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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We collect stuff all our lives, and then what?Gazettextra, April 9th
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
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
Too much stuff: We collect it all our lives — then what?Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, April 4th
#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
Wacom gets drawn inPortland Tribune, April 1st
One of her students won the national LG Electronics animation prize of $50,000 for the school. Martin French, chair of Design Arts, said “We've used Wacom tablets in illustration for a number of years. [They are] an essential tool in our process and...Read more
Seaham-based BE Group wins contract to deliver growth in the south eastThe Journal, March 31st
Geoff French, chair of enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, added: “Enterprise M3 is extremely pleased to announce today the awarding of our Growth Hub contract to the BE Group and its partners. “BE Group is a leading business services group in...Read more
Further contract success for the BE GroupBQ Live, March 31st
Geoff French, chair of enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership, commented: “Enterprise M3 is extremely pleased to announce today the awarding of our Growth Hub contract to the BE Group and its partners. “BE Group is a leading business services group ...Read more
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
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