Acanthus Plant whose foliage is one of the most widely used of all decorative motifs.
Alabaster Finely granular variety of gypsum, often white and translucent used for ornamental objects such as sculptures and vases.
Andirons Metal stands, usually of iron or brass, used for holding logs in a fireplace.
Antique A work of art, a piece of furniture, or any other decorative object which, according to United States law, must be at least 100 years old.
Armoire Wardrobe or large moveable cupboard with doors and shelves for storing clothing, originating in late 16th century France.
Apothecary Jars Small covered jars, formerly used by druggists to hold medicinal herbs.
Arabesque Scroll of flowers and foliage arranged without concern for symmetry.
Art Deco Period from 1925 to about 1935 when designers were influenced by simple geometric patterns.
Art Nouveau (French): Literally, "new art." Period from 1889 to 1925 associated with curvilinear swing design and inspired by plant and animal forms in nature frequently incorporating the figure of women.
Ash A highly figured hardwood having a variety of shades from a grayish hue to deep brown.
Attributes Symbolic objects, often used in the eighteenth century; palm fronds are an attribute of victory, rifles and game are attributes of the hunt.
Aubusson A type of tapestry originally woven at Aubusson, France, a town in central France.
Barbotine (French): Majolica. Earthenware having an opaque glaze of tin oxide and usually highly decorated.
Barley Twist A turned furniture leg or column that resembles a screw thread.
Baroque A style of architecture, art and decoration which originated in Italy during the late 16th century and spread throughout Europe. It is characterized by over scaled, bold details and sweeping curves.
Bassette (French) Literally, "low armoire"
Beech A hardwood which lacks a pronounced grain.
Belle Époque Period between 1871 and 1914 in France, characterized by marked advances and productivity in the arts, literature, and technology. Literally "the beautiful epoch.
"Bergère Armchair that is either caned or upholstered from the arm to the seat.Bevel The angle or edge that one surface makes with another when they are cut at a slant.
Bibliothèque (French): Literally, "library;" in furniture, bookcase.
Biedermeier A style of furniture produced in Austria and Germany during the first half of the 19th century. Inspired by French Empire and German painted peasant work. The name was borrowed from an imaginary cartoon character called Papa Biedermeier, an uneducated country gentleman who considered himself a connoisseur of fine and industrial arts. Simple marquetry patterns were used with pressed brass ornaments of Greek inspiration as well as painted motifs of wreaths, urns and floral, animal and human forms. Woods used were mainly fruitwoods, maple, mahogany and birch
Biscuit or Bisque Unglazed porcelain that has been fired once, usually left entirely undecorated.Bistro A small modest European-style restaurant or café.
Black Forest Furniture carved in and around Bern, Switzerland during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, commonly identified by its use of carved bears and other creatures of the forest, such as deer and birds.
Bobèches A glass ring paced at the base of a candle to gather wax or dangle crystals.
Boiserie Sculptured paneling, especially that of French architecture in the 18th century.
Bombé (French): Literally, "blown out;" the front line of a piece of furniture which forms a convex, or belly-outward, curve.
Book matching Two adjacent sheets of veneer that are opened like a book and glued side by side to produce a symmetrical pattern.
Bonnet Top In cabinet work, a top with a broken pediment or arch, or a curved or scroll top with a central finial motif in the shape of a flame, urn, etc.
Bonnetière Smaller armoire style cabinet that was used for storing woven goods.
Bois Doré Ornamental coating of gold leaf or gold dust over wood.
Boulle work Type of marquetry using tortoiseshell and metal, usually brass, introduced by André Charles Boulle in 18th century France.Bow Front A rounded curve on the front of a piece of wood furniture.
Brass Metal alloy consisting mainly of copper and zinc.
Bronze Metal alloy consisting mainly of copper and tin, the tin content not exceeding 11 percent.
Bronze Doré Ornamental coating of gold leaf or gold dust over bronze. Also known as gilding.Buffet Side- or serving-table used from medieval times.
Buffet Deux Corps (French): Literally, "buffet two bodies;" buffet with upper storage section that sits on top of the lower buffet.
Bun foot Round, turned and sometimes "squashed" foot on a piece of furniture.
Bureau (French): Desk.
Bureau-plat (French): Flat writing-desk in the form of a large elongated table, often with two or three drawers underneath. Introduced at the end of the seventeenth century.
Burl A tree knot or protruding growth that shows up as a pattern in the grain when sliced. Used for inlays and veneers.back to top
Cabriole leg A furniture leg with a double curve. Popular in late 18th century and 19th century Europe.
Cachepot A French term used to identify a decorative china or metal jardinière designed to hold a small potted plant or cut flowers.
Cartouche Escutcheon-like round or oval field, sometimes blank, sometimes inscribed surrounded by an elaborate frame.
Caryatid Support shaped like a female figure.
Chaise fumeur (French): Literally, smoker's chair. A small chair for a man to straddle while resting his forearms on the chair back. Often had compartment for keeping tobacco and playing cards.
Chaise longue (French): Literally, "long chair." Also referred to as a fainting couch.
Chaise nourrice (French): Literally, "nursing chair." Country chair with low seat that was used while nursing babies near the fireside.
Chaise ponteuse (French): "Presentation chair." Small lady's chair used in the 19th century for receiving visitors.
Chauffeuse (French): "Fireside chair."
Chaumière (French): Thatched house often found in Normandy, France.
Chenets Ornamental pieces placed in front of a fireplace.
Chevet (French): Literally, "night stand."
Chinoiserie Style of ornamentation characterized by intricate patterns and an extensive use of Oriental motifs.
Choisy-le-Roi A producer of French Majolica named for the town of Choisy-le-Roi.
Cloisonné Enamelwork in which colored areas are separated by thin metal bands.Coiffe Lace headdress worn in the 19th century by women in Brittany and Normandy.
Coiffeuse Small cabinet with lift-up top that was used for storing hair ornaments, brushes and combs.
Commode Literally, "comfortable" or "convenient."
Chest of drawers, a furniture type introduced toward the end of the 17th century.
Confident S-shaped chair meant to seat two people facing in opposite directions. Used in the 18th and 19th centuries in the French salons for intimate conversations. Also referred to as a tête-à-tête, a French term with the literal meaning of "head-to-head."
Confiturier (French): Jam cabinet.
Console Form of side-table supported by wall bracket(s) with two front legs.
Cornice The top or finishing molding of a column or piece of furniture.back to top
Demi-lune Type of table in the shape of a half moon commonly placed against the wall.
Directoire A period of design in France after the Revolution, from 1795 to 1804. Characterized by Roman motifs and named for the Directory, the French government during that period.
Dowel Headless pin usually made of wood, used in furniture construction.
Drop-front A top or front of a desk hinged at the bottom that drops to a horizontal position, forming a surface for writing.
Drop-leaf Table built with hinged extension leaves, which lower when not in use.
Duchesse Brisée (French): Literally, "broken duchess." A set of two hand-carved armchairs and an ottoman or one hand-carved armchair and an ottoman in the Louis XV style that nest together to form a sort of chaiselongue. Popular in 18th and 19th centuries.back to top
Ebéniste (French): Furniture-maker specializing in luxury case furniture incorporating marquetry of various kinds.
Empire A period of Neo-classic design during the reign of Napoleon 1804-14. Greek, Roman and Egyptian motifs were widely used.Encoignure (French): Corner cupboard.
Enfilade (French): Literally from the French word "enfiler" meaning "to run along." A long buffet that runs down a long wall.
Engraving Print from a copper or wooden plate upon which a drawing or design has been made by a metal tool.
Escutcheon Metal plate fitted around a a keyhole for protection and decoration.
Estagnier A Provencal shelf hung on the wall used for displaying plates. Often hung above a pétrin in a kitchen or dining area.
Etagère Set of free-standing or wall shelves used to display objects.
Etching See Engraving.back to top
Faïence Glazed earthenware such as Quimper
Fauteuil Open-armed chair with open sides.
Faux bamboo Literally, "false bamboo."
Faux painting Literally, "false painting." Painting technique intended to give the illusion that the surface is made of another material.
Finial Decorative detail that is carved or shaped to ornament the top of an upright piece of furniture
Fleur-de-lys Heraldic bearing of the royal family of France. The iris flower or plant.
fluting Decoration formed by making parallel, concave grooves. In classical architecture they' re often seen on column shafts and run in a vertical direction.
French Provincial Rustic versions of formal French furnishings of the 1600s and 1700s, such as the Louis XIV and Louis XV styles.back to top
Gien A French city known for its production of decorative faïence.
Gilding Ornamental coating of gold leaf or gold dust.
Glaze A vitreous coating fixed to ceramic by firing.
Glissant (French): Literally, "sliding." A term short for "buffet à glissant," a buffet with an upper and lower body whose upper body has doors that slide out to the sides. Typically, a Provençal piece.
Grillage (French): Aviary wire. Sometimes used to replace original panels in armoire doors.
Guéridon A small table or pedestal with a circular top dating from the 17th and early 18th centuries. Originally used to support candelabras.back to top
Hallmark The mark or marks designating that a piece of metalwork has received an official approval of quality.
Henri II Reigned in France between 1547 and 1559. Renaissance style of furniture during his reign underwent a revival in France in the 1890s referred to as Henri II style. Highly carved pieces include the buffet deux corps with its two superimposed units that often culminate in low pediments or cornices.
Haussmann (As is in Haussmann's renovation of Paris). It was under Napoleon's rule that Paris in its modern form was created. In 1853 he appointed Baron Haussmann as Prefect, charged with modernising the city. This Haussmann did to a drastic extent, demolishing much of the old city and replacing it with a network of wide, straight boulevards and radiating circuses.
Icon Portrait or image. In the Greek and Russian church it refers to the panels containing portraits or figures of sacred personages, as the Virgin and the various saints.
Incised A pattern or carving produced by cutting into a stone, wood, or other hard surface. The reverse of relief carving.
Inlay Form of decoration which involves cutting small pieces of ivory, precious metals, mother-of-pearl or wood which are then fitted into carved-out recesses of the same shape on a solid piece of furniture to create a picture or geometric design. This differs from marquetry which uses applied veneers, not whole pieces of wood.Intaglio Incised or sunken decoration.
Intarsia Elaborate pictorial marquetry or inlaid paneling, used in Renaissance Italy and also 16th century Germany.
Jacobs, George Born in 1739 in Cheny, France, George Jacobs died in 1814 after an exceedingly successful life as a Master Furniture Maker reached by 1765. He was French and loved in Paris most of his life. Despite his humble origins, Georges Jacob rose to become one of the most renowned menuisiers of his day. Jacob's reputation grew quickly, eventually spreading outside France; the future King George IV of England, Gustavus III of Sweden, and several German princes all ordered furniture from him. the firm become one of the most important of the period, supplying pieces to many wealthy residences and employing more than three hundred workmen.Jacquard Type of weave done on a loom invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801, making possible a variety of intricate patterns. Damasks, brocades, and tapestries can be woven on jacquard looms.Japanning A process much used in the 18th century by which furniture and metalwork were enameled with colored shellac and the decoration raised and painted with gold and other colors
.Jardinière (French): Planter. A French term used to identify a decorative china or metal cachepot designed to hold a small potted plant or cut flowers.Joinery The craft of assembling woodwork by means of mortise and tenon dovetail, tongue-and-groove, dowels,
Lacquer Oriental varnish obtained from the sap of the lacquer tree. Gave a high-gloss finish to furniture in Europe in the 17th century. Mother-of-pearl, coral and metals were often inlaid in the lacquer to create a decorative effect.
Ladder back A chair-back in which horizontal cross-rails give a ladder effect.
lalique A luminous, transparent glass introduced in the early 20th century by René Lalique of France. Most of his designs have a sculptural quality achieved by pressing and alternating a dull with a polished surface.
Lavabo A washstand or washbowl, often with a fountain or water supply.
Linen fold Form of carving, which imitated vertical folds of drapery. Probably Flemish in origin, it was widely used in the 15th and 16th centuries to decorate furniture and wall paneling.
Loupe (French): Burl.
Lithograph A print made by putting writing or designs on stone with a greasy material, and producing printed impressions from this process.
Louis-Philippe Reigned in France between 1830 and 1848. Louis-Philippe style furniture includes flat panels and a lack of moldings. Straight and smooth support posts are bare of ornament and their corners are rounded. Few decorative motifs.
Louis XII Reigned in France between 1610 and 1643. Renaissance style of furniture during his reign underwent a revival I in France in the 1880s referred to as Louis XIII style. Highly carved pieces include the buffet deux corps with its two superimposed units that often culminate in low pediments or cornices. Barley twist is another frequent trait of the Louis XIII style.
Louis XIV Known as the Sun King, he reigned in France between 1643 and 1715. Influenced the Baroque style in furniture during the earlier part of the reign, which later developed into the Regency style. Mahogany and oak were widely used. Baroque was large, masculine and symmetrical. Regency was characterized by its use of curves and introduction of chinoiserie. Ornamentation was usually done with rocks, shells, and flowers.Louis XV Reigned in France between 1715 and 1774. The style of furniture was essentially Rococo with soft flowing lines, shell and flower ornamentation, rich upholstery, inlaying and painted furniture.
Louis XVI Reigned in France between 1774 and 1791. Characteristics of this style were rectangular lines, architectural ornamentation, classic symmetry, marquetry and the predominant use of mahogany.back to top
Maie (French): Chest with lift-up top that was used to store food in the French farmhouse.
Majolica Pottery coated with a tin enamel and painted with bright colors. Originally an Italian and Spanish pottery, its French counterpart is called "barbotine."
Marquetry A type of ornamental veneer comprising shaped pieces of wood or other substances which form a mosaic, or kind of jigsaw-puzzle, in floral, landscape, arabesque or other patterns; if a geometric pattern, called parquetry. It differs from inlay, in which a cut-out recess on a solid piece of furniture is filled with decoration.
Mortise-and-tenon A hole cut in a piece of wood and intended to receive a tenon projecting from another piece of wood.
Mother-of-pearl Iridescent white inlay composed of the highly polished pearly lining of certain seashells.back to top
Napoléon III Reigned in France from 1848 to 1870 during the period called the Second Empire. Characteristics of furniture produced during this period were borrowed from preceding styles. Use of dark woods including ebony. Imitation of Boulle marquetry. Widespread production of papier-mâché accessories often inset with mother of pearl.
Neo-classic Refers to the second revival of classic design for interior decoration in the 18th century.
Nesting tables Group of tables, usually three, constructed so that one fits under the other.Niche A recessed or hollow space in a wall, intended to hold a statue or ornament.
Obelisk Tall, square stone monumental shaft with pyramidal top used in ancient Egypt. The form, on a small scale in alabaster, is used as a decorative ornament in Directoire, Empire and contemporary interiors
Ormolu French term for a type of cast bronze ornament finished by hand chasing and surfaced with gold. Also known as gilt-bronze or bronze doré. Often used to refer to bronze furniture mounts enhanced by gilding
Os de mouton (French): Literally, "mutton bone." Refers to the sinuous stretchers in Louis XIV furniture.
Palmette Fan-shaped pattern derived from the shape of a palm frond. Neo-classical motif.
Panetière (French) Provençal piece of furniture, originally from Arles, that was used to store bread. Was hung on the wall or placed on top of a pétrin. Has turned spindles, hand carved ornamentation, and finials.
Papier-mâché Technique using sand, chalk, and paper pulp molded while wet into decorative forms and furniture. Popular during the Napoléon III period.
Paravent (French): Folding screen.
Parquetry Inlay of geometric design.
Partner's desk Desk large enough to set two people facing each other with working drawers on both sides
.Patina Term used to designate a mellow sheen formed n the surface of furniture, due to wear, age, exposure and hand-rubbing. Also a film, usually greenish, formed on copper or bronze after long exposure.
Petit-point Small-stitch embroidery, which is worked on a single thread net, covering the entire surface. Term usually applies when there are more than 256 stitches to the square inch.
Pétrin (French) Coffer type piece of furniture on four legs with top that lifts up or off. Was used to store flour or to put dough inside to rise.Pied-a-terre A pied-à-terre (French "foot on the ground") is a small living unit usually located in a large city some distance away from an individual's primary residence. It may be an apartment or condiminium.
Pied de biche Deer feet, typically found at the base of the cabriole legs in Regence and Louis XV furniture.
Poinçon Punched silver hallmarks on French silver
.Poplar Even-textured and straight-grained wood, it is available in lumber as well as in thin stock suitable for cross-banding and face veneers.
Porcelain A hard, non-porous pottery. True porcelain is made of kaolin or china clay.
Portemanteau (French): Literally, "holds coats." Coat and hat rack or hall tree.
Porte-parapluies (French): Literally, "holds umbrellas." Umbrella stand.
Pot de confit (French): Literally, confit pot. Glazed earthenware pot used to store goose meat in fat for preparing a goose confit.
Prie-dieu (French): Literally, "prays God." A low-seated armless chair with a high back and wide top-rail on which to rest a prayer book. Used as a kneeler for prayer.
Pyrenees (French): A mountain chain of southwestern Europe that consists of flat-topped massifs and folded linear ranges. It stretches from the shores of the Mediterraneon Sea on the east to the Bay of Biscay on the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The Pyrenees form a high wall between France and Spain that has played a significant role in the history of both countries and of Europe as a whole. Literally, "prays God." back to top
Quimper Tin-glazed earthenware, or faïence, that is hand-painted with scenes depicting life in the province of Brittany, France.back to top
Rattan A climbing palm, remarkable for the great length attained by its stems. Commonly used for wickerwork, seats of chairs, walking sticks, etc.
Refectory table A long and narrow table having stretchers close to the floor. These were used in monasteries for the monks to take their meals while seated on one side only of the table. American antique dealers often refer to the French draw leaf table as a refectory table as well.
Regency Transitional period in French furniture design between Louis XIV and the Rococo style developed by Louis XV. Named for the time frame in France from 1715 to 1728 when Philip, Duke of Orleans, reigned. Characteristics are graceful curves, the cabriole leg, and ornamentation copied from nature rather than mythology. Bright veneers of rosewood and satinwood were widely used.
Régule Tin-rich alloy usually containing some antimony, some copper, and sometimes some lead. Used in the 19th century to cast figures that were finished with a bronze coating to resemble their more expensive counterparts cast of solid bronze.
Relief Forms of molded, carved or stamped decoration raised from the surface of a piece of furniture forming a pattern.
Repoussé (French): Literally, "pushed out." A term for the method of making a design in relief in metalwork, commonly brass, by hammering from behind so that the decoration projects outward.
Restoration Period in Neo-classic design between the years of 1815 and 1830 under Louis XVIII (1815-23) and Charles X (1823-30). Similar to Empire style but with smaller dimensions and more restrained ornamentation.
Rocaille Rococo form of decoration using abstract shell- and rockwork in its design.
Rococo Period in French design originating in the 18th century after Baroque. It was asymmetrical and tended to be over-ornamented. Name is derived from the French words rocaille and coquille, rock and shell, which are prominent motifs in this decoration.
Rosette Ornamental motif in the shape of a star or rose.
Rush seat A woven seat where either natural cattail leaf rush, bulrush or man-made paper fiber rush is woven around the four seat rungs or dowels, forming four distinct triangles in the seat pattern.back to top
Sabot (French) Metal "shoe," protective as well as ornamental, on the feet of a piece of furniture.Samovar An urn with a spigot at its base used especially in Russia to boil water for tea.
Sarreguemines A French faience that produced Majolica
Sconce A lighting fixture with one or more branches that is attached to a wall.
Secretary Desk An 18th century tall piece of furniture with drawers at the bottom, a bookcase on top and a desk with a drop-lid in the center.
Staffordshire pottery Pottery made in Staffordshire, England. Provincial in shape, ornamentation and coloring. The better grades are usually known by the individual names of their makers.
Sterling A term used in connection with silverware, indicating that the silver is 92.5 percent pure.Stretcher Strengthening or stabilizing rail, which runs horizontally between furniture legs, often forming X, H, or Y shapes.b
Terra cotta Hard-baked pottery used in decorative arts and as a building material, usually of a red-brown clay, but may be colored with paint or baked glaze.
Terre de fer Faïence or earthenware with iron content.
Tête-à-tête See confident.
Thonet Bentwood furniture produced by a steam process developed by the German cabinetmaker Michael Thonet in 1835. The Thonet line is best known for its graceful curvilinear Art Nouveau designs produced at the turn of the nineteenth century and for its highly sophisticated Art Deco designs of the 1920s.
Tilt-top table Table with whole top hinged to a pedestal base so that it can be tipped from a horizontal to a vertical position when not in use.
Tole (French): Tin., Tinware that is usually decorated by means of japanning.
Tongue-and-groove Straight or right-angled joint made by cutting a groove into one piece of wood into which fits the projecting groove from another. Used from the 19th century onwards.
Torchère Type of floor lamp equipped with a decorative glass or metal reflector bowl designed to throw light upward.
Trestle table Table composed of a long, oblong board, originally supported by a trestle or sawhorse, but now supported by posts and feet
Trompe l'oeil Idiomatic French term meaning literally "tricks the eye." A type of decoration borrowed by the French from the Greeks during the 17th century. Objects painted in perspective to suggest they are three-dimensional.
Trumeau The decorative treatment of the space over a mantel, door, or window consisting of a mirror or painting. Specifically, the over mantel panel treatment of the Louis XV and Louis XVI periods.
Turning Decoration produced by rotating or turning wood on a lathe and cutting it to form twisted or bulbous designs. All periods have employed turning, especially on the legs of tables. The design of the turning is often the key to the period to which the furniture belongs.back to top
Vaisselier A hutch or china cabinet. A buffet deux corps used to store dishes. Comes from the French word "vaisselle" meaning dishes.
Veneer Decorative effect accomplished by the application of thin layers of ornamental and often exotic woods to an underlying structurally supporting surface.
Vitrine French term for a display cabinet with a glass front. Comes from the French word "vitre," meaning a glass pane.
Sources:Chadenet, Sylvie. Tous les Styles du Louis XIII a l'Art Deco. Paris: Sofédis, 1981.Parvulesco, Constantin. Guide des Meubles Régionaux. Paris: Flammarion, 2001.Kylloe, Ralph. Rustic Traditions. Utah: Gibbs Smith, 1993.Newman, Bruse M. Fantasy Furniture. New York: Rizzoli, 1989.Parker, Clifford. Initiation à la Culture Française. New York: Harper and Row, 1963.Payne, Christopher. Sotheby's Concise Encyclopedia of Furniture. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.French Metro Antiques. http://www.frenchmetro.com/learn.html
The Medieval Style 1300-1500
The Medieval Period is also known as the Gothic Period, and authentic antique pieces from this period are rare. However, they serve as a reference point in the history of furniture since they are the ancestors of all French furniture that follows.
The most important characteristic of medieval furniture is its stability of form. Few changes in shapes or lines occurred from the eleventh century to the end of the fifteenth century. Seating was very rudimentary consisting of simple planks of oak fixed to trestles to form benches or stools. Chairs often consisted of a chest with a highly decorated front panel surmounted by a high back and two arms. Armoires consisted of two or three superimposed units with hinged doors. Highly carved chests were the most characteristic pieces of the period.
Oak was used until the end of the fifteenth century. The use of walnut arrived thereafter. Wrought iron was used for hinges, door braces, locks, handle and studs.
Ornamental themes of the medieval period were all inspired by the religious fervor of the times. Rosettes, lancet arches and interlace recalled the Gothic churches. Legends of saints and scenes from the Gospels were the theme for figure compositions. The majority of ornament was painted or carved, sometimes entirely polychrome.back to top
The Renaissance Style 1500-1610
French Renaissance style is basically a translation of the Italian Renaissance style with a few of its own distinguishing features.
The buffet is the most characteristic type of furniture. Called the Henri II buffet after the French king who reigned from 1547 to 1559, it underwent a revival at the end of the nineteenth century and was mass-produced between the years of 1860 and 1900. These pieces are quite large and consist of two superimposed units often culminating in a pediment or cornice. Doors are ornately carved and decorated with mirrors, medallions, and garlands. The support posts often take the form of caryatids. Feet are short and squat.
The Louis XIII Style 1589-1661
The reign of Louis XIII was from 1610 to 1649, but the Louis XIII style extended to the beginning of Louis XIV's reign in 1661. The influence of the Spanish, Italian and Flemish dominated the European fashion in both dress and furniture. Interior rooms became more numerous and more use-specific. A demand for furniture, tapestry and textiles followed with a growing taste for the sumptuous. Creative imagination was appreciated in both design and ornament. A national style eventually came to the forefront, which would lead to the place of leadership in French style under Louis XIV.
England: The Elizabethan style
Italy: MannerismSpain: End of the Siglo d'oroFurnitureLouis XIII furniture is geometric in appearance with a tendency toward the architectural. Massive forms feature veneer, turned wood and moldings.
Materials and Techniques
Woods used in the period were oak, walnut, ebony, pear wood and pine. Turning was used widely in chairs, on table stretchers, chests and cabinets, and on the colonnettes of armoires. Serpentine columns and barley twist were especially predominant.
Moldings were used prominently to frame doors, panels and drawers, as well as to give prominence to cornices and to create geometric patterns in panels.
Heavy, massive motifs were in favor. Decorative motifs include the drapery swag, the cartouche, palm fronds, chimeras, acanthus leaves, ball and claw, putti, scallop shells, cornucopias, bulging vases, eagles with spread wings, ovals, feathers and lion and ram heads.
The Louis XIV Style 1661-1700
Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, was an absolute monarch and a sort of superhuman personification of the state ("L'Etat, c'est moi.") It was thus that the Louis XIV style was imposed on all of the artistic productions of the period. It soon spread throughout Europe, replacing that of Italy and Spain. The French aesthetic was extremely formalist and indifferent to reality. The Louis XIV style is characterized by balance, symmetry, formal amplitude, and a deep distrust of disorder and natural caprice.AbroadEngland: The William and Mary style and the beginning of the Queen Anne styleItaly: The BaroqueSpain: Churrigueresque style
The Louis XIV style closed the age of multiple-use pieces and ushered in a new era of individualized, use-specific furniture. Generic chests continued to be made only in the provinces, and the last cabinets were executed by the cabinetmaker of Louis XIV, André-Charles Boulle (1642-1732). The painter Charles Le Brun who was entrusted with the decoration of Versailles coordinated the activity of the ébénistes, or specialists in luxury case furniture. The ébénistes were indeed servants of the Sun King himself. Materials and TechniquesChestnut, walnut and oak were the predominant materials for the large solid-wood pieces of the period. Case furniture was often made of more than one kind of wood: oak for the main case, poplar or pine for secondary elements. Boulle was the supreme master of marquetry and various woods and contrasting colors were incorporated into the Boulle marquetry. These included almond wood, boxwood, holly wood and pear wood. Bronze was often used as ornamentation as well as for reinforcement of the structure of a piece.
The rigor and symmetry in the Louis XIV ornament resulted in balanced and majestic compositions. Straight lines are softened by garland motifs, dentils and fluting, but there are fewer columns and pediments than in the Louis XIII furniture. Curved lines are short and not predominant. Right angles are softened by bronze mounts.
Moldings are thick, responding to a need for symmetry and framing. Fielded panels are usually notched in all four corners or only in the two upper corners. They are also often arched but with four right angle corners or with shaped indents. Decorative motifs are sumptuous and resonate with the grandeur of the Louis XIV style. Human masks sometimes radiating solar rays as well as mascarons of grotesque faces that emerge from vegetation are common motifs. Motifs of animal origin include scallop shells, lion heads, lion claws, ram heads, dolphins, gryphons and hooved feet. Motifs of vegetable origin include the oak, laurel, olive, fleur-de-lys (emblem of the Bourbon kings), festoons of fruit and flowers and acanthus and waterleaves. Architectural motifs include balusters, consoles, modillions, dentils and triglyphs. Axes, shields, helmets and arrows are martial attributes that appear on the furniture of the day. Motifs borrowed from tapestry design such as tassels, drapery knots and ribbons also commonly appear.back to top
The Régence Style 1700-1730
The regency of Philippe d'Orléans lasted from 1715 to 1723, but the Regency style emerged at the beginning of the century and continued into the reign of Louis XV. The Regency state of mind was a reaction to the strict rules of etiquette in the Louis XIV court. The turn was toward intimacy, comfort, distraction and pleasure and away from the stiff ceremony of the court. The glory and majesty of the Louis XIV era gave way to the grace and charm of the Régence whose elegance is reflected in the new furniture of the day. AbroadEngland: End of Queen Anne periodItaly: End of Baroque periodSpain: Philip V style (imitation Boulle)
The furniture of the Régence period became less bulky in the interest of comfort and intimacy. Pieces of furniture became smaller, easier to move and more numerous. Their lines grew more fluid and curvaceous. Forms were more elegant and agreeable to the eye. Régence is a transitional style with conservative and new elements in the same piece.
Materials and Techniques
Oak was the wood of choice for the finest furniture pieces. Pine and poplar were used for the more ordinary ones. Beech, walnut, fruitwoods or lime wood was used for seating. Natural woods were favored but gilded wood remained in fashion for consoles, ceremonial chairs and frames. The use of wood veneer was widespread. Rosewood and kingwood were the most prized veneers. Marquetry of colored woods was set into ebony backgrounds, often in geometric patterns.
Bronze fittings were used around desk- and tabletops, as drawer reinforcements and handles, as protective sabots, or shoes, and as console espagnolettes to protect projecting corners. These fittings were of ormolu, also called bronze doré.
Ornament in the Régence style is softer than in the Louis XIV style but not so supple as in the Louis XV style that it is indistinguishable from the armature it supports. Overall compositions remain symmetrical for the most part. Curved profiles become the norm. Right angles are softened by decorative motifs.
Moldings become thinner and less imposing than under Louis XIV and are in low relief. Indents and bronze fittings mask corners. Furniture of solid wood is decorated with delicate ornament on panels fielded by moldings.
Decorative motifs were widely used in both carved and bronze-mount form. Masks and mascarons are still present, but they are replaced by smiling heads of fauns and women. The lion's head from the Louis XIV style disappears. Espagnolettes, or female busts emerge from console legs and on projections of corners on desks, chests of drawers and console tables. Scallop shells are the most characteristic motif of the Régence style, but they are more natural in appearance, never twisted, as they would be under Louis XV. The bat's wing, not to be confused with the scallop shell, is also used. Toward the end of the Régence period, monkeys, dolphins, dragons, birds and chimeras appear as a decorative motif. Motifs of vegetal origin include less stylized palmettes than under Louis XIV. Acanthus leaves are longer and suppler and are worked in everywhere. Waterleaves, palm fronds and gadrooned leaves are also widely used. Some motifs of exotic origin such as pagodas, peacock feathers, parasols, humpback bridges, misshapen rocks and exotic flowers also appear.back to top
The Louis XV Style 1730-1760
Although the reign of Louis XV extended from 1715 to 1774, the style of the same name began to emerge about 1730 and was transformed into the Louis XVI style about 1760. However, these three decades can be celebrated for the creation of the most brilliant, the most refined, and perhaps the most charming of styles ever devised. This was not only the reign of the king but also of his favorites. The royal mistresses played a very important role as models for customs, fashions and taste. The mistress of the house exerted a new influence that changed the chilly atmosphere of the palace to suites of comfortable, well-heated and intimate rooms. Rooms were smaller, more numerous and more use-specific. These rooms were furnished with attentiveness to elegance, refinement, comfort and well-being. Gone were marble walls, replaced by high paneling that was carved, painted or varnished. Gone were stone floors, replaced by wood marquetry. Mantelpieces became lower, and art objects and knickknacks were chosen with an eye for an overall effect. Everything conspired to create an atmosphere of exceptional elegance for France had become the European model for cultivated sociability. AbroadEngland: Palladian and Chippendale stylesItaly: The RococoSpain: Carlos IV style (rococo an antique revival) FurnitureLouis XV is the greatest of all periods for French furniture. Materials are varied, workmanship is exceptional, and forms adapt to all manner of demand. Furniture became practical and transportable without sacrificing any of its elegance. Materials and TechniquesMost solid wood furniture was made of oak or walnut. Beech, linden wood and walnut were used in chairs. Painted wood was often used as it fostered harmony between furniture and paneling. Gilded wood was reserved for trumeau mirrors and console tables. Colorful compositions of marquetry were in vogue due to the availability of a hundred different species. Mahogany came into use. Bronze fittings were less refined than those on Régence furniture. Cast bronze pieces were either gilded (ormolu) or coated with a gold varnish. Marble was used to add color highlights to furniture. Thick overhanging tops accentuated the forms of the pieces beneath them. Porcelain also came into vogue and was used in delicate rectangular or medallion plaques set into mahogany panels.
Asymmetry is the delight of Louis XV ornament. Curved lines, c-scrolls and s-curves lend themselves to the overall fantastic and exuberant movement that make the Louis XV ornament the antithesis of the stiffness of the Louis XIV style. Decorative motifs inspired by flora and fauna were placed on bronze fittings, silver, carved wood and marquetry. Cartouches in frames of rocaille appear. Scallop shells are now irregularly shaped. Doves and dolphins are the animal motifs of choice. Stylized flowers appear everywhere. The acanthus is combined with all rocaille motifs. Attributes of love, the hunt, fishing, music and the pastoral life are significant as they celebrate the sweetness of 18th century daily life. Oriental themes such as sultans, pashas, dervishes and monkeys invade decoration as well. Menuisiers and EbénistesA division of the guild of woodworkers appeared during this period. The menuisiers and ébénistes were allowed to make both solid-wood frame furniture and case furniture incorporating Boulle and wood marquetry. However, in reality, menuisiers made only solid-wood frame pieces and ébénistes made luxury case furniture. It was the menuisiers who produced beds, seating, tables, buffets, armoires and consoles made of walnut or oak. The wood sculptors who worked closely with the menuisiers did the hand carving on these pieces. The ébénistes were specialists in incorporating boulle marquetry and wood marquetry in their luxury case furniture.
The Louis XVI Style 1760-1789
The Louis XVI style appeared fifteen years before the king ascended the throne and began to wane at the first approach of the Revolution that led to his demise. Geniality and simplicity replaced the exotic refinements and disorderly exuberance of the Louis XV style. As Marie-Antoinette played at peasantry in the Petit Trianon at Versailles, so small rustic retreats replaced the fussy elegance of the ceremonial rooms and townhouses of large cities. Antiquity was examined anew, this time characterized by reason and grace. Furniture lost its unnecessary ornamentation and lines became more restrained.
England: The Adam styleItaly: The Neoclassical styleSpain: Carlos IV style FurnitureFurniture types remain numerous and varied with each piece of furniture designed to fill a specific need of the refined culture of the noble class. Forms became stiffer, but the basic configuration of each piece of furniture that came into being during the Louis XV period remained much the same.
Materials and TechniquesOak was used for solid-wood pieces. Walnut, ash and burled walnut were used for seating and moveable pieces. Mahogany became very fashionable both as veneer and in solid-wood pieces. Ebony also came back into vogue after being banished during the Louis XV period. Satinwood also was often used under Louis XVI. Painted pieces were trimmed in gold or another contrasting color. Gilded wood was used for ceremonial chairs, console tables and mirror frames.
Marquetry continued to enjoy favor but geometric patterns proliferated. Lozenge and checkerboard patterns, interlace, rosettes, frets and rectangles with indented corners were placed to underscore the structure of a piece. Central motifs were set within rectangle or medallions. Turned elements became common thanks to straight lines being the new fashion. Legs and vertical supports were turned in various ways, resembling spindles, quivers, columns and balusters.
Porcelain plaques made of Sèvres porcelain or in Wedgwood relief were incorporated into pieces. Copper was used to form collars circling turned legs and as strips to accentuate panels, moldings, and fluting. Steel began to appear to set off openwork bronze and copper fittings. Bronze fittings were applied to almost all Louis XVI furniture but they were more delicate in form and thus more ornamental than protective. They are small and finely detailed and are arranged symmetrically as corner ornaments, shoes, handles and key plates. Their forms derive from antiquity (dentils, interlace, egg-and-dart and laurels), upholstery (festoons, tassels, cords, fringes and knotted ribbons) and nature (flowers, fruit, and animals all rendered naturalistically). The marble of choice was white, gray or sometimes red with veining. It was used for the tops of commodes and tables.
Ornament Lines are straight.
Strict verticals and horizontals were the order of the day. Flat surfaces and right angles are back in vogue. Ornament was disposed symmetrically around a central axis. Moldings were thinner, more elegant and less emphatic. Wall panels were square, rectangular, or arched, and accompanied by rosettes and acanthus. The paneling corners sometimes have rectangular or rounded indents adorned with small rosettes. Decorative elements are situated toward the top and bottom of furniture panels and include floral sprays hanging from knotted ribbons, or vases and urns containing flowers and greenery.
Decorative motifs of Louis XVI style were inspired by antiquity, the Louis XIV style and nature. Objects unearthed at ancient sites are inspiration for decorative motifs. Examples are vases, urns with squared handles, tripods, braziers, dentils, eagles, dolphins and ram and lion heads. Architectural motifs were used both as supports and as decorative elements. These include fluting, cabled fluting when the cabled terminate in leaf bud motifs, pilasters, fluted balusters and columns. Female masks and figures of children are frequently used. Elements of nature include strings of olive and oak leaves, short garlands of flowers and foliage, wreaths of laurel, ivy, and flowers, pinecones and pomegranates.
The Directoire Style 1789-1804
This fifteen-year period between the French Revolution and the Empire was the most troubled in French history. Three successive regimes marked the passage between the absolute monarchy of the Bourbon kings to the Empire established by Napoléon I. Gone were the Bourbons and the customs, tastes and decors of the old regime. Luxury, power and privilege were condemned. Equality, simplicity and civic virtue replaced them. However, the ideals of the Revolutionists were not always played out in their true form in the fashion of the day. Affectations of simplicity often existed side by side with conspicuous luxury. The revolutionaries suppressed the furniture guilds during this period, and thus, craftsmanship was no longer guaranteed. The new clients of the day did not have the sophistication to demand the high quality work that had been produced by the menuisiers and ébénistes of the court, and the Directoire government lacked the authority to insist upon it.
England: End of the Adam styleItaly: The Neoclassical styleSpain: The Carlos IV style FurnitureThe weak economic situation during the Directoire had a direct impact on the furniture production of the day. The simplification process begun under Louis XVI along with a taste for classical forms continued. The furniture of this period is elegant and gracious, heralds references of antiquity and comes to fruition in the Empire style.
Materials and Techniques
Most furniture from this period is solid wood: elm, walnut, fruitwood or beech. Only luxury work is made of solid and carved mahogany or has mahogany veneer. Painted pieces in gray, white, sea green and lime green boasted carved ornament painted in a contrasting color or different shades of the same color. Marquetry disappeared entirely and bronze fittings became rare.
Directoire ornament is spare and light and is inspired by the Greek and Pompeian models. Lines are straight with crisp geometric forms. Surfaces are flat and corners are clean.
Characteristic motifs include squares, rectangles and palmettes. Single lozenges contain a motif, often a Greek urn or medallion. Motifs of antiquity of the Directoire period also include tureens, columns, arrows, dragons, winged lions, swans and gryphons. Sphinxes, lotus flowers, pyramids and caryatids began to appear after the French expedition into Egypt.back to top
The Empire Style 1804-1815
The Empire style was propaganda for the Emperor Napoléon I. The Emperor was for France her Alexander the Great, her Caesar, and the analogy was no more visible than in the monumental style that harkened back to the ancients. The Rome of Augustus, the Greece of the oracles, the Pharaohs of Egypt, and the Macedonia of Alexander the Great were the only worthy models for the new French Empire.
Napoléon centralized artistic production, making it subject to control from Paris. Government exhibitions replaced the traditional guilds. The new elite imitated shamelessly its master and the result was the unprecedented success and uniformity of the Empire style.
England: the Regency styleItaly: the neoclassical style
Spain: the Joseph Bonaparte styleFurnitureThe Empire style is spare, noble, and massive. Its majesty lies in its imposing presence. Surfaces are flat and corners are sharp. Moldings are non-existent. Solemnity prevails over comfort. The small pieces of furniture for specific purposes became more rare.Materials and TechniquesMahogany was the wood of choice, be it blond, dark, moiré, figured, or flame. After 1810, mahogany became unavailable because of the continental blockade and furniture makers were forced to use walnut, burled elm, beech, ash, boxwood, olivewood, maple, and rarely citronnier. Complex marquetry disappeared and was replaced by discreet inlay ornament. Fillets of blond wood, copper or steel were set into dark wood. Fillets of dark wood were set into blond wood. If chairs were gilded so was their ornament. If painted, their ornament was painted or gilded as well.
Bronze fittings were the only ornaments on furniture. They are placed symmetrically on flat surfaces and are delicately chased. Marble tops have sharp corners and are most often gray or black.OrnamentSymmetry is de rigueur in all Empire ornament. The motifs on a piece's right and left ides generally correspond to one another in every detail. When they do not, the individual motifs themselves are entirely symmetrical in composition. For example, antique heads with identical tresses fall onto each shoulder or identical swans flank either side of a lock plate.Napoléon, like Louis XIV, had a set of emblems unmistakably associated with his rule. These were the eagle, the bee, stars and the initials I (for Imperator) and N (for Napoleon) inscribed within an imperial laurel crown. Motifs of human origin include figures of Victory bearing palm branches, Greek dancers, nude and draped women, and masks of Apollo and Hermes. Swans, lions, the heads of oxen, horses, butterflies, claws, and sea horses are among the motifs of animal origin of the period. Compact rose wreaths, oak wreaths, climbing grape vines and "Egyptian" waterleaves are motifs of vegetal origin. Circles, squares, lozenges, octagons and ovals often frame Greco-Roman and Egyptian motifs.
The Restoration Style 1815-1830
The Restoration period arrived on the heels of defeat after Waterloo ended the Napoleonic dream of grandeur. The two brothers of Louis XVI reigned during this period: the comte of Provence who reigned as Louis XVIII (1815-23) and the comte d'Artois, Charles X (1823-1830) who was the last of the Bourbon kings. They sought to revive the culture of the former monarchy. The Restoration was a reaction to the pomp of the Empire. It fostered an elegance and refinement that was lacking in the grandeur of the Napoléon period. Mahogany was deemed too heavy and was replaced by blond woods. Smaller pieces of furniture in small reception rooms and boudoirs came back into fashion. However, the Restoration continued in the neoclassical tradition and can be seen as a refinement of the Empire style.
England: The Regency
Italy: Late Neoclassicism
FurnitureThe basic shapes of Empire pieces survive but with softer lines. Elegance and unpretent
ious harmony characterize the Restoration style. The furniture of this period is comfortable, gracious and portable.
Materials and TechniquesThe use of veneer, solid-wood construction, and inlay work were all employed adeptly by the skilled craftsmen of the day. The use of light wood against dark wood grounds is typical, but during the reign of Charles X, inlays of dark wood were set into blond grounds. The darks woods used were mahogany, rosewood, and purple wood. The choice of woods available was large and blond woods included varnished elm, ash, plane tree, bird's eye maple, burr thuya, sycamore, orange wood, citronnier, olive wood and acacia. Bronze fittings are used more sparingly than under the Empire. Marble used on furniture tops can be pale gray with subtle veining, white or, less often, black. The corners of the tops are now rounded with cyma profiles on their fore-edges.
Restoration ornament is light and refined. Moldings, now thin and delicate, reappear, having been abandoned during the Empire. Tulip moldings (cyma reversa moldings) are introduced at the tops of secretaries and commodes. Some Empire motifs survive such as palmettes, cornucopias, stars, swans, lyres and dolphins. However, they are in simplified form and are more stylized with a new lightness to them in comparison to their solemn Empire counterparts. Geometric motifs include squares, lozenges, rectangles, octagons and ellipses but less frequently than in Empire furniture. Ribbons are especially common. Allegorical and antique motifs become more rare. Gothic motifs such as decorative rose windows and Gothic tracery appear.
The Louis-Philippe Style 1830-1848
The Louis-Philippe style was created for a busy but coddled bourgeoisie. It was less preoccupied with originality than it was with comfort and new techniques and production. It sought to reconcile the new large-scale production techniques of the day with the tradition of great French craftsmanship. The Louis-Philippe furniture was less expensive, yet made with just as much care as, furniture from preceding periods. Comfort was the priority for the newly rich bankers and industrialists and thus, practicality was a must. The new social class often lived in small apartments and so needed smaller furniture. The resulting pieces are sought after today since they are well suited to today's Parisian apartments.
England: The Victorian style
Italy: Beginning of the Ottocento styleSpain: End of Ferdinand and beginning of Isabellin
The Louis-Philippe style is an extension of the Restoration style. The same basic structures prevail but without the same elegance and refinement. Forms become heavy and ornament becomes formulaic.
Materials and Techniques
Dark woods replaced blond ones. Machine tools enter widespread use. Thus, execution of a piece is more rapid. Bronze fittings and marquetry work were eliminated since they added to production expenses. However, craftsmen still took great pride in quality workmanship. They selected woods with great care and still assembled and finished their pieces by hand.Mahogany, rosewood and ebony are favored. Blond woods such as sycamore, burled elm, citronnier and maple are favored for the interior veneers of certain pieces such as secretaries. Brass fittings are rare but keyholes are sometimes surrounded by copper inlay ornament. Marble tops are gray black, or white and have molded cyma fore-edges. Inlay work is rare.OrnamentMoldings disappear. Panels become flat and lack moldings. Support posts are straight and smooth and are bare of ornament. Their corners are rounded. Decorative motifs are few. Large leaf foliage and palmettes are carved on chair arms and table legs. The "frog's leg" motif often figures on the legs of Louis-Philippe chairs, settees and case furniture.back to top The Second Empire Style 1848-1870Also known as the Napoléon III period, the twenty year reign of the nephew of Napoléon I, was a period where science and industry were to triumph. This was a period of literal copies for the materials, forms, and ornamental motifs seen in the furniture produced during this period were all borrowed from preceding styles. Paris was being redesigned by Baron Haussmann and in its transformation; the furniture-makers of the faubourg Saint-Antoine were producing abundantly in order to furnish all of the new townhouses and apartments.
England: The Victorian style
Italy: The Ottocento and neo-Gothic styles
Spain: The end of Isabellin
The furniture of the Napoléon III period is most influenced by three styles: the Renaissance, Louis XV (rococo) and Louis XVI. Small pieces of all types are unceasingly developed to satisfy new needs in daily life.
Materials and TechniquesDark woods are used and machine-assisted production methods are perfected during the Second Empire. Ebony, pitch pine, blackened pear wood, walnut, tulipwood and purple wood were all used. Wood coated with black lacquer, or blackened wood, which was used for small pieces with inlaid or painted decoration was the rage. Papier mâché was used beginning in 1850 in France. It was shaped by molding and was often inset with mother-of-pearl. Cuir bouilli (literally: "boiled leather") was used much like papier mâché as well. Gilt bronze was used as ornament, frame and case elements and was often made to resemble bamboo. Cast iron could now be produced cheaply and began to appear in furniture, especially in settees, beds and guéridon stands. The use of machine tools became widespread in all areas of furniture craft during the Napoléon III period.
OrnamentA variety of materials and techniques are employed in Second Empire ornament. Gilt-bronze fittings, copper, pewter, ivory and mother-of-pearl inlay, carved and gilded wood, applied porcelain plaques, painting on wood and panels of lacquered wood are some examples. Motifs from the Renaissance, Louis XV and Louis XVI are in fashion along with imagery of the Far East, Africa and Native Americas. Birds, pagodas, fret designs and figures in oriental pieces were part of the Louis XVI-Empress pieces (Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III). Black caryatids were used a legs and support stands on tables. Imitation cord and bamboo was used for seating frames.
Style Moderne and Art Nouveau 1889-1925
The style moderne, which encompasses Art Nouveau remained experimental, a style of theorists. It was the only original development in the domain of furniture design. The great furniture makers of the period include Majorelle, Vallin, Gallé, Gaillard and Cona. The Belle Epoque, that period of prosperity and gaiety surrounding the turn of the century, came to a close with the arrival of World War I (1914-1918).
Materials and Techniques
All materials and techniques were used by furniture-makers of the day that produced furniture inspired by every conceivable style throughout history. Craftsmen revived forgotten techniques. They also were adept at producing imitation Gothic, Renaissance and Louis XV work on an industrial scale. Brazilian mahogany came back into fashion. Oak, walnut and pear wood were also used. Ebony, sycamore and walnut were used for marquetry.Metalwork became the "modern" material. Iron, steel, bronze, and cast iron were incorporated into furniture forms. Metal was fashioned into ribbons, serpentine columns, volutes, and scrolling foliage. It was usually left untreated. Copper, pewter and silver now became rare in furniture.
Two themes dominate in the ornament of the 1900 style: Christian imagery incorporating Gothic and Renaissance elements and the nude. The rose motif is prevalent.Motifs of the style moderne (and Art Nouveau) are inspired by the botanical. Marine plants such as water lilies and seaweeds as well as tropical vines and branches bare of leaves are prominent. Orchids and other exotic plants appear frequently. Eventually these botanical designs are transformed into loose and flowing women's hair. Geometric ornament disappears entirely. The rose disappears along with other familiar garden flowers except for the tulip in the Art Nouveau style.
Art Deco 1925-1935 FurnitureThe curves and sinuous lines of the Belle Epoque and the work of the Cubist and abstract painters can both be seen in the furniture of the Art Deco period. The period's finest productions are the ones inspired by the eighteenth century French tradition.
Materials and TechniquesThe Art Deco style was oriented toward the luxury market and therefore favored costly materials. Exotic woods were favored over European ones, especially dark woods such as ebony and macassar. Mahogany, palisander and yellow and rose amboine were also used. Lacquered woods were also often used. Gilt bronze, copper and now silver was used in ornament. Cast iron was also favored. Tan leather, often tooled, came into vogue as much as fabric as a cover material. Sharkskin, fur and pony skin were used on seating. Ivory was used in marquetry and inlay ornament. Luxurious silks were fashionable but gone were the use of embroidery and tapestry.
Marquetry, inlay and decorative panels were all used as ornament. Wood sculpture was out of favor. New decorative motifs included geometric designs, a result of the influence of Cubism and abstraction. Ornament in the style moderne tradition (and Art Nouveau) drew from African art, vegetal, floral and maritime motifs (waves). Curved lines, contrasting colors and precious metals were prevalent.back to top
Source:Chadenet, Sylvie. French Furniture from Louis XIII to Art Deco. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2001.Periods and Styles in Antique French Furniture, by Renée Hunt