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.


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Recent News: French Style Chairs

Source: Google News

Matt Heincker: Redesign turns guest room Bohemian
Indianapolis Star, May 30th

A small French chair was made over with green lacquer and velvet faux bois upholstery and provides a pretty perch for guests to sit and read. Opposite the bed sits a Mid-Century desk that once belonged to my wife's grandfather. It provides a great...Read more

Forget the Calls. Players Challenge the People Who Make Them.
New York Times, May 28th

At Wimbledon in 1995, the American player Jeff Tarango walked off the court at the All England Club to protest the officiating of the French chair umpire Bruno Rebeuh. Tarango's wife at the time, Benedicte, later slapped Rebeuh. “When you have...Read more

Andy Murray unconcerned despite time violations in French Open win
The Guardian, May 28th

Twice on Thursday the French chair umpire Pascal Maria warned him for not serving within the prescribed 20 seconds during his win over João Sousa – once when wind gusted to interrupt him, later when Murray paused because he was distracted by ...Read more

Andy Murray takes time past João Sousa to reach French Open third round
The Guardian, May 28th

The French chair umpire Pascal Maria interrupted Murray on his serve at 0-30 and 3-4, when he gave him a time warning that looked harsh with the Scot, a known quick player, having done no more than pause to settle when the wind gusted. He lost the...Read more

New president of Pineville college stops at Baton Rouge church on state tour
The Advocate, May 22nd

(L.) Dr. Brandon Bannon, VP for Student Life, Dr. Cheryl Clark, chair, Div. of Humanities and (R.) Rev. Dr. Tommy French, chair of the board of trustees and pastor emeritus of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. Photo provided by Louisiana...Read more

Stars shine at Chamber awards dinner
Foster's Daily Democrat, May 15th

Ann French, chair of the Chamber board, presented the award saying that consistently throughout the year the veterans and the youth in the community benefit from the generosity of the American Legion. “Their generosity makes them a natural leader as a ...Read more

Caid Essebsi Calls for Creation of Tunisian-French Chair On Inclusive ...
AllAfrica.com, April 8th

Paris — President Beji Caid Essebsi called, on Tuesday in Paris, for the creation of chair located both in Paris and Tunis on inclusive and sustainable development in the Euro-Mediterranean area. This call, was launched at an official ceremony of the ...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