Louis XIII furniture was influenced by the Italian Renaissance mixed with elements of Dutch and Flemish designs. The pieces were heavily carved in walnut and ebony and the arm chairs were generally upholstered in tapestry from the Beauvais looms. Table and chair legs sat on bun feet above H-form stretchers which held the frames together.
Louis XIV's monarchy was greatly influenced by my namesake, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who served as his minister of finance from 1665 to 1683. He worked tirelessly at improving the state of French manufacturing and bringing the French economy back from the brink of bankruptcy. Despite Colbert's efforts, France became increasingly impoverished because of the King's excessive spending on wars.
Colbert was an integral force in reforming and improving markets directly related to the manufacturing of interior design products such as textiles, and tapestry works at Gobelins and Beauvais. Colbert issued more than 150 edicts to regulate the guilds. One law intended to improve the quality of cloth. The edict declared that if the authorities found a merchant's cloth unsatisfactory on three separate occasions, they were to tie him to a post with the cloth attached to him.
This period of design is known for its splendor and magnificence. The furniture was large in scale with elaborate ornamentation. The chief woods used in cabinet making were oak, walnut, chestnut, and ebony, with ornamental portions often done in rosewood, sandalwood, tulipwood, and various exotic woods. Gobelin tapestry and Lyons velvet were the principal upholstery materials.
During the Reign of Terror, at the height of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI were imprisoned, convicted of treason and executed by guillotine. The tradition of neoclassical furniture had a second phase after the reign of Louis XVI known as the Directoire period.
If you have not become a Francophile by now, hopefully you have gained some insight and appreciation of this lovely period of interior design. Please let me know how I can assist you in bringing some of this history and beauty into your home.
Charisse Marie Colbert
Research was done while attending the American Institute of Interior Design for my French history of furniture class, the book, The Victoria and Albert Guide to Period Styles and Wikipedia.