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.
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.
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.
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.
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.