Louis XIII Style (1589-1661)

The Louis XIII style influenced French Art and Architecture, particularly the visual and decorative arts in the years 1610 to 1643.

Illustration from ''Illustrated History of Furniture, From the Earliest to the Present Time'' from 1893 by Litchfield, Frederick, (1850-1930).
Illustration from ”Illustrated History of Furniture, From the Earliest to the Present Time” from 1893 by Litchfield, Frederick

Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Decoration_of_a_Salon_in_Louis_XIII._Style.jpg


In the early 17th century French furniture began a new artistic direction, with Cardinal Richelieu as prime minister and Simon Vouet as a prominent leader in the art-world. Life in France became luxurious and the demand for furnishings increased. Louis XIII Style furniture was featured with dark tones and ornaments, including cartouche with a convex curve, twisted columns, and few ornamental leaves.

Drawing of decorative architectural elements common to Louis XIII style.
Decorative architectural elements (1880) by J. Verchère

 Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/54e422fe-1339-41fd-aed5-3e5258dabcd2

Drawing of decorative architectural elements common to furniture of the Louis XIII style.
Decorative architectural elements (1880) Etching by J. Verchère

 Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/f35abef2-03d6-46d6-bad3-ee18f2d30426

Historical Context

Under Louis XIII, security and wealth were at the height of importance. Many rich people opened up their minds to new furniture, style, and life at home. Comfort and social ability became important for etiquette and polite conversation. This idea was a French invention but continued through the Elizabethan Era in England.

A black and white portrait of Louis XIII. He has a pointy beard, small mustache and shoulder-length curly hair.
Louis XIII

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/7079ecca-ba5f-4b40-a254-6d1e8ee620b1

Flintlock Gun of Louis XIII (1601–1643), King of France, Pierre Le Bourgeois (French, Lisieux, died 1627). The gun is made in steel, brass, silver, gold, wood (walnut).
Flintlock Gun of Louis XIII (1601–1643), King of France

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/24865?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Louis+XIII+style&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=2

Louis XIII’S Furniture Characteristics

His furniture can be distinguished finding the following features:

  • Simple and sharp shapes
  • Upholstered seating
  • The back panel applied to the frame with silvered nails. Often depicted in charming engravings of French interiors by many artists of the period.
Barbizon frame with elaborate flourishes shaped like leaves.
Barbizon frame (1850-1870)

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/460408?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Louis+XIII&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=14

Damasks and fancy velvets were the main features produced well-made fabrics but also cheap furnishings. The discovery of the passage of Cape of Good Hope allowed trading silks in Asia. Arabian style, called Moresque or Arabesque was also present, and the oriental spirit was present in the woods. Moreover, cabinets became the height of fashion in France during this time.

Side chair (one of a pair), Carved and gilded beechwood, covered in wool velvet (moquette).
Side chair (one of a pair)- Carved and gilded beechwood, covered in wool velvet
Close up of the same side chair.
Additional photo of the side chair

Images source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/207686?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Louis+XIII+furniture&offset=40&rpp=20&pos=60

Ebony was imported to France from Africa, Madagascar, and India. In France, the skilled workers make cabinets and were called “ébénistes.” The outside of this cabinet is adorned engraved illustrations from a novel, first published in 1624. Many forms of furniture were made for everyday use, such as the divan and console, which were invented in this period. Further, ornament-style became to vary among these pieces.

Carpet with Fame and Fortitude, Savonnerie Manufactory (Manufactory, established 1626; Manufacture Royale, established 1663), Knotted and cut wool pile, woven with about 90 knots per square inch.
Carpet with Fame and Fortitude (1668–85)
 The interior view of a very fancy house. The walls are a light blue with gold accents, there is a large chandelier in the center, a large, intricate rug on the ground and various gold-accented furniture around the room.
Carpet with Fame and Fortitude, located in Paris, France

Images source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/202228?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Louis+XIII&offset=20&rpp=20&pos=30

The chairs are boxy, but made more comfortable and used for ordinary purposes. Sometimes they were in sets, but they were usually covered with velvet, brocade, tapestry, or needlework.

Table, Attributed to Pierre Gole (ca. 1620–1684), Oak and fruitwood veneered with tortoiseshell, stained and natural ivory, ebony, and other woods; gilt bronze.
Table (1660) Attributed to Pierre Gole
Close up of the Table. A lot of flowers and ornaments occupy the work. The prevalent colors are red and white.
Additional photo of the Table (1660) Attributed to Pierre Gole

Images source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/207556?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Louis+XIII&offset=100&rpp=20&pos=112

Bedroom furniture became luxurious, and walls commonly had ornamental friezes. Cane were commonly covers for chairs, and reception beds became common. Many of these trends survived until the great period of French baroque furniture, and were the main characteristics of Louis XIII-style furnishings.

Tester bed that is carved, painted and gilded walnut, pine, and linden; iron hardware; silk and wool Beauvais tapestry; modern silk damask.
Tester bed designed by Jean-Baptiste

Image source: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/231893?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=Louis+XIII+furniture&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=15

Louis XIII Style Painting

Flemish and Dutch Baroque styles influenced Louis XIII-style painting. Also, the South, through Italian Mannerism and early Baroque, contributed to this painting style. French painters fused Italian Mannerism with love scenes. Important painters of this time included Georges de La Tour, Simon Vouet, and the Le Nain brothers.

Portrait of Louis XIII, King of France as a boy.
Portrait of Louis XIII, King of France as a Boy (1616) by Frans Pourbus II

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/35c97a73-8877-468a-b4e6-8c45abc34a80 by

Painting of Louis XIII of France. He wears a plant-crown, is in a white outfit, has pale skin and dark hair. Moreover, he is standing in front of a red background.
“Louis XIII enters France and the Navarre” by Simon Vouet

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/463bb881-def8-42f3-bbed-b45c9a66cd01 by waitscm

Louis XIII Architecture

Italian styles also influenced Louis XIII architecture. The greatest architect of the era, Salomon de Brosse, designed the Palais du Luxembourg. Jacques Lemercier completed the building in a classic style. Sculpture in France during this period was not of outstanding quality, but flourished under Louis XIV. The Mannerist influences were so important that a French-style did not flourish again until the second quarter of the century.

A fountain stands empty in front of a large building with arches and a dark roof in the Square Louis XIII in Paris, France.
The king’s residence at the Place des Vosges in Paris, built in 1608.

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/7de18f35-44e1-4bbd-9374-d3239bcc3719 by Guilhem Vellut from Paris, France

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