Furniture Of The Regency
There is not much to note about the furniture made in France during the Regency, other than that it was in keeping with the art prevailing in the reign of Louis XIV., the style being continued. Some few characteristic pieces made during the Regency can, however, be fixed with some degree of certainty, in that carvers then introduced heads and busts, wearing the peculiar head-dress of the times. These they pictured in their marqueterie designs. There are not many distinctive examples in furniture galleries showing the Regency period, although no doubt the change that was coming was already creeping on. It has been said that the grandeur that had marked the homes of the Louis XIV. period was enhanced by that produced during the Regency and the earlier years of Louis XV. ; but it was not until the young King came of age that there were signs of the rococo (so named after rocks and shells), a style influenced by Eastern art. The work of Andre Charles Boulle was continuing, but the use of ormolu increased, and was evidently used to a greater extent than marqueterie. Among the workers of that day were Charles Cressent, who had been appointed ebeniste to the Regent ; Jules Aurae Meissonier, whose elaborate decoration of combinations of shell work and florid foliage was a feature ; and Jacques Caffieri, who worked at the Louvre with Boulle and others.. Another famous worker was Riesener, whose name is associated with the remarkable commode, begun by Oeben and completed by Riesener in 1760, known as the Bureau du Roi, described in another paragraph, in which it is referred to as having been copied by Dasson, the copy being now in the Wallace Collection.
Of the work of Charles Cressent, who had been appointed ebeniste to Philip of Orleans, there is a fine commode in the Wallace Collection, specially interesting in that it has been looked upon as a transitional piece between the Regence style and the rocaille phase of the Louis XV. style.
When Louis XV. reached his majority the decorative work of Caffieri, who made such beautiful ornaments in bronze, was being applied by French cabinet - makers. Among the more important departures of the Louis XV. period, to which the attention of collectors is called, are the canape, or sofa, to seat three persons ; the causeuse, for two persons ; and the chaise-longue, long chair or lounge. The bonheur du jour made at that time was a small cabinet table for a lady's boudoir, and the cartonniere, a table in which papers could be kept. The ordinary chairs in a well - furnished apartment in the Louis XV.. period were six single chairs or chaises, and two fauteuils or armchairs. There were also many pretty little occasional tables with gilt mounts, such as were still more extensively made in the reign of Louis XVI.
French cabinet-makers were not left altogether without guidance at that time, for several Continental publishers of designs brought out important books. One of those was Neufforge, of Liege, in Belgium, who designed cabinets, buffets, armoires, and console tables, some of his later designs being the commodes and other pieces which became popular at the time of Louis XVI.
Of the examples of Louis XV. furniture which may be viewed by connoisseurs wishful to identify their own examples, there are some typical pieces in the Victoria and Albert Museum; one small piece, a beautiful little chair given by Lord Howard de Walden, has carvings depicting love scenes and rustic pictures. There is a beautiful French commode, made of oak veneered with tulip wood, ornamented with marqueterie of harewood, sycamore, and other woods, the mounts of ormolu. In the centre of the front of this beautiful piece of work, executed towards the end of the reign of Louis XV., is an exquisite inlay of a basket of flowers. This commode was bequeathed by the late Mrs Julia Bonnar. In the Wallace Collection there is a commode by Jacques Caffieri, inlaid with various woods with mounts and ornaments of bronze, cast, chased, and gilt. It is said to be the most remarkable piece ornamented by this famous ciseleur (metal-chaser) who represents the earlier Louis XV. style (style rocaille). Another piece in Hertford House is a writing-table in pale green lacquer and bronze by J. Dubois. This table, which was made at the end of the reign of Louis XV., originally came from the collection of Prince Kourakin at Petrograd. It may be briefly described as the supports being figures of sea nymphs or sirens in gilt bronze, bearing cushions on their heads, and garlanded with festoons of oak leaves and acorns ; around the upper part there is a series of frieze-like panels of classic ornamentation, also in gilt bronze. Another example of this period in the same gallery is an upright bureau of tulip-wood, the mounts being of gilt bronze, supplemented by plaques of apple-green Sevres porcelain, painted with flowers on a white ground. It is surmounted by a clock of gilt bronze by Julien le Roy, at the summit being cupids of dark bronze, and on either side curved flambeaux springing from foliated scroll work. Connoisseurs of French art furniture at this period will recognise the work of the family of Martin, the choice Vernis-Martin panels being appropriately introduced in decorative ornament.
( Originally Published Early 1900's )