Napoleonic Empire Style (1800-1815)

The Napoleonic Empire style was a design movement involving decorative and visual arts, that was popularized from 1800 to 1815, under Napoleon I.

The Napoleonic Empire style was a design movement involving decorative and visual arts, that was popularized from 1800 to 1815, under Napoleon I.

Arc de triomphe de l'Ètoile taken in an old black and white photo. The structure consists of a single arch that sits in Paris, France.
The Arc de Triomphe of the Place de l’Étoile, which was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon I. by Edouard Baldus.

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/268865?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Arc+de+Triomphe+de+l%e2%80%99%c3%89toile&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=1

The Napoleonic Empire style, which took its name from Napoleon I, was inspired by Ancient Egypt and imperial Rome. Signifigantly, Napoleon imposed a centralization on art to control architects. In architecture, the style was exemplified by monuments as Chalgrin’s Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Further, in painting, by Jacques-Louis David, and in sculpture, by Antonio Canova.

Biedermeier 

The style corresponds to the Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, the Federal style in the United States, and the Regency style in Britain.

The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine on December 2, 1804 painting.

The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon and the Coronation of Empress Joséphine , 1804 Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/7d8381b8-34ba-4853-b961-d5f88ec2df85 by aiva.

Photo of the while stone statue of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, by Antonio Canova.
Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, Antonio Canova, 1806.

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_as_Mars_the_Peacemaker

20-franc piece with Napoleon I's profile.
20-franc piece, Napoleon I 1811 Medalist: Jean-Pierre Droz -Gold, French

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/191992?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Napoleonic+Empire+Style&offset=80&rpp=20&pos=84

If Directoire is Doric in nature, Napoleonic Empire is instead Corinthian. Napoleonic Empire Style’s interest in the architecture and decorative motifs of the Roman Empire is a key feature of this style. Additionally, chairs were made more for display. Etruscan and Egyptian motifs of Napoleonic Empire Style chairs included:

  • Greek key designs and painted Etruscan scenes
  • Animal motifs
  • Egyptian masks
Design for an Empire Daybed with a pink cushion, red metal with gold accents for the body of the bed.
Design for an Empire Daybed 1800–1820- 19th century, Pen and ink with brown, red, yellow and green wash

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/390465?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Napoleonic+Empire+Style&offset=20&rpp=20&pos=28

Features of the style
  • Simplistic brass ornament, with classical leanings
  • Marble tops
  • Revolutionary-inspired motifs
  • bees, sheaves of grain, and cornucopias symbols of prosperity
Dark wood bathroom cabinet with a white stone countertop and metal hardware.
Cabinet (commode à vantaux), ca. 1813–25– François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (French, 1770–1841)

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/194568?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Napoleonic+Empire+Style&offset=40&rpp=20&pos=51

The French architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine designed furnishings for the estate rooms of Napoleon, and their ideas were made public in their work, “Recueil de décorations intérieures.” Altogether, the main archaeological discoveries of the Empire style led to direct copying of classical themes in furniture with an additional Egyptian ornament, likening the experiences of Napoleon in Egypt.

Photo of the bust of a man drawn in black and white.
architect Charles Percier

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/1d6c19a5-3e0b-4d8e-b877-10c85c018296 by Rijksmuseum

A portrait of a man in a black suit with a white collar, a top hat in his right hand and a cane in his left hand.
Portrait of Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, Joseph-Désiré Court

Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Fran%C3%A7ois-L%C3%A9onard_Fontaine#/media/File:P-F-L._Fontaine_par_JD_Court_-_Ch%C3%A2teau_de_Versailles.jpg


Info source:

http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/empr/hd_empr.htm

https://www.britannica.com/art/Empire-style
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empire_style
https://www.onekingslane.com/info/home/empire-style-chairs-1800-1820/
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