Pair of Late 18th Cent French Louis XVI Gilded Fauteuils
Elegant pair of late 18th century Louis XVI period gilded fauteuils, recently reupholstered in a pink linen with contrast piping and studs.
Measurements : 41cm High (Floor to seat)
France Louis XVI Period
Dimensions 85 cms High (33.2 inches) 58 cms Wide (22.6 inches) 54 cms Deep (21.1 inches)
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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.
With the death of Louis XV on May 10, 1774, his grandson Louis XVI became King of France at age twenty. The new king had little interest in the arts, but his wife, Marie-Antoinette, and her brothers-in-law, the Comte de Provence (the future Louis XVIII) and the Comte d'Artois (the future Charles X), were deeply interested in the arts, gave their protection to artists, and ordered large amounts of furniture in the neoclassical style, inspired by Greco-Roman art. They were followed by the wealthy nobles who furnished their chateaux and Paris town houses in the new style.
The transition from the baroque and the rocaille style to the neoclassical style had begun in about 1760, near the end of the reign of Louis XV. It was advanced by the reports of the discoveries at the archeological sites at Herculaneum and Pompeii. Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, had dispatched a group of scholars to Italy to report on the findings. The group included the designer Jean-Charles Delafosse and the Flemish architect, sculptor and engraver Jean-François de Nefforge. Their engravings of Greek and Roman art inspired many furniture designers and particularly the ébénistes, who made the fine marquetry inlaid ornament that decorated chests and tables.
Marie-Antoinette was a promoter of the new style even before she became queen. In 1770, after her marriage to the Dauphin Louis, she took over the apartments of the former queen, Marie Leczinska, who had died in 1768. In 1779, she commissioned the architect Richard Mique to completely redo the Cabinet of the Queen. He covered the walls with white satin embroidered with flowers, arabesques and medallions. In 1783, she decided to renew the decor once again, this time with wood panels sculpted and painted white, decorated with gilded neoclassical frames and designs, including sphinxes and tripods, given lightness by bouquets of flowers. The fireplace, made of dark red stone, was ornamented with gilded bronze caryatides. The furniture for the room was made by Jean Henri Riesener and included a commode, a corner table and a secretary inlaid with cedar wood, amarante, and medallions of gilded bronze. It also included a sofa with a gilded frame placed in a niche surrounded by mirrors, and facing the window. This room, with its combination of comfort, intimacy and luxury, is among the most classic examples of Louis XVI style. It has been restored to its original appearance, while some of the original furniture is now in the Wallace Collection in London.
Another notable influence to the style was the work of the British designer Robert Adam, particularly in the design of chairs, and in the use of mahogany wood, which was quickly adapted in France.
A majority of the top ébénistes were German or of German descent, which gave them a common language with Marie-Antoinette. The most prominent figures under Louis XVI were Jean Henri Riesener, who received the title of ébéniste ordinaire of the royal household in 1774. His main rival was Jean-François Leleu, one of the few who was not German. Other ébénistes, including Martin Carlin and Adam Weisweiler, worked primarily for furniture merchants who supplied the wealthy Parisian upper class. They developed a new genre, decorating furniture with plaques of Sevresporcelain or lacquered wood panels. The ébéniste David Roentgen kept his workshop in Germany, though many of his clients were in Paris. He became particularly famous for his elaborate desks, which frequently had mechanical folding features.
The French Revolution caused the dispersal of the royal furniture; most of the owners went to the guillotine, or fled into exile. Their furniture confiscated and was sold by the successive governments in enormous lots, with the proceeds helping the finance the long wars of the period. The furnishings of the Palace of Versaille was auctioned off between Sunday, August 25, 1793 until 11 August 1794, and were widely scattered. Many of the buyers were British, and some of the finest items went to the British royal family and to the Wallace Collection. In the 19th century, many of the pieces of furniture migrated again, sold by British aristocrats to wealthy Americans. Extensive collections are found today in the Museum of Decorative Arts and Louvre in Paris; the Wallace Collection and Victoria and Albert Museum in London; the Metropolitan Museum in New York; and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
The chairs of the Louis XV period were characterized by elegance, lightness and simplicity of form. The most notable craftsmen of chairs were Georges Jacob, furnisher to the Royal Garde-Meuble, or furniture depot, from 1774, and Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené who obtained the title of official fourniseur in 1785.
The basic types of chairs were little changed from the Louis XV style, but a wider variety of forms appeared, particularly in the dossier, or back, of the armchairs. These included en raquette, en chapeau, en lyre, en grebe, en anse de pannier, and, the most popular, en médaillon. Another popular variation of dossier was the à chapeau du gendarme, or policeman's hat. The most classical elements of the chairs were the legs; they were usually carved like Roman or Greek columns tapering to the end, a style called effilés. The decoration of upholstery, following the taste of Marie-Antoinette, and to match the decoration on the walls, was usually floral,
The chaise voyeuse, a type invented under Louis XV, remained popular, It featured an armrest on the top, was designed so the person sitting could sit astride with his arms on the top of the chair back, for playing cards. A set of four of these chairs was made by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené for Madame Elizabeth, sister of Marie-Antoinette, and was delivered in 1789, the year of the beginning of the French Revolution.
Another original type that appeared under Louis XVI was the Fauteul de Bureau, or office chair. A set was made by Henri Jacob, brother of Georges Jacob, in about 1785, made of carved walnut, cane and lester. The seat was mounted on a circular platform, and could turn around, the first recorded swivel chair. In 1790 Henri Jacob produced a series of drawings of fanciful "Etruscan" furniture, inspired by a British movement and anticipating the wave of neoclassicism of the French Directory