave music lessons to members of the nobility, as did Hayden. The members of the new Masonic movement in Paris were particularly active in sponsoring music; they commissioned Hayden in 1786-85 to write the Symphonies Parisienees.

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