Relevant categories: Cabinets and Chests,Desks
(Above photo - French Empire commode perfect for a lavish interior )
French Empire antiques are those that were produced during the reign of emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The emperor was a scheming military leader who ruled fiercely and commanded his army to great victories. In his heyday, he controlled the parts of Europe that really mattered.
(Above photo - French Empire furniture and antiques in the shape of an Escritoire )
Apart from going after conquests, he also promoted art and crafts. The emperor seemed to favor a style he thought would exhibit Frances greatness the best. In France, the Empire Period lasted between 1804 and 1814. During that time, Napoleon embarked on military conquests across Europe. He conquered and controlled several neighboring states, thus becoming ruler over most of the nation.
The French Empire was characterized by a government that amassed all power. It didn’t allow for democratic elections nor freedom of speech. However, it was a time when society greatly advanced in terms of religious tolerance, public education, and so on. The dictates of the emperor had an influence on all aspects of life including artistic trends.
What Was The Style Of French Empire Antiques?
(Above photo - French Empire antiques - pair of commodes in the Linke manner )
French Empire antiques were made according to specifications from the emperor. That’s because the government had a say in all creations in the world of the arts and crafts. All furniture makers had to create their pieces in line with the emperor’s taste. They incorporated all the elements that were favored by the ruler.
Soon, furniture makers in other parts of Europe were making furniture in the same style. Every country that Napoleon conquered had to adapt the French Empire style. It was basically a better version of the neoclassical style, which rose in the mid-18th-century.
Features of French Empire Antiques
(Above photo - French Empire antique desk with marquetry inlay )
French Empire furniture were created to impress, thanks to their massive, imposing character. The pieces were their massive in terms of dimensions and extravagantly made use of decorative elements. French Empire antiques were rigidly laid out and had plain geometric shapes complete with sharp corners and flat surfaces. They were put together symmetrically with elements being replicated on two sides.
The designers were mostly inspired by elements from Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. They sought to idealize soberness and simplicity of the civilizations that had preceded the French Empire. However, there were several motifs which had been borrowed from Napoleon’s wars. They included Roman deities, eagles, and lions. From Ancient Egypt, they borrowed palm leaves and even sphinxes. To symbolize Napoleon’s wartime victories, designers used the letter “N”, the emperor’s initial.
Types of Wood
(Above photo - French Empire cabinet with marquetry inlay )
In the early period of the French Empire, the commonly used wood was mahogany. However, the supply of mahogany was soon cut off, forcing furniture makers to adapt local woods. The emperor had blockaded British companies involved in the importing mahogany, causing its scarcity.
The most preferred woods included beech, maple, and walnut. There continued to be limited importation of mahogany, making it available to the furniture makers on a much lower scale. Exotic woods like ebony were used be used to create veneers as well as smaller furniture pieces like small cabinets.
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