From the empire to the Restoration

The denomination

The Restoration style is a French style that describes the arts and architecture produced during the Restoration period of the Napoleonic empire, therefore during the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles It is therefore configured, as a consequence of the anti-Bonapartist politics and culture of the period, as a clear break with the Empire Style, which with its sumptuousness had dominated the early years of the 19th century.

Although the Restoration Style has a very broad scope, we will focus in this particular context only on the production of furniture.

History

Let’s take a step back. The French Revolution (1789) and above all the advent of the Napoleonic Empire (1804) had constituted the natural ground for the development of the Empire Style, whose production was aimed at reflecting the grandeur of French power in the Napoleonic era. Not to be underestimated was the definitive affirmation of the bourgeoisie in this historical period: the bourgeois used to commission furniture whose characteristics, almost regal, flaunted their newly gained social prestige.

With the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and the fall of his Empire (1814) the monarchy was restored. Under the reigns of Luigi XVIII and Carlo X the style that art historians would later call Restoration was outlined: just as the collapse of the empire meant the return to monarchy, so the Imperial Style had to leave room for the return of a taste belonging to antiquity with references to medieval Gothic. Keep in mind that once again in this period most of the furniture was built for bourgeois families. In previous centuries, the royal family had played a role as patrons, and consequently had favored the development of new artistic currents. However, the Napoleonic wars had impoverished the rulers Luigi XVIII and his successor Carlo X

The Restoration style began under the reign of Luigi XVIII, a culture-loving, intelligent ruler, follower of the Enlightenment, Voltaire and the Encyclopedists. His policy was moderating and aimed at pacification. These policies favored the development of the bourgeoisie which, taking the place of the nobles, became customers of those who produced the furniture. The Restoration style was modeled on his needs.

Under Charles finally the Restoration style reached full maturity, so much so that it was sometimes called the “Charles X Style”.

However, it would be incorrect to ascribe the changes in style solely to the political and cultural changes underway. In the nineteenth century, in fact, a new way of conceiving craftsmanship and furniture production had made its way: factories, with their rhythms and their division of work, replaced the traditional workshops with the master and his apprentices. Furniture began to be mass produced.

Style

The term Biedermeier, in some interpretations, has something derogatory: in fact it comes from two words, namely the adjective Bieder which means “simple”, “simpleton” (but also “upright” and “honest”) combined with one of the German surnames most common Meier (or Maier). To fully understand the Restoration style we can make a parallel with the Austrian and German “twin”, also born in contrast to the Empire style: the Biedermeier style.

In reality this style contrasts with the sumptuousness of the Empire style, in an attempt to regain a normality that the aforementioned style had lost.

In reality this style contrasts with the sumptuousness of the Empire style, in an attempt to regain a normality that the aforementioned style had lost.

Right from the materials we can see the distance from the style that had characterized Bonapartism: light woods such as maple, ash, yew, lemon and plane tree were preferred for furniture, abandoning darker materials.

In addition to this, the return to inlay makes the Restoration style increasingly distant from its predecessor, renewing a now lost elegance.

The lines were simplified: the geometry is not lost, but they are slightly smoothed and often contain spherical elements. Curved lines are found especially in the backs of chairs. Often the front surfaces are curved and the sides remain straight.

We leave you with a selection of images so you can admire the works from the period explored in this article.

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