Golden Age of French Furniture – A Guilded System

King Louis XIV
King Louis XIV

The French are famous for their fine taste in everything, whether it’s food, art, architecture, or furniture!!

Like French art, French furniture also has a long history, but the eighteenth century is considered the Golden age of French Furniture. It was during this time that the most refined and beautiful Royal furniture was made in the busy Paris workshops of Europe’s elite Cabinet makers. Furniture that was a display of the finest skills and techniques of French craftsmen and artists was not only popular in France but also received international appreciation.

From the middle ages till 1791, there was a guild system in place with strict rules and regulations and all French craftsmen and artists had to work according to those rules. While the system was terminated during the French Revolution, it left lasting impacts on furniture making. The Parisian guild required the craftsmen to have at least six years of training in furniture making to become a part of the guild system.

This was to ensure that furniture makers gained a high level of technical specialisation. Even after the training, they were required to work under a master furniture maker, for three years. This was followed by at least three years of working as a journeyman. To prove his mastery over the art of furniture making, a cabinetmaker had to make a ‘masterpiece’.

It was after such long training and practice and proving his competence that a furniture maker was allowed to open his own workshop.  Even then, he had to wait for a vacancy as only a limited number of master furniture makers were allowed to work at a given time.

Examples of French makers’ Stamps in the Current Collection at Nicholas Wells Antiques Ltd

Styles of Furniture during the 18th Century

During the 18th century, France not only experienced a lot in politics but also in furniture making. Many different styles of furniture were made in France, during this time. Some of them were:

  • The Louis XIV Style – Known for its opulence, luxury, and royal tone, this style reflected the power, wealth, and grandeur of King Louis XIV.
  • The Regence Style – During the Regency period, which started after the death of King Louis XIV, French craftsmen expanded their tastes. The furniture that was made during this period was opulent yet the boldness of the Louis XIV period was softened.
  • Rococo Style – This style was seen during the period of Louis XV. It featured asymmetrical designs, a lot of ornamentation, and playful, yet elegant designs. Many new types of chairs were made during this time.  Rococo style of furniture was also distinguished by its comfort which had become the highest priority in furniture making.
    Neoclassicism – The last decades of the 18th century under the court of Louis XVI, saw a rejection of the flamboyancy of the rococo and a sharper focus on structured classical design, taking inspiration from the classical buildings of ancient Rome and Greece. The architectural language is seen repeated and reinvented across every sphere of the decorative arts.   

Explore some exclusive 18th Century French furniture pieces here like this one on