Napoleonic Empire Style (1800-1815)

The Napoleonic Empire style is a design movement involving decorative arts and visual arts. It spread between 1800 and 1815, under Napoleon I.

Arc de triomphe de l'Ètoile, Edouard Baldus (French (born Prussia), 1813–1889), Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Arc de Triomphe of the Place de l’Étoile, probably the most famous example of Empire architecture, commissioned in 1806 after the victory at Austerlitz by Emperor Napoleon I. by Edouard Baldus , 1860s.  Albumen silver print from glass negative

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

Origin and Diffusion

The Napoleonic Empire style took its name from Napoleon I, a style inspired by ancient Egypt and imperial Rome. Napoleon imposed a centralization on art controlling architects. In architecture it was exemplified by monuments as Chalgrin’s Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. 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 previous style in France was called Louis XVI style.

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

Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, Antonio Canova, 1806. Image source:
Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, Antonio Canova, 1806.

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

20-franc piece, Napoleon I, Medalist: Jean-Pierre Droz (French, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel 1746–1823 Paris), Gold, French
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

Napoleonic Empire Style Characteristics

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 factor to this style. 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, Anonymous, 19th century, Pen and ink with brown, red, yellow and green wash
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

Secretaries, cabinets, and commodes,  important displays for this style are featured with:

  • Simplistic brass ornament, with classical leanings;
  • Marble tops;
  • Revolutionary-inspired motifs;
  • bees, sheaves of grain, and cornucopias symbols of prosperity;
Cabinet (commode à vantaux), François-Honoré-Georges Jacob-Desmalter (French, 1770–1841), Oak, thuya wood veneer; gilt-bronze mounts; marble top, French
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

Architects

The French architects Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine designed furnishings for the estate rooms of Napoleon. Their ideas were written and made public in their “Recueil de décorations intérieures”. The main archaeological discoveries of the Empire style led to direct copying of classical themes in furniture and was added a new class of Egyptian ornament, liked the experiences of Napoleon in Egypt.

File:Portret van de architect Charles Percier Percier, Charles (titel op object) Leden van het Institut Royal de France (serietitel) Iconographie de l'Institut royal de France (serietitel op object), RP-P-1907-1547.jpg
architect Charles Percier

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

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/