A Pair of Fauteuils a la Reine

Circa 1750
Reference #: EF1285

Louis Falconet (maître, 1743)
Painted beechwood

Each stamped Falconet

Height: 38 ¼ inches (97 cm.)
Width: 27 inches (68.5 cm.)
Depth: 26 ½ inches (67 cm.)

The son and successor of Pierre Falconet, Louis Falconet made chairs in both the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles employing the same stamp as his father; it is therefore extremely difficult to distinguish between their work. Only rarely can Louis XVI chairs signed Falconet be attributed to Louis since, having died in 1775, his widow maintained the workshop until 1782 and continued to use his stamp.

The present set of chairs attests to an age which espoused the innovations of the Regence style and brought them to superb fruition. The Louis XV or rococo style embodied a fashion of decorative arts which for the first time since the Middle Ages dispensed with the inspiration of antiquity as the influence for both form and ornament. Furniture designers explored a profoundly original and voluptuous art that was ultimately to captivate the whole of Europe. The Louis XV style was international. At the courts of Europe, from Madrid to St. Petersburg, rulers and princes decorated their palaces in the lively, glittering manner that was the eighteenth century’s response to the baroque splendors of Versailles. This style cannot be confined within the rigid time limits of the Sovereign’s reign. When the regent died in 1723, it was not yet fully developed, but by the death of Louis XV in 1774, Neoclassicism had already dispossessed it.

The High Rococo, an early phase in the development of the Louis XV style, was abruptly condemned by the intellectual luminaries of the day. Voltaire’s criticisms in the Temple de Goût of 1730, then Blondel’s inin De la Distribution des Maisons de Plaisance, denounce the asymmetrical fantasies with “ridiculous clusters of sea shells, dragons, reeds palm fronds and plants.”1 In response to these compelling circumstances, a phase termed the “symmetrical rococo” was introduced by the menuisiers of the period.

The present chairs in every way conform to the ideals of the symmetrical rococo, which is rightly seen as one of the high points in European furniture evolution. This style, originating in Paris, swept across Europe in a mood of relaxation. Its serene and composed nature, illustrated in the graceful ease and excellently balanced proportions of these chairs, is well suited to this period which was mostly an era of peace.

When taking into account the gracefully sinuous outline of Louis XV chairs, one is inclined to attach importance to their contours without giving thought to the reasons for which they exist; for they were as much designed for comfort as for elegance. The seat rails of fauteuils à la reine are not straight but consist of side and front rails in the shape of an S that allow more space at the seat front. This is necessary for one to be seated comfortably as the thigh naturally tends to broaden when seated. It is best for the thighs to be supported everywhere, but especially on the inside which is the most fleshy part rather than the outside where the bone is: the former being the part more likely to become fatigued. The comfortable slant of the seat back also necessitates the curving of the front seat rail that provides space for the knee which is drawn backward by the tilt of the back.

These chairs are impressive for their expansive, almost organic expressions of design. Here, an altogether ethereal effect is achieved by the subtle play of meandering curves echoing the free flowing lines of nature. Reminiscent of intertwined foliage, the elongated, sinuous contours of the legs and arm supports evoke the restless patterns and continuous movements particular to these spontaneous forms. The superbly accomplished modeling of these elements lend an aura of weightlessness and grace reflecting the very best of rococo design.

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