With buyers of the last decade or so being very much in favour of keeping it simple with their interior design, it appeared that fine French furniture, with its splendiferous decoration and liberal use of ornament was facing the guillotine. It is no surprise that recently in the contemporary decorative outlook in this country, in which some of the comparatively restrained designs of 18th and 19th century English furniture have been considered to be at odds with the prevailing minimalist style, French examples from the same time, brimming with ormolu mounts, ornate marquetry and undulating lines, have been viewed as not only a bit ostentatious, but completely over the top. However, with the tide turning and antique furniture once more taking a proud place in the home, French furnishings can flourish again.
When it comes to quality, there isn’t a great deal that can rival the furniture, clocks and objets d’art produced in Paris during the 18th century, and it is widely considered that under the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI manufacture was at its apex. This is in part down to the guild system, which split each aspect of artisan craft into its constituent parts; for example, a menuisier would undertake joinery, a sculpteur any carving, and a fondeur-ciseleur the bronze mounts and metal engraving. The requirements to be a member of any guild were very strict and individuals had to complete years of training before they could be admitted, resulting in a high level of pride in and mastery of the work that was carried out. Although the guilds were disbanded with the Revolution in 1791, their legacy of meticulous detail and fine craftsmanship can be seen in the revivalist pieces of the 19th and 20th centuries, with their precise proportions, lavish veneers and finely cast mounts. Such pieces have grown in popularity with clients in China and the Middle East recently, and the Fine Interiors department are seeing increasingly strong results in this area of the market, making now an excellent time to buy and sell. As we appear to be entering a new period of antique appreciation, in which quality is high on the agenda, why not add a dash of opulence to one’s interior design scheme by way of a parquetry bureau, a pair of scrolling candelabra or an ormolu clock. Vive le redécoration!
Browse French furniture, objets d’art and clocks in our September Fine Interiors Auction
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