Neoclassical Furniture: A Turn from the Rococo

By the mid 1700s, in France, a growing number of artists and craftsmen were getting tired of the Rococo style, and so turned to the Classical arts for inspiration. This was the birth of Neoclassical art, and furniture.

Painting in Neoclassical style. Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii, 1784

This style can also be referred to as Louis XVI or Louis Seize - the king of France at the time.

As European artists would travel through Italy, Greece and other icons of the Ancient World, they couldn’t help but be influenced by the archaeological and architectural heritage of the old Roman and Greek empires and return to their home countries to develop Neoclassicism.

Armchair (fauteuil) from Louis XVI's Salon des Jeux at Saint Cloud

Neoclassicism is based on straight lines, rectilinear forms and a use of Classical ornamentation. With the passage of time, the curvaceous lines of the Rococo were replaced by more austere and rectilinear designs: chair legs were to become straight, tapered and fluted and commodes and other cabinets were no longer in bombé form.The use of marquetry was frequent and would continue for a long time as a popular feature in furniture.

Folding stool by Jean-Baptiste-Claude Sené (1786)

The monuments of classical times and the Renaissance were a source of inspiration for Neoclassical artists such as Robert Adam, who had studied in Italy and would bring Neoclassicism to England. Architect by trade, Adam’s furniture featured marquetry, ormolu mounts and painting as decoration.

Robert Adams Neoclassical marquetry

By the end of the 18th century, a greater refinement in Neoclassicism was witnessed.

Heart- and shield-shaped backs on chairs and settees and tapered and fluted supports for tables and other pieces are characteristic. Feathers, wheat ears, and shells are prominent in the painted or inlaid decoration. Lightness and delicacy were traits of late 18th century Neoclassical style and they revealed more than ever an interesting element of femininity.


Source of information:

Encyclopedia Britanicca