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11 Design Elements of the Louis XIV Style

The Louis XIV style was predominant between 1643 and 1715.  The primary characteristics of the Louis XIV style of French furniture include:

  1. During the early part of the Louis XIV period the furniture is best described as heavy and cumbersome.  However, toward the end of the Louis XIV period the furniture was slightly reduced in size and more appealing.
  2. In appearance the Louis XIV furniture is very well balanced and bisymmetrical.
  3. Both straight and curved lines are visible, although the predominence is for straight and rectangular lines.
  4. Ornament was overwhelming although beautiful by itself it is considered a bit too profuse on the furniture.
  5. The legs on Louis XIV furniture went through a transition during the period.  During the early part of the era the legs were square.  The evolution moved towards the cabriole style then toward a modified cabriole leg.  The last of the four styles of legs is perhaps the best.  The legs are generally smaller on the cabinets than on the chairs with a slight curve and Flemish scroll work.
  6. Underbracing was consistent, most often being crossed stretchers much like those found on William and Mary styles.
  7. The upholstery was rich in texture, often tapestries or velours.  The motifs were large.  During the Louis XIV period often the upholstery fabric was individually designed with each piece in mind.
  8. Oak, walnut and fruit woods were commonly used although more valuable woods were used late in the era.
  9. Decoration was carvings often fully gilded.  On some pieces only the carved areas were gilded.  It is easy to recognize the period by the gold gilt.  It must be noted that as the period progressed lacquering and painting became popular especially across the carved areas.
  10. Near the end of the period rock and shell (Rocco) was becoming popular, although not as predominent as with Louis XV furniture.
  11. Crimson, dark green, and dark blue were the primary colors used in conjunction with the gold leaf making for a striking and dramatic visual.  Later in the period the colors were becoming brighter.