Magazine

During the reign of the Sun King in France, everything became dramatic, big, and baroque. With an iron will and an impressive attention to detail, the absolute monarch made his country a leading power in war, commerce, and the arts—establishing state sponsored academies and factories that made French painting, architecture, and furniture synonymous with good taste for centuries to come.

The style was defined by the building of Versailles—the king’s magnum opus and the highest expression of the French Baroque. Like Louis’s glitzy palace, furniture was meant to glorify the state and looks it: chairs with high backs, stretchers, and seemingly immovable proportions; cabinets and armoires heavily inlaid with tortoiseshell, lavished with gilt and exotic wood marquetry, set on glinting bronze mounts shaped like lion paws. Classical motifs—acanthus leaves, sphinxes, the god Apollo—drape doors, drawer fronts, and table legs. Louis even had a whole suite of furniture made for him in solid silver (though he later had it melted down to help pay for one of his wars).

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