Other forms of ornamentation included Chinese themes known as
Chinese lacquered panels mounted on furniture. Seat furniture was generally upholstered in tapestry, or silk damask with large floral and pastoral scenes as the dominant design elements.
Around 1760, a demand for simpler forms and straighter lines ushered in the Transitional period. During the reign of Louis XVI (1774-1793), a departure from things representative of the previous monarch continued this trend, rendering Louis XVI furniture more restrained and linear. A new emphasis on classical motifs echoed the ancient art and architecture unearthed in Greek and Roman ruins excavated at the time.
Louis XVI furniture exhibits tapered legs and simpler forms, with design elements including symmetrical borders of laurel and acanthus leaves, egg-and-dart, and fretwork. Other popular motifs included bound arrows, lyres, swans, urns, and wreaths. Seat furniture was generally upholstered in silk or cotton with small printed motifs or stripes. Much of this furniture was made by sons of the craftsmen of Louis XV's reign.
For both Louis XV and XVI furniture, Parisian cabinetmakers imported the finest exotic woods for their upscale clients, including royalty. You'll see a lot of gilding and elaborate woodwork such as marquetry (organic, figurative, lacking straight lines) and parquetry (geometric and more linear). Taking advantage of special properties of certain woods such as tulipwood and satinwood, veneers were often book-matched, with precisely matched pieces with identical striations placed in radiating designs and geometric forms.
Provincial furniture of both periods, made in the countryside and small towns, is generally simpler and more subdued — but equally beautiful. This more accessible furniture is often solid wood (no veneer, no bronze, no gilding), with more of a focus on regional woods. In the provinces, furniture was generally carved with symbolic motifs of flora and fauna, including flowers, fruit, vines, wheat, fish and birds. Instead of the usual scroll foot, a cabriole leg might end with a carved goat's hoof.
Though not as lavish, Provincial furniture is still easily recognizable as belonging to one of the two Louis genres. The designs were primarily influenced by the Louis XV period with organic, fluid, scrolling lines; the influence of the Louis XVI period can be seen in the introduction of new carving motifs such as musical instruments, urns, tureens, and ears of corn.
Prominent Woods Used in Louis XV and XVI Furniture
Parisian Carcasses: Oak and Pine
Parisian Veneers (Including Marquetry and Parquetry): Acajou (mahogany), Amaranth, Boulle, Boxwood, Citron, Ebony, Holly, Kingwood, Lime, Maple, Marquetry (tortoiseshell and brass), Palissandre (rosewood), Purplewood, Sycamore, Tulipwood
Parisian Mounts: Ormolu, Pietra Dura (Hardstones), Porcelain Plaques,
Provincial Carcasses: Ash, Beech, Birch, Cherrywood, Chestnut, Linden, Mulberry, Olivewood, Pearwood, Pine, Elm, Walnut, Willow
Stamps on Louis XV and XVI Furniture
The following stamps can be found on some Louis XV and XVI pieces:
A traditional maker's mark from one of the multitude of Parisian and Provincial furniture-makers.
The JME (Jurande de Menuisiers et Ébénistes) stamp, an assay mark from the wardenship for the Parisian furniture-makers guild (the Corporation des Menuisiers-Ébénistes).
The highly-prized palace mark is extremely rare, and the appearance of one causes a ripple throughout the collecting community. Each palace had a unique mark (see references). Occasionally, very plain functional pieces turn up with the palace stamp; these would have been made for use in the palace servants' quarters.
On rare occasions the bronze is marked as well. A crowned "C" appears on some bronzes in accordance with a Royal Edict (1745-1749), indicating that a duty had been paid by the craftsman or dealer. It's very rare to find this mark, and it was sometimes faked in the 19th century. However, if the mark is authentic it's one of the most precise ways of dating a piece of furniture from the 18th century.