Louis who?

In examining the history of furniture and interiors, the style of the period was most often determined by the reigning ruler. If you have ever been furniture shopping and noticed all the pieces titled “Louis XIV,” Louis “XV” and so on, this is why! To most people, these terms remain elusive, but that no longer has to be the case! Today we’re focusing in on the styles set forth by four of France’s most distinctive rulers: Louis XIII, Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI. The easiest way to differentiate each period is actually by looking at the legs.
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The “Turned” leg (above) was the leg of choice for Louis XIII. Turning is a carving technique resembling twisting spirals and was first popularized in Renaissance Italy. Louis XIII pieces are also characterized by stretchers (the horizontal stretch of wood connecting the chair legs). There is still a strong medieval influence carried over in the design of many Louis XIII pieces which is evident through their boxiness. A Louis XIV arm chair, below, is similar in its boxy form but as you will notice the lines of the legs become more fluid and less ornate.
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Below, equal parts elegant and graceful, the Cabriole leg is the key identifier associated with Louis XV.XXX__MG_8650
This Fauteuil chair, above (the arm chair of Louis XV) no longer shows signs of its medieval roots. Instead it becomes the iconic salon chair of the Rococo style and what many people think of today as a “French chair.” Other countries began to design their own version of the fauteuil chair, but the French fautueil remains an eternal classic.
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The resurgence of Greco-Roman design prompted the Neoclassical style associated with Louis XVI. The key characteristic of a Louis XVI piece is the fluted leg topped with a rosette block with the square segment usually encompassing a floral motif. Pictured above are two barrel back Bergere chairs, another French design classic. Hopefully this lesson in all things Louis will help prepare you for that next antiquing trip of yours or even browsing sites like Ebay and Etsy. Knowing the history behind the pieces you’re buying just makes them that much more special, and makes you an educated consumer! Happy hunting!