Louis XVI Style – Louis Seize (1774-1793)

Louis XVI Style was developed in France during the reign of Louis XVI (1774–93). Also known as Louise Seize, this style is both a last phase of Rococò and a first phase of Neoclassicism.

Model of a Louis XVI style boudoir, c. 1780
Model of a Louis XVI style boudoir, c. 1780. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Louis-XVI-style/images

 

When and why this style spreaded?

The Louis XVI style spreads chiefly as a reaction to the excesses of the Rococò, and this return towards Antiquity coincided also with the discovery of the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum: a true craze Sparked, around 1750, for the Greek-Roman architecture and decorations. The Louis XVI style sets up with the accession to the throne of Louis XV’s grandson in 1774 and ends in 1790 with the Ancien Régime fall.

Info source: http://www.french-antiques.gallery/2014/04/07/louis-xvi-style-neoclassical-design-louis-xvi-furniture/

King Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet
King Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet
Marie Antoinette Queen of France with her three eldest children
Marie Antoinette Queen of France with her three eldest children

Images source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_XVI_of_France

 

Which are the main artists of this period?

Louis XVI yet is not really interested in arts, unlike queen Marie-Antoinette who is a good customer for “marchands merciers” (which are a French type of entrepreneur). She has played an important part into the development and diffusion of this style. Infact, during this period marchands-merciers came to the fore. This elite group of dealers supplied furniture and decorative objects to the rich, exerting considerable influence on their design. Members included Lazare Duvaux, Dominuqe Daquerre and Jean-Henri Oeben.

Jean-Henri Riesener and Bernard van Risenburgh were two of the foremost cabinetmakers (Riesener, undisputed master of Louis XVI’s furniture, made several ones for the king).

The foremost sculptor of the reign of Louis XVI was Jean-Antoine Houdon.

Jean-Henri Riesener, Queen Marie Antoinette's roll top desk, 1786. Chateau de Fontainebleau.
Jean-Henri Riesener, Queen Marie Antoinette’s roll top desk, 1786. Chateau de Fontainebleau.

 

The golden chambers of Marie-Antoinette by Jean-Henri Riesener at Versailles Palace, 1783.
The golden chambers of Marie-Antoinette by Jean-Henri Riesener at Versailles Palace, 1783.

Images source: http://www.marcmaison.com/architectural-antiques-resources/louis_xvi_style

Diana, bronze sculpture by Houdon, c. 1777
Diana, bronze sculpture by Houdon, c. 1777. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Antoine-Houdon

 

Characteristic of Louis XVI style:
  • The proportions and volumes were equilibrated, the elegance was sober and refined: after having abused of the curved lines and the asymmetry with the Rococo, the straight lines and the simplicity of forms came back.
  • Much use of fluted columns, carved friezes, oak and laurel leaf, wreaths.
  • Mahogany was the wood used, in wood or veneer, highly appreciated for its solid color two to its fine grain and for the variations of veins
  • Garish colors were rejected from fabrics (The king loved pastel colors), and the embroidery was replaced by lampas with cold reflections.
  • Regarding the seats, the main neoclassical innovation is the backrest in medallion.

Info source: http://www.french-antiques.gallery/louis-xvi-style-neoclassical-design-louis-xvi-furniture/; https://www.britannica.com/art/Louis-XVI-style; http://www.marcmaison.com/architectural-antiques-resources/louis_xvi_style

Hôtel de Soubise, Paris, France: boudoir of Madame de Serilly Symmetrical, restrained motifs based on the antique designs characteristic of the early Neoclassical Louis XVI style.
Hôtel de Soubise, Paris, France: boudoir of Madame de Serilly
Symmetrical, restrained motifs based on the antique designs characteristic of the early Neoclassical Louis XVI style. Image source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Louis-XVI-style/images-videos
The backrest in medallion is one of the innovations of Louis XVI style regarding seats.
The backrest in medallion is one of the innovations of Louis XVI style regarding seats.
The use of mahogany becomes popular with Louis XVI style.
The use of mahogany becomes popular with Louis XVI style.

Images source: http://www.french-antiques.gallery/2014/04/07/louis-xvi-style-neoclassical-design-louis-xvi-furniture/