Régence style – Philippe II, duc d’Orléans (1715-1723)

Régence style is a transitional style in architecture and design born in France during the regency of Philippe II, between 1715 and 1723.

Panelled Room in French Style of the Regence.
Panelled Room: French–Style of the Regence. Carved Oak Chair. Ormolu-Mounted Mahogany Writing-Table. Ormolu-Mounted Bombe Commode, by Charles Cressent. Illustration for The Book of Decorative Furniture by Edwin Foley (Jack, 1910).

Image source: https://www.lookandlearn.com/history-images/M844041/Panelled-Room-French-%93-Style-of-the-Regence-Carved-Oak-Chair-Ormolu-Mounted-Mahogany


The Origins

Régence referred to the period of the early 18th century in France, when the duke of Orléans, ruled the country for his grand-nephew, Louis XV who was only five when inherited the throne. The Régence style was applied first to decorative arts and interior design. By the end of Louis XIV’s reign, rich Baroque changed, preferring lighter elements, with a taste for complex forms. It included Oriental designs and asymmetric proportions.

Portrait of Louis II, duque D'Orleans.
Portrait of Louis II, duque D’Orleans.

Image source: https://www.pinterest.it/pin/436989970069705046/

Régence Furniture

Régence is best understood as a state of mind, a turn toward intimacy, hedonism, and pleasure. It is a transitional style. The style employed ornamentation for its elegance. The woodworking generally displayed plain lines and surfaces with slender legs and right angles. This helped highlighting ornaments by providing a quite simple background to avoid distractions. Cabinets and shelving units used height to help decorators in decorating the walls with paintings.

Example of furniture.
Example of furniture.

Image source: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/thomas-hope/

Régence furniture’s Materials

The components of Régence  furniture included wood and the employment of metals for accents. Mahogany remained the most important material for furnishings. Ebony was featured in expensive pieces. Furniture makers primarily employed brass, bronze, or ormolu were used to imitate gold. Brass inlays were popular in this period. The most popular furniture featured commodes, bookcases, tablestable bureaus, dropfront secretaries, cupboards, center lights and lamps to be put on the walls. 

An early XVIII century french ormolu-mounted boulle marquetry desk.
An early XVIII century french ormolu-mounted boulle marquetry desk, C. 1715-1720 Attributed to Bernard 1st Van Risamburgh.

Image source: http://marqueterieboulle.blogspot.com/2013/01/bureau-attribue-bernard-1er-van.html

The Importance of Ornament

Moldings are in low relief. Smiling heads of fauns and women were often employed and the lion’s head was not used anymore. Exotic motifs, such as were used meticulously. No more order and rigor were displayed. The decorators changed Louis XIV style ornaments to make all cheerful and happier.

French Regence Giltwood Bracket.
French Regence Giltwood Bracket.

Image source: https://glendooley.com/products/a-french-regence-giltwood-bracket

The fireplace was an important display of this way of conceiving arts. Scrolls enhance its uprights and a hug crest houses a carved shell in the middle. Huygens invented the regulator in the late 17th century giving rise to the pendulum clocks that are used on beautiful symmetrical gilded bronzes of the Regence.

custom-made Regence style marble fireplace mantel with gilded bronze ornaments.
Custom-made Régence style marble fireplace mantel with gilded bronze ornaments.

Image source: https://www.maison-et-maison.com/antique-mantel-stock/noailles-with-bronzes-sculptures-regence-style-fireplace-made-out-of-green-maharadja-marble-with-gilded-bronze-ornaments

Régence Art

The style of the Régence is influenced by early Rococò. Antoine Watteau, a French painter whose career is about the revival of interest in color and movement and revitalized Baroque‘s language. He is the inventor of the genre of fêtes galantes: scenes of bucolic and idyllic charm, with an air of theatricality. Some of his most famous subjects were taken from the world of Italian comedy and ballet.

Antoine Watteau, Fêtes Venitiennes.
Antoine Watteau, Fêtes Venitiennes.

Image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jean-Antoine_Watteau_-_F%C3%AAtes_Venitiennes_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Info source: https://www.britannica.com/art/Regence-style