The Napoleonic Empire style was a design movement involving decorative and visual arts, that was popularized from 1800 to 1815, under Napoleon I.
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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.
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 , 1804 Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/7d8381b8-34ba-4853-b961-d5f88ec2df85
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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
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Features of the style
- Simplistic brass ornament, with classical leanings
- Marble tops
- Revolutionary-inspired motifs
- bees, sheaves of grain, and cornucopias symbols of prosperity
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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.
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