Pocket CEU: Understanding Louis XIII, XIV, XV, and XVI Furniture

By John Kroger


Recognizing the differences among Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV, and Louis XVI and understanding their historic context can help match a client's desires to the aspirations and visions of the culture from which the different Louis styles originated. These styles can help drive design, and create something that both understands the past but also looks forward - just as French culture of the time helped create the American Revolution and contribute ultimately to how we live today.

Europe, during this time (1610-1792), was sharing influences and styles across national boundaries. Though we have created four distinct categories, the designs tended to evolve slowly and borrow from each other. These factors help blur the differences between the styles that coincide with the reign of the French kings between 1610 and 1792 and, therefore, make it difficult to establish hard and fast rules of distinction. Illustrations of furnishings from the different eras will be an important part of this lesson.

In general, the evolution of the four Louis reigns followed a simple pattern. Louis XIII furnishings were a push to create more elaborate furniture than that of the Renaissance Era. After Louis XIII, in the Louis XIV reign, furniture grew more elaborate and even more intricate in the Louis XV reign. The designs finally moderated during the Louis XVI reign when style tempered and grew more conservative. While this general pattern helps apply a simple model of understanding to the four styles, it's important to note that even though style is less excessive in the Louis XVI reign, furniture was still produced by a handful of artisans, with expensive materials, for the very rich.

This CEU was created with the help and expertise of Dan Garfink, co-owner of French Accents Fine Continental Antiques in Baltimore MD. It was published in the July/August 2006 edition of Fine Furnishings International Magazine and is presented here with the permission of the publisher.