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French antique styles

Although I find French antique furniture a bit overwhelming, it is probably because modern houses seldom offer the space to do it justice. Whereas in many French houses with their generous dimensions and often higher ceilings they can look really impressive, and reassuringly solid and almost timeless. However, I get totally confused by the different styles between the King Louis and other periods, But here is a quick summary from an antique dealer:

Louis X1V, the Sun King 1643 – 1715 influenced the Baroque style in furniture during the earlier part of his reign which later developed into the Regence style. Baroque was large, masculine, and symmetrical. Regence was characterized by its use of curves and introduction of Chinoiserie.

Louis XV 1715 – 1774 the style of furniture was essentially Rococo with soft, flowing lines, ornamentation was usually done with rocks, shells, flowers, rich upholstery. inlaying and the painting of furniture. Rococo focused on the aristocratic life and on lighthearted romance.The word Rococo is seen as a combination of the French rocaille, or shell, and the Italian barocco, or Baroque style.

Louis XV1 1774 – 1792 the main characteristics of this style being rectangular lines, architectural ornamentation, classic symmetry and marquetry. In the furniture there is an emphasis on straight lines and right angles, moveing away from the curves of the Rococo. Furniture becomes restrained in its form and decoration, with the use of fluted columns, carved friezes, oak and laurel leafs, the Greek band, and other various neo classical attempts to imitate the furniture and architecture of the Romans and Greeks.

Directoire style, about the time of the Directory (1795–99) from which the name is derived. A style transitional between Louis XVI and Empire, it is characterized by a departure from the sumptuousness of the aristocratic regime. Furniture became more angular and severe; marquetry was replaced by large surfaces of painted and waxed wood.

Empire Style. The early 1800s period of Napoleonic rule was that of the Neoclassical style that characterizes artistic creations of the era. Antique forms already seen in the Louis XVI style blended with Napoleon’s imperial symbols, which included the bee, the letter N surrounded by a laurel wreath, stars, the eagle and exotic hieroglyphic motifs from the Egyptian campaign. Empress Joséphine was extremely fond of swans and had pure black swans imported from Australia to swim in her lake. This fondness reflects also in the period and can be seen on the chair arms, curtains, carpets, and porcelain in the staterooms of Chateau de Malmaison, her home in the suburbs of Paris.

French antique furniture is interesting because of its very wide variety; the period styles range from Renaissance though Louis XV to Napoleon III. and all are strikingly different. There is an amazing blend of styles from the various regions and periods of time. The French were great artisans especially in terms of their fine carvings.

French furniture, beds, armoires and complete late 19th century bedroom furniture tended to be made in a wide range of woods such as walnut, cherry, chestnut and oak that are very durable as well as beautiful. These woods exhibit a wonderful patina over the years.
Deja Vu Antiques work closely with many discerning clients and interior designers in providing individual painted armoires and other pieces of hand painted french furniture and antiques to create “that very special look”. Additionally to add a final touch to any room, they have a fine selection of crystal antique chandeliers together with antique gilt mirrors.


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