Louis XIII Style – Louis Treize (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).

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


In the early 17th century French furniture started going towards a new artistic direction, with Cardinal Richelieu as prime minister and Simon Vouet as a leader in the art world. Life in France became luxurious and the demand for furnishings more increased. The Louis XIII furniture was featured with dark tones. The ornaments included cartouche, with a convex curve, twisted columns, with few leaves as an ornament.

Louis XIII style – Cabinet-making: decorative architectural elements. Etching by J. Verchère after himself, 1880.

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

Louis XIII’s Furniture Characteristics- Cabinet-making: decorative architectural elements. Etching by J. Verchère after himself, 1880.

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

The Historical Context

Under Louis XIII, security and wealth were so important in everyday life and many rich people opened up their minds for new furniture, new styles, and a new life at home. Comfort and sociality became important for etiquette and polite conversation. This idea of unified suites was a French invention but went on in the Elizabethan Era in England.

Louis XIII

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

Flintlock Gun of Louis XIII (1601–1643), King of France ca. 1620

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 severe shapes;
  • upholstered seating;
  • the back panel applied to the frame with silvered nails, so often depicted in charming engravings of French interiors by many artists of the period.
Barbizon frame-Pine; plaster ornament, 1850–70 (style Louis XIII)

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

Damasks, damascenes, fancy velvets were the main features and were produced well-made fabrics but also cheap furnishings, and Italy soon was replaced. 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. Cabinets were the height of fashion in France at that time.

Side chair (one of a pair)- Carved and gilded beechwood, covered in wool velvet (moquette), French

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 with scenes of engraved illustrations to a novel first published in 1624. Many forms of furniture were made for everyday use. The divan and console were invented in this period. Styles of ornament started varying.

Carpet with Fame and Fortitude 1668–85, Savonnerie Manufactory
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, French, Paris

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 featured with lingering boxiness and heavy turning. Were more comfortable, and were more used for ordinary purposes. Sometimes they were created in sets and were usually covered with velvet, brocade, tapestry, and needlework.

Table ca. 1660- Attributed to Pierre Gole
Table ca. 1660- Attributed to Pierre Gole- Oak and fruitwood veneered with tortoiseshell, stained and natural ivory, ebony, and other woods; gilt bronze, French

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 the walls were commonly covered with ornamental friezes. Cane was imported as a cover for chairs. Reception beds started being used. Many of these trends survived until the great period of French baroque furniture. These were the main characteristics of Louis XIII-style furnishings.

Tester bed -designs by Jean-Baptiste- Carved, painted and gilded walnut, pine, and linden; iron hardware; silk and wool Beauvais tapestry; modern silk damask, French, Paris

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

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 gave an important contribution to this way of painting. Schools became important with Caravaggio and Peter Paul Rubens. French painters fused Italian Mannerism with a love scene. Important painters were Georges de La Tour, Simon Vouet, and the Le Nain brothers.

Portrait of Louis XIII, King of France as a Boy-1616 -by Frans Pourbus II (Flanders, 1569-1622)

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

“Louis XIII enters france and the Navarre” -by Simon Vouet, second quarter of the 17th century, Louvre Museum, Paris.

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

Louis XIII Architecture

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

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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