The period after the French Revolution (1789-1799), known as the Directoire, saw a greater simplicity in furniture design. Although this tied in with English taste for the much lighter designs of the Neo-classical, revolution had meant a general change in taste and the elaborate rococo designs of 20 years earlier were left behind. Also Napoleon, who rose to prominence in France a few years after the end of the Revolution, embraced the classical styles of Greece and Rome which he saw as mirroring his own aspirations of empire.
It was the architecture of ancient Rome which ultimately led to a new style developing in France. Antique furniture became very plain, but also very elegant, and any decoration was usually plainly carved or in shallow relief. Chairs were rectilinear in line with designs by Sheraton in Britain and legs were similarly tapering and fluted.
Empire furniture, as it is generally referred to, continued to be popular and maple was now more commonly used than mahogany. Also the harsher lines of Empire furniture were now softening. Napoleon’s political successes meant that the French Empire style was now spreading to other parts of Europe and German furniture took on the same rectilinear styling. However, Italy essentially the home of Neo-classicism, although retaining the rectilinear forms, combined the simpler styling with lavish marquetry inlay.
If you are interested in finding period and revival examples of fine Neo-classical furniture in Lancashire and Cumbria, visit local antiques dealers who will be glad to provide any background information on selected examples.
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