Ladies Please Take a Seat | Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide to the 18th Century: Ladies Please Take a Seat

November 05, 2008

Ladies Please Take a Seat

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 the decor of the room is outdated!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!


  1. *fans self* No wonder you didn't find Catherine de Medici's transi effigy.

  2. This was actually VERY interesting! I've been thinking of buying genuine Louis XVI period chairs for one of my I know how to keep my laides most fashionable should we deem to sit our fabulous selves down on it (which we shall.) Its going to cost a mint though. I just paid $315 for a genuine Louis XVI pre-revolution Ecu, and it takes many Louis' to purchase one chair! ;)

  3. This is very interesting :) I never would have thought so, though!

  4. Dear Cat,
    You have just won yourself the responsibitlity of emailing me with pictures of your faublous new furniture and your room!!! I am so jealous! In my 'dream' home I will be doing one room a la Louis XV, I just can't wait...What is your color scheme?? I am so curious!

    Thank you Sara! I am so glad not *everyone* ran away to PerezHilton when they saw the word "chairs"..... :D

  5. Hi Lauren!I've left you something over at my Blog, please stop by and see!! xoxo Sherri

  6. When I get the furniture, its going to be with the money i'd normally save for vacations for the next 2 years, so I will definitely pass along some pictures! My guy was very sorry he said it was something I could have...mwahahahahah! ;)

    I am looking for something with a sort of robin-blue. I want it to be "Bourbon" colors, so a blue and gold theme to the room, preferably with dark wood. Right now my dining set is late-19th century hardback chairs with a matching table of the same period...that are so uncomfortable and unsightly that I would rather have a modern set...or Louis XVI chairs. ;) I also was going to get a print of Louis XVI (the one around his coronation by Van Loo, I believe,) and a MA portrait too. I expect it to take me a few years to get the room right...but it will be worth it when I do. :D

    Keep up the good work - I love your blog!

  7. That is very interesting! I have now made my blog available in english. But the google translation tool makes very bad translations at some times. I don't have the time to write my texts in english so that translation is better than nothing.

  8. This is way to kool.I would love to own Louis XV1 chair,though it may not quite go with anything I own.LOL Marie Antionette

  9. Comtesse Constance ZapedzkaNovember 16, 2008 at 11:50 AM

    Hee hee! I am laughing a bit because I attend the Court of Versailles in Second Life, from whence these lovely pictures. It is quite a lot of fun, but the meshing of our virtual selves with the virtual furniture can often . . . leave something to be desired in terms of how our skirts hang - as shown! There are possible solutions but they cause their own problems with our large lovely gowns. Wonderful post and blog, and merci beaucoup for the giggle!

  10. Comtesse Constance Zapedzka: I must insist then you take some snapshots of your favorite gowns!! Curiosity has set in!