French Furniture – Paris, 1650-1830


Spring 2015


5th Floor Classroom


Ulrich Leben

The course will investigate how the city of Paris became the pre-eminent European center of artistic production and trendsetter in the field of the decorative arts from the second half of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the nineteenth century. The mainstream fashionable styles that had a direct influence on design, such as Rococo, Chinoiserie, Orientalism, Egyptian style, Anglomania, and others, will be presented in order to understand the defining ornament vocabulary of each and its impact on the fabrication of objects. The availability of new techniques and precious materials in the largest European capitals had a strong influence on decorative arts production. Examples of objects in various media, employing materials such as silver, steel, porcelain, glass, mirrors and exotic woods will be inspected. Due to the influx of very highly skilled craftsmen migrating to Paris in order to find employment, the city became a major center for fine furniture making. French furniture production during this period is unique within Europe in that many pieces can often be identified as the work of individual masters whose workshops developed a personal style. The evolution of the French lifestyle and the discovery of privacy led to the creation of many new models and types of furniture, which will be discussed in accordance with their original use and role in interiors. The well-documented royal furniture commissioned by furniture administration of the French court will be discussed as exemplars of craftsmanship and design. The seminar will focus on the stylistic evolution of French furniture. The course will be complemented by study sessions at the Metropolitan Museum and possibly other venues. 3 credits. Satisfies the pre-1800 requirement.