Furniture and Furnishings in Early Modern France





This course examines French furniture and related arts from François I to the French Revolution. How did furniture become a national obsession during this period, and how did French products acquire a privileged position among scholars, collectors, and connoisseurs? To approach these questions, the course examines furniture makers, craftsmen, and designers, including ébénistes (cabinetmakers), menuisiers (carvers/joiners), tapissiers (upholsterers), and supervising impresarios such as Charles Le Brun and Daniel Marot. Besides tracing the evolution of styles and techniques, the class investigates the structure and gradual breakdown of the guilds, the introduction of exotic materials, the mechanics of patronage, and the coordination of furnishings with the architectural shell, the role of royal workshops, the contributions of foreign craftsmen, and the development of new forms to respond to new domestic rituals. Study of New York collections helps students understand how French furniture embodied the aesthetics, attitudes, and ambitions of the ancien régime. 3 credits.