Louis XVI Style (1774-1793)

Louis XVI Style was born in France during the namesake’s reign, and it was, simultaneously, the last phase of Rococo and the first phase of Neo-classicism. 

Salon de Compagnie: A large decorated room in the style of Louis XVI.
The Salon de Compagnie of the Petit Trianon (1762-1768)

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/bb73a88a-cf27-4df9-9d45-3bd30c49e81c by Jorge Lascar

Who was Louis XVI?

Louis was king during the French Revolution and was executed in 1793. He was born at Versailles, and he married Marie Antoinette, who was the daughter of the emperor and empress of Austria. There was a large celebration to consolidate the alliance between France and Austria. In 1774, Louis succeeded his grandfather Louis XV as the king of France.

Portrait of Louis XVI in an elaborate outfit.
Joseph-Silfred Duplessis, Portrait de Louis XVI

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/938d5777-8227-43ba-9407-730f43c4bcc5 by benjamin.esteves

How did Louis XVI Style Spread?

The Louis XVI decorative style spread mainly as a reaction to the concepts of Rococo. The eighteenth century and Louis XVI’s design was influenced by the  discovery of several important relics from the Herculaneum and Pompeii. The Louis XVI style was born with the accession to the throne of Louis XV’s grandson, yet died with the Ancien Régime fall.

French antique white stone flourish on furniture in Louis XVI style.
Antique Louis XVI style furniture

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/32a2d718-e545-4935-bca6-e7d8597f9ced by frenchfinds.co.uk

Louis XVI style gilt ormolu mounted commode after the model by Jean Francois.
A gilt ormolu mounted commode (1900) by Francois Link

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/66fd9fe6-2bad-4ec6-9120-b831087f92c5 by AntiqueTaste

Main Louis XVI Style Artists

Louis XVI was generally not interested in arts, while Marie-Antoinette was a good customer for “marchands merciers,” a type of French business owner. She played an important role in the diffusion of this style. These dealers sold furniture and decorative objects to the rich, exerting a strong influence on their design. Jean-Henri Riesener and Bernard van Risenburgh were two of the foremost cabinetmakers.  The most important sculptor of the reign of Louis XVI was Jean-Antoine Houdon.

A brown statue of a naked woman with a bow and arrow in her hands.
Diana , by Houdon, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, Botanical Gardens, 2011

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/e720e8d2-db8c-4720-9bea-cbe0fb4af63a by nathanh100

Characteristics of the Style

Louis XVI style furniture was different from the rigor of the Louis XV’s style. Ornamentation was also minimal, symmetrical and vegetable themes were common. Moreover, proportions and volumes were equilibrated, while simplicity of forms were popular. Mahogany was the most common wood used, appreciated for its solid color and for the uniqueness of veins. Further, pastel colors were the king’s favorite, and thus often included in designs.

Le salon de la Princesse: A large room with ornate, pale-colored decorations, detailed with gold.
Hôtel de Soubise in Paris, France

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/56898662-9564-42ab-8a2d-cdfb644dded1 by dalbera

A photo of built-in bookshelves with a brown and yellow-cushioned chairs along the front.
Hôtel de Soubise in Paris, France

Image source: https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/7749277b-cfa4-426e-81c7-20a42c58e0bb by dalbera

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