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

Buffalo Architecture and History

Chuck LaChiusa's wonderful guide to the architecture and history of Buffalo, NY, also happens to host an impressive… [read review or visit site]

Chipstone

Chipstone

This beautiful site showcases the collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Fox Point, Wisconsin, consisting of earl… [read review or visit site]

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

This huge online database from the Speed Art Museum is a rich trove of beautiful photos and reference information o… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Recent News: French Style Chairs

Source: Google News

Eathorpe village pulls plug on popular Christmas lights switch-on after safety ...
Coventry Telegraph, December 12th

A tiny Warwickshire village which has become famous for its Christmas lights displays has pulled the plug on its usual 'switch-on' event this year. Almost all the 40 housepeople in Eathorpe go to town with their Christmas lights and, over the years...Read more

Unanimous vote to merge Nepean and West Ottawa...
www.ottawacommunitynews.com/, December 10th

The two business groups have been considering the merger since December of last year, and did not always see eye-to-eye, said Wayne French, chair of the Greater Nepean chamber. “But at the end of the day, when we all walked out of the room, we were ...Read more

Royal French chair to go under the hammer
ITV News, December 1st

Royal French chair to go under the hammer. Duke's of Dorchester, Dorset are to sell a 200 year old chair that was once owned by a glamorous French princess. Share · Tweet · Plus · Reddit. 1 December 2014 at 12:00pm ...Read more

French Chair Umpire Gets Lifetime Ban
New 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

Around sports: IOC gives U.S. skaters their bronze due 50 years later
Houston Chronicle, November 25th

1A 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. The charges against 22-year-old Morgan Lamri breached four articles of the TIU...Read more

Messi sets Champions League
SFGate, November 25th

Tennis: Morgan Lamri, a 22-year-old 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. Lamri said he won't appeal the sanction. He...Read more

French official banned for gambling
ESPN, 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 design
Vogue 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. VL loves: our favourite finds of the week · 8 of the best restaurants to try now · 7 of...Read more