Directoire Style (1795-1799)

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

Directoire room at the Couven-Museum

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History of This Style

The Directoire style was introduced by the architects and designers Charles Percier and Pier François Léonard Fontaine. In its employment of Neoclassical architectural forms and decorative patterns, the style was the predecessor of the more complicated Empire style, which was introduced after Napoleon established the First French Empire.

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. 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. Furniture and ornaments were less used, simple lines were important in this style. Mahogany was a key element.

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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Coin cabinet ca. 1809–19,  Designed by Charles Percier (French, Paris 1764–1838 Paris), Mahogany (probably Swietenia mahagoni), applied and inlaid silver, French, Paris
Coin cabinet ca. 1809–19 Designed by Charles Percier

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Interior Designers

Charles Percier, for example, was a French architect, and designer, who worked closely with Pierre François Léonard Fontaine. 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 apartments of important buildings in France.

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

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Clothing and Fashion

It 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. The style was appropriate for a pregnant or nursing woman as the breasts were exposed and their availability was improved. 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.

Two Pupils in Greek Dress, Thomas Eakins (American, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 1844–1916 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Platinum print

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