Directoire Style (1795-1799)

The Directoire Style was a transitional style between the Louis XVI and the Empire Style.

An example of Directoire style with a large painting on the right, a gold chandelier and two tan chairs.
Directoire room at the Couven-Museum

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History of This Style

The Directoire style was introduced by designers Charles Percier and Pier François Léonard Fontaine. As it employs Neo-classical architectural forms and patterns, the style was the predecessor of the more complicated Empire style, which was introduced after Napoleon established the First French Empire.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris France, which is a light stone Arch.
Arc du Carrousel, Charles Percier and Pierre Fontaine, 1806–15,

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Directoire Style Characteristics

The Directoire style reflected the values of republican Rome. Revolutionary emblems could be found on furnishings, decorations, and textiles, and the furniture was meant to be a copy of relics discovered in the excavations of Pompeii, or be inspired by representations of antiquity in general. Moreover, furniture and ornaments were used less, yet simple lines were important in this style. Mahogany was a key element.

Fire screen that is gilded and silvered beech; 18th-century silk brocade from Paris, France.
Fire screen (écran) ca. 1786 – Georges Jacob (French, Cheny 1739–1814 Paris), Carved, gilded and silvered beech; 18th-century silk brocade (not original to frame), French, Paris

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A red-colored wood coin cabinet designed by Charles Percier and currently located in Paris, France.
Coin cabinet ca. 1809–19,  Designed by Charles Percier (French, Paris 1764–1838 Paris), Mahogany (probably Swietenia mahagoni), applied and inlaid silver, French, Paris
Another photo of the Coin cabinet designed by Charles Percier, shown from the front with all the drawers closed. Further, it resembles a rectangular prism.
Coin cabinet ca. 1809–19 Designed by Charles Percier

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Interior Designers

Charles Percier was a French architect and designer, who worked closely with Pierre François Léonard Fontaine. Together, they invented and strongly promoted the Directoire style. In 1799 Napoleon wanted them to redecorate Malmaison. After that, they worked to decorate Saint Could, the Tuileries, the Louvre, and other important buildings in France.

Tuileries Palace, Paris, France. Photograph by Achille Quinet, ca. 1860.
Tuileries Palace, Paris, France. Photograph by Achille Quinet, ca. 1860.

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Clothing and Fashion

Directoire style was a classical style, based on an idealization of ancient Greek and Roman dress with narrow skirts. In this period the willingness to expose the breast started to affect fashion. For example, it became appropriate for a pregnant or nursing woman to show exposed breasts.  Maternity became fashionable, and it was common for women to walk around with their breasts exposed. White was considered the perfect color for the neoclassical style of clothing as well.

Two young ladies in white Greek Dress, posed side by side, one looking at the camera while the other looks off to the right.
Two Pupils in Greek Dress, Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Platinum print

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