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]



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

Increase standards for conservation district elections
Las Cruces Sun-News, April 22nd

compared to the hours, and sometimes, days that people in other countries have had to do to exercise the same privilege. Kudos to County Clerk Lynn Ellins and his terrific staff! Christy L. French, chair, Democratic Party of Doña Ana County, Las...Read more

Dr Alison Diamond steps up to lead the Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust
Mid Devon Star, April 22nd

THE Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has announced the appointment of Dr Alison Diamond as Chief Executive. Dr Diamond, a GP in Bideford and currently the Trust's Medical Director, will start in this role on 1 May 2014. Roger French, Chair of the ...Read more

Nadal tops Gabashvili to advance to Monte Carlo 3rd round
La prensa, April 16th

Irked by a second time-violation warning from French chair umpire Pascal Maria, Nadal switched into a higher gear late in the second set to wrap up the match in just over an hour. It was Nadal's 49th singles win at the Monte Carlo Masters and 299th...Read more

European Parliament - Never again? Debate to mark WW1 centenary
DeHavilland (press release) (subscription), April 16th

Joseph Daul, the French chair of the EPP group, reminded that WW I was an “accident caused by selfish nationalisms” and called for more integration and common polices. “If Europe was to succumb to populism and eurocepticism we would be going back ...Read more

KCVI and QECVI to close
Queen's Journal, April 3rd

According to Laurie French, chair of the Limestone District School Board, the soonest a new school can open is fall of 2016. French said that the benefits of opening a new school are accessibility for individuals with “physical limitations...Read more

Funding for new high school
Kingston This Week, March 24th

providing $35 million for a new secondary school. The new school could open as early as the 2016-17 school year and would accommodate 1,100 students, said Laurie French, chair of the Limestone District School Board. The site has yet to be determined...Read more