French furniture of the 16th century was remarkably graceful and delicate; it was enriched with inlay of small plaques of figured marble and semiprecious stones, sometimes with inlay or marquetry of ivory, mother-of-pearl, and different coloured woods. Chairs began to be lighter in design; the back became narrower, the panelled sides and base were replaced by carved and turned arms and supports, and legs were joined by stretchers at their base. A specialized chair known as a caquetoire, or conversation chair, supposedly designed for ladies to sit and gossip in, had a high, narrow back and curved arms. Elaborately carved oblong tables were supported by consoles or fluted columns connected by a stretcher surmounted by an arched colonnade. Chests decorated in the new style were still widely used, although frequently replaced by the armoire (a tall cupboard or wardrobe), which was sometimes made in two stages, the upper compartment containing numerous small drawers.
Working in The Empire Style. Charles-Honore' Lannuier, a French immigrant, was one of the first cabinetmakers to introduce this style in America, according to Schwartz. He added gilded carving to his pieces that made them elegant and appealing in his New York workshop. Duncan Phyfe's shop was influenced by this style as well in the 1820s and 1830s, but in a much more restrained way although still quite elegant in its appearance. But the more elaborate designs came out of Boston and Philadelphia. All the craftsmen working in this style were likely fed by publications of the day. They included designs based on those shown in British author Thomas Hope's Household Furniture and Interior Design and others adapted from French styles. Of course, the name Empire originating from the French wasn't used in England due to political conflicts with France at the time. The British preferred Regency as their moniker for the style with many of the same elements. Americans, being friendlier with the French than England after our own conflict for independence, took to the name Empire more readily back then, and it endures when describing these pieces today. Occasionally the term Classical will be used to describe these styles as well.
France. The transitional phase in French furniture from Baroque to Rococo is called Régence. The heavy, monumental style of the earlier part of Louis's reign was gradually replaced by a lighter and more fluent curvilinear style. The leading exponent of the Régence style was Charles Cressent, ébéniste (“cabinetmaker”) to the regent Philippe II, duc d'Orléans. In his work the ormolu (a brass imitation of gold) mounts, so important a part of the design of French furniture in the 18th century, became equal to if not more important than, the marquetry decoration of the carcass. The curvilinear form was introduced not only to externals, such as legs and supports, but, in the bombé (rounded sides and front) commodes that first appeared during this period, to the case itself. High-quality marquetry in coloured woods replaced ebony.
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