Charles Percier (1764-1838)

French neoclassical architect, interior decorator, and designer Charles Percier was an illustrious representative of Directoire and Empire Styles.

Charles Percier's portrait, drawn in pencil on a yellow paper. Leden van het Institut Royal de France, Iconographie de l'Institut royal de France.
Architect Charles Percier

Image source: by Rijksmuseum

Interior Elevation of Reims Cathedral with the Rood Screen and Throne for the Coronation of King Louis XVIII, Charles Percier (French, Paris 1764–1838 Paris), Pen and black ink, with colored wash.
Interior Elevation of Reims Cathedral with the Rood Screen and Throne for the Coronation of King Louis XVIII (1764–1838) by Charles Percier

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About Percier’s Life

Percier was born in Paris in 1764. Then, in 1784, at age nineteen, he won the Prix de Rome, a government-funded scholarship in Rome. After, he met Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, who became his friend for life. Their architecture firm, Percier & Fontainem became the leading firm of the Napoleonic period, and their work influenced the widespread adoption of the Empire style in Europe and America. Further, in 1801, he was appointed government architect.

Tureen, Charles Percier (French, Paris 1764–1838 Paris), Silver gilt, French, Paris.
Tureen (1794–1814) by Charles Percier

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Percier’s Major Works

For the old royal palaces and the new Bonapartes residences, together with Fontaine, he designed interiors, walls, ceilings, designed furniture, accessories, and ornament. Also, they designed the arcades of the Rue de Rivoli and Rue de Castiglione along the Louvre and designed the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel which connected the Louvre and Tuileries (1806–08). They also worked on the Château de Saint-Cloud and the Château de Fontainebleau.

Paris - Photo of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.
Arc du Carrousel (1806–15) by Percier and Fontaine

Image source: by corno.fulgur75

In the Recueil de décorations intérieures (1801–1812) Percier’s products in interior decoration and furniture design were presented as a collection of 72 plates of furniture and furnishings in France at the epoch. It was his masterpiece, according to Fontaine’s admission. Although both signatures were affixed to the plates, he drew and engraved them himself.

Coin cabinet ca. 1809–19,  Designed by Charles Percier (French, Paris 1764–1838 Paris), Mahogany (probably Swietenia mahagoni), applied and inlaid silver, French, Paris.
Coin cabinet (1809–19)  Designed by Charles Percier
Additional photo of the previous Coin cabinet, this times with the drawers closed.
Additional photo of the Coin cabinet (1809–19)

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Features of Percier’s Style

Percier favored luxurious and grandiose renditions of neoclassicism in the so-called Directory style, and the Empire style. The style is distinguished by a small amount of detail and ornamentation, inspired mainly by ancient Roman objects that were discovered during excavations in Pompeii. Directory furniture was the last phase of the Louis XVI style. Additionally, the Empire style was based on the inspiration of Napoleon by the greatness of Ancient Egypt and imperial Rome.

Design for a Bed and Canopy,18th Century-  Circle of Charles Percier (French, Paris 1764–1838 Paris), Pen and black and gray ink, brush and gray, orange, and red wash.
Design for a Bed and Canopy (18th Century)

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Info sources:

Charles: Architecture and Design in an Age of Revolutions

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