I remember my first visit to the Louvre, my travel mates and I all split up and went our different ways. I passed through the Napoleon apartments and other period rooms and hurried on to make sure I could see all my portraits and favorite artists. Around noon I decided that I would make my way back to the decorative art section. Like stepping into a good movie or well written book, (when you do not need to use your imagination) I found the atmosphere instantly overwhelming. There really is too much for the eyes, a total I-Max theatre experience. Maybe Only for a drooling historian of space. This is the reason I am delighted with museums a la Frick. In any case, most likely unbeknownst to my companions, unless I blurted it out, I - in that one day- I visited the apartments and decorative arts section 3 times. *looks away and holds up fan*
So a sucker for the mundane world of objects d'art here we have our first post on, Chairs. Please don't run away now! It gets interesting! Let me try anyway....
When I refer 18th century French furniture I will be discussing 6 main styles which do overlap each other and have funny dates. They are Régence, Louis XV, Transition, Louis XVI, Directoire and Empire.
When the 18th century began, fashionable homes and palaces were filled with chairs that were high backed and very throne-like. They were heavy, stocky and were usually lined up against walls, enhancing their appearance as a solid piece of the room.
Furniture styles changed in accordance to changes in fashion, believe it or not. Look at womens dress for exaple. A lady who has both wit and taste arrives to the party dressed in the latest court gown, complete with those sexy new paniers. Not only does she look great, super slim and very classy, she is wearing the cutest new little blue shoes to match. The walk from her sedan chair to the party has exhausted her and her little feet are not too happy either. So she goes to sit in the first chair available, convienctly near a particualrly handsome duke. But oh no! the decor of the room is outdated! The chairs have arms which extend forward above the front legs of the chairs! She can't sit and the duke gets up and leaves and our poor lady is left standing on moaning feet and without charming company. The old style just would not do! In fact a diarist had noted, "the act of sitting down pushes the whale bones out in such a manner that armchairs have had to be specially made to accommodate them." 1728
How were the chairs changed when fashion demanded? Well to start, the arms of the chair had to go! Well not totally... Typically they followed the frame of the chair and extended to above the front legs. But paniers ladies! That just would not do. Instead the arms were shortened so that they did not extend as far as the front legs. Another demand was comfort and so the legs of the chair were shortened as well as the backs. Much more low key, yet fashionable and classy. Curves were in. The short curving arms of the chair and low back made it very comfy for men and ladies to rest their shoulders on, and most importantly, they would not mess up their hair!!!!
If that is not proof of fashion altering furniture, then I do not know what is! Are you kinda, possibly, slightly interested in reading more? I am not going to overwhelm you with details just yet, but if you are willing to wait for them, I have done my job! More to come in the future. Til then please lounge in your favorite chair patiently!
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