Directoire Style was a popular French Neo classical furniture style developed during the period of the Directory (1795-1799). It was a transitional style between Louis XVI and Empire Style.
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The movement towards a closer imitation of the antique, which ultimately triumphed in the style of the First Empire, had its inception under Louis XVI. In this period furniture and objects replicated that excavated from Pompeii. The Revolution brought in its wake the suppression of the craft guilds, which were dissolved in 1791. This mean that complete freedom of production was permitted in all of the crafts. Luxury arts, such as furniture making, began to decline starting with this reform.
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Directoire style- Characteristics
- Revolutionary emblems are met on furniture, mural decoration and textiles. These include: Phrygian caps (liberty),spirit levels (equality),clasped hands (fraternity), pikes (freedom of man), triangles with an eye in the middle (reason), the three orders of the nation or the cross (clergy), sword (nobility), and spade topped by a Phrygian cap (third estate).
- Furniture and ornaments stressed elongated, simple shapes with clear lines; the Directoire style’s sparse detail and ornamentation were based mostly on ancient Roman objects recovered from excavations atPompeii.
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- Made of mahogany,chairs and daybeds, with their sweeping curves approximating very closely their Grecian prototypes, are often remarkable for their refined and archaeological approach. Other furniture of this epoch was extravagant with ornament half archaeological and half symbolic, including Roman glaives, the fulmen of Jupiter, hocked animal legs and lions’ heads.
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Materials and Techniques
Most furniture from the period was solid wood: elm, walnut, fruitwood, or beech. Only luxury work was made of solid and carved mahogony. Painted pieces, usually made of beech, were common (gray, white, sea green, lime green). There was a revival of inlay decoration, using ebony, citronnier, copper and brass. Marquetry was almost totally absent due to economic restraints. Bronze fittings became rare.
Charles Percier (1764 –1838) French architect, interior decorator and designer, who worked in a close partnership with Pierre François Léonard Fontaine considerated inventors and major proponents of the Directoire style. In 1799 Napoleon employed them to redecorate Malmaison; after that, the redecorated Saint Could, the Tuileries, the Louvre and other palace apartments.
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Directoire style- Clothing and fashion
By the mid-1790s, neoclassical clothing had come into fashion in France, there was a reaction in revolutionary France against the stiffly boned corsets and brightly colored satins and other heavy fabrics that were in style in the Ancien Régime.
- Classical style, based on an idealized version of ancient Greek and Roman dress with narrow clinging skirts.
- With this Classical style came the willingness to expose the breast. The style was simple and appropriate for the comfort of a pregnant or nursing woman as the breasts were emphasized and their availability was heightened. Maternity became fashionable and it was not uncommon for women to walk around with their breasts exposed.
- White was considered the most suitable colour for neoclassical clothings.