In the 17th century, French intellectuals developed a fondness for salons—gatherings to discuss to art, literature, and politics—so naturally French furniture designers were asked to devise new, more comfortable ways to sit. By the 1800s, a typical French salon suite held a sofa, a chaise longue, a lady's armchair, a gentleman's armchair, and a stool. Today, most collectible antique French chairs come from such Victorian Era conversation rooms.
In response to the political and social unrest of industrialization, mass-produced 19th-century French furniture expressed nostalgia for the Golden Age of the French monarchy, relishing in the opulence of Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. Inspired by the reigns of kings Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI, antique French chairs usually feature carved wooden frames that were gilded or painted, as well as fine silk upholstery embroidered with delicate flowers. These chairs often incorporate serpentine lines; molding carved in the shapes of scrolls, faces, and arched crests; legs that curve or taper; and feet that scroll or end in claws or hooves.
One of the most common styles is the "fauteil," an upholstered armchair with open sides that came into popularity under the reign of Louis XIV, the 17th-century "Sun King." The chair is still a mainstay of French furnishing. Eventually, upholstered pads were added to the top of the fauteil armrests for even greater comfort. When upholstery became more readily available in the 18th century under Louis XV's extravagant Rococo reign, armchairs called "bergéres" included fabric-covered panels between the arms and seats. Stretcher supports disappeared from French chairs after the invention of curved "cabriole" legs, shaped like an animal's hind legs.
Most Rococo chairs were designed to sit against a wall. In fact, the heavy "siège meuble" was not designed to be moved at all. The pastel, intricately embroidered silk of the seats and backs, was an integral part of the design of a room, meant to complement the patterns and colors of the adjacent wall paneling. To accommodate the opulent fashions of the day, chair arms were shortened to account for hoop skirts, while chair backs were lowered to spare huge coiffures.
Revivalist Louis XV-style fauteils and bergéres can be distinguished from Louis XVI-style models. Louis XV-style chairs are curvier and rounder with cabriole legs and fanciful embellishments. By the time of Louis XVI's reign, Neoclassicism was all the rage, and so the more florid Rococo tendencies were toned down with Classical symmetry. Louis XVI-style chairs have more rectangular frames, with tapered legs. Oftentimes, these Victorian reproductions have casters attached to their feet.
In the 19th century, French armchairs grew even more luxurious when coiled springs were mass-produced. These "tapissier" chairs were also upholstered in elaborately detailed tapestries. The Victorians, very concerned about what happens when young lovers sat on a sofa, invented a whole host of seats including "canapé borne," "dos-à-dos," and "boudeuse," that let sitters have conversations, modestly, without the risk of physical contact.
Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)
Buffalo Architecture and History
Kentucky Online Arts Resource
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: French Style Chairs
Source: Google News
Restoration PoliticsNew York Times (blog), March 27th
From left: Damaschke, left, and McIlwee on the Fords' original living room sofa with new grisaille fabric, near Karl Springer poufs from the 1970s and an upholstered 18th-century French chair; a seating area in the master bedroom with Betty Ford's...Read more
Too much stuff: We collect it all our lives, and then what?The Seattle Times, March 19th
MERLIN COFFEY is sitting in the corner of his dining room, parked on an antique French chair in front of a table stacked with china and silver serving sets. Around him, strangers pick through three floors worth of his belongings — thousands of items...Read more
Government funding for Manydown infrastructureBasingstoke Gazette, March 19th
Geoff French, chair of the Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Today's announcement of Government funding for a scoping and infrastructure study for Basingstoke clearly indicates the importance of this part of the Enterprise M3 area...Read more
Consignment shops offer an alternative for buying and selling furnitureHouston Chronicle, March 16th
Several antiques from the loggia of a Tanglewood home later were offered for sale at Atelier 1505. The bird cage above the fireplace, made in France in 1946, sold to a client in Bermuda. The matching chairs are part of the inventory now at the store at...Read more
Grand Hotel designer to teach guests decoratingMLive.com, March 8th
"You can create grand in the smallest spaces," he said, "a damask fabric on a chair, a pretty chandelier, a velvet pillow, a French chair, a pair of candlesticks on a coffee table. None of these has to be expensive. They just have to be thought out...Read more
French Chair Umpire Gets Lifetime BanNew York Times, November 25th
A French chair umpire on the Futures and Challenger tours became the first official to be suspended for gambling-related corruption by the Tennis Integrity Unit when he received a lifetime ban. The umpire, Morgan Lamri, 22, said that he would not...Read more
French Tennis Federation Official Is Barred for LifeNew York Times, November 25th
PARIS — A French chair umpire on the futures and challenger tours became the first official to be suspended for corruption by the Tennis Integrity Unit when he received a life ban on Tuesday. The charges against 22-year-old Morgan Lamri breached four ...Read more
'100 sièges français' celebrates the midcentury evolution of French chair designVogue Australia, September 30th
'100 sièges français' celebrates the midcentury evolution of French chair design. Design. Created 1st October 2014. more from Vogue Living. more from Vogue Living. The interiors of Skye Gyngell's new London restaurant Spring · How to style a tabletop...Read more