Hello, I’m Erika Brechtel of small shop! I am by trade a graphic designer; by education, an art historian and interior designer. So I thought it might be fun for La Dolce Vita readers to take advantage of my past schooling and get quick “lessons” every now and then on a little historical background in matters of art, furniture, decorative arts, etc. but in the context of modern design! Fun, right? Today’s brush-up: what is the difference between a Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI chair? Let’s take the ever-popular (and a fave of mine!) Louis Ghost Chair by designer Philippe Starck for Kartell. Recognize it? We all know and still love it.
Perhaps you know, perhaps you don’t and are thrilled to learn that this chair is a modern interpretation of a French chair typical of the Neoclassical period of Louis XVI’s reign (1774 – 1791):
The Neoclassical period took its cues from Greek and Roman symmetry and classic geometries, but was also in direct response to the ornately curvilinear and overtly feminine Rococo silhouettes of the previous period (Louis XV’s reign, 1715-1774). You know that sexy S-curve “cabriole” leg, those super fancy and flourished pieces, often with shells and foliage? All of that is Rococo. These softer lines, and lighter fabrics and colors, were in turn a direct response to the heavier fabrics and imposing forms of the previous Baroque period during — you guessed it — Louis XIV’s reign (a.k.a. the “Versailles” Louis). Got all that? If not, here’s a (very) simplified chart to keep it all straight and help you quickly identify the characteristics:
What comes next? Directoire (post-French Revolution) and Empire (Napoleon’s era), but we can get into that another time! (See this is fun, right?) So whether you are a professional or a hobbyist: drop some knowledge on your colleagues and clients, or just have something to think about next time you see a certain room or piece of furniture. I hope you will use it as you wish, and enjoy!