As many of you may know by now, I love history, and not just because I am a fan of events and dates. Understanding historical style can give you great insight into the culture that created style and the ability to use and reinterpret it in new and interesting ways.
I think no other chain of style exists like that created by the great French kings. The Louis styles span from about 1610- 1792 and cover the reigns of Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV and lastly Louis XVI. Each king had their own style and watching them transition from one to another is fascinating to me.
Generally the style started as an attempt to break away from the Renaissance Era and consequently the push was for more detail and intricacy. The reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV saw even more lush designs and patterns as Baroque turned to Rococo, and finally an interest in more conservative, tempered down designs for Louis XVI who used a handful of artisans making furniture from expensive materials for the very rich.
In the next few weeks I will go through each of these designs in more detail, as these styles influenced not just the French, but you see interpretations of them all over Europe and ultimately America, even to this day. And it all starts with Louis XIII.
Louis XIII's reign, which lasted from 1610 to 1649, was an interesting time. France was emerging from years of religious wars and a more conservative and wealthy society was forming. So what does that mean for the furniture style he inspired?
This style, like the others, drew from what came before, and reinterpreted it for its own use. You will see lots of Arabesque designs - rolling lines and organic forms, although played out in a mostly two-dimensional way. This is mixed with a more mannerist style that harkened back to the Dark Ages and featured a darker, more brooding feel with figurative elements that came from superstition.
It was during this time that chairs were beginning to get a bit more comfortable, wider and with upholstery. The idea that one might have the security and time for leisure was also new to this period and directly resulted in this development. As far as technology, the lathe was invented at around this time , so a lot of the period's pieces included turned elements in the leg and the stretcher.
Generally speaking, Louis XIII pieces are made with walnut or ebony, and will be a bit more dark and primal than the other three styles, which are probably more closely related to each other. So what do those other Louis styles entail? You'll have to stay tuned to find out.
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