Antique Rococo Furniture

The Rococo Period began in 1720 in France. This was during the reign of King Louis XV of France. This period has been called the Louis XV or the Louis Quinze period. Madamede Pompadour, the official mistress of King Louis XV employed the stylish marchards-merciers. These merchants transformed or made various pieces for homes in Paris.

They transformed Chinese vases into ewers (a pitcher with a mouth used for liquids) with Rococo handles or gilt-bronze. They also mounted writing tables that featured new Sevres porcelain plaques. At Pampadour’s request King Louis XV took over the porcelain factory in Vincennes. It was later relocated to Sevres. This factory became a major producer of porcelain slabs and painted plaques that were often used on tabletops and other pieces of Louis XV furniture.

Rococo style furniture makes for a wonderful antique. It came after the Baroque period. Rococo had more to offer with plant motifs, stalactitic representation, scrolls, acanthus leaves, Grotesques and floral or fauna designs. It was more of an excessive version and asymmetrical, while Baroque was more symmetrical in design. Cabinet making was very popular and ornate during the Rococo period.

The Rococo Period was more playful and delicate. It was lighthearted and elegant, some people of the time thought it was frivolous. Shells and wave-like motifs can be found on antique furniture of the Rococo Period such as armoires, tables and chairs. Foliage and seashells were also carved into beds and mirror frames. For collectors of this time period look for a signature or stamp on the furniture. Parisian guild workers were required to stamp or sign their pieces form 1743-1790.

Thomas Chippendale, a cabinet maker and interior designer wrote “The Gentleman and Cabinet Makers Director.” It was first published in 1754. It had detailed illustrated designs and ideas for cabinets and other wood work, including Rococo. Thomas made his wooden furniture from mahogany instead of veneers. The book was used by other craftsman as a guide to make fine pieces of furniture. He was known for his adaptation and refinement of Rococo style furniture. The cabriole leg and scroll foot became more refined and was used often.

In 1730 the Rococo Period took off and was became widely purchased in upper class homes form adornment. It only stayed around until around 1760 when Neoclassic culture made itself known. By 1780 the passion for Rococo was mostly gone in France due to the write and philosopher Voltaire. He criticized society for being degenerate and superficial. Rococo paintings were either erotic, pastoral or sentimental. A few famous painters of the time were Antoine Watteau and Francois Boucher.

Social customs of the day in a rich household liked to have the most modern pieces of furnishings. It was not unheard of to replace an entire collection in a room with all new pieces so that they matched. Tables and chairs, stools, footstool, lounges, sofas and mirrors were often replaced.

Menuisiers (cabinet makers or furniture joiners) were only allowed to use wood for beds, cupboards, tables and other items. Carvings of their own design was permitted. They could attach ormulo but they were not allowed to design it themselves. Ormulo is mercury guilding using gold and mercury firing. It was a very dangerous job to make ormulo and most people who designed with it did not live past the age of forty due to its hazardous chemical properties and fumes. Ebenistes were master craftsman. Their job was to make chairs and sofas. Louis XV furniture was very ingenious. It had complex mechanisms like drawers with false fronts and secret button open compartments.