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.
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.
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 used, and the oriental spirit could be seen in the woods employed. Moreover, cabinets became the height of fashion in France during this time.
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.
Bedroom furniture became luxurious, and walls were commonly covered with ornamental friezes. Cane was imported as a cover 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.
Louis XIII-style painting was influenced from the north of the continent, through Flemish and Dutch Baroque. 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.
Louis XIII architecture was also influenced by Italian styles. The greatest architect of the era, Salomon de Brosse, designed the Palais du Luxembourg. The building was completed by Jacques Lemercier 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.