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Louis, Louis, Louis

XIV = 14

XV=15

XVI=16

What's the deal with all the "Louis XVI" refrences?

Louis style, Louis XVI, Louis XIV, or Louis XV is a style originated in France during the time of King Louis XVI (1774–1793).  It started at the end of the baroque style which is why some pieces have that overdone styling.  It is said that the straight legs were inspired from the straight columns of Greek temples and the overall sensibility was taken from the architecture of the time.  Prior to this time the styling was more curved. It is notable that a French designer and craftsman of the time,  Charles-Nicolas Cochin famously denounced the curves of the previous time and claimed: “Don’t torture without reason those things which could be straight, and come back to the good sense which is the beginning of good taste”.

Stunning desks, cabinets and other wooden furnishings were also created with similar lines of the Louis period. Primarily these beauties were produced for royalty, the Palace of Versailles, and alike.  The use of inlaying rare woods, especially mahogany highlighted with gold, bronze, mother of pearl, were truly fit for a king.

Today it’s impossible to pick up an edition of Architectural Digest without seeing multiple references to Louis XVI. I’ve tested it and yet to prove this fact wrong. 

Distinguishing a Louis VXI from XV and XIV is easy and it really impresses people when you flex your knowledge of the period with sales people and other shoppers (lol).

Whether your shopping for new or authentic, below are some tips to distinguish your XVs from your XVI’s with ease.

 How to spot a Louis XIV chair: Think ‘throne’.

  • Drama: Silhouettes are grand and majestic, often with high backs like a throne. 
  • Hefty: Legs feature H or X shape stretchers, giving a heavier look.
  • Rigidity: Armrests extend to the front edge of the seat, and seat backs are straight and upright.

To spot a Louis XV chair: Think ‘curves’.

  • Curves: Seat backs are often rounded and feature curved wood frames, typically with carved decorations. Chair legs, set at an angle, are often curved or S-shape.
  • Gold: Wooden chair frames often feature a gold or gilded finish.
  • Comfort: Seat backs are angled for increased comfort whereas XVI were straight. Armrests shorter than XVI, ending before the edge of the seat. 

To spot a Louis XVI chair: Think ‘simple and classic’.

  • Restraint: Think clean lines, geometric shapes, and straight, column-like legs. Chairs may feature round, rectangular, or shield-shape upholstered backs.
  • Classic details: Decorative carvings reflect classical motifs, including scrolls, fluting, and ribbon-twist details.
  • Depth: Armrests extend to meet the front edge of the seat, often ending in a graceful scroll.
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