The style of Louis XIV is a trend in interior design of the mid-17th – early 18th centuries, which is characterized by an elegant combination of classicism and baroque. One of the most famous palace complexes in the world – luxurious Versailles – is decorated in the style of Louis XIV. The construction of this luxurious royal residence lasted more than 40 years, and the best architects, designers and furniture makers in France worked on the embodiment of the monarch’s grandiose idea.
The Louis XIV style is often referred to as the “Grand Style”, but not only in recognition of its significant influence on European architecture and design. This name also unambiguously emphasizes the scale and mind-boggling high cost of implementing the king’s grandiose plans.
Periods and features of the style of Louis XIV
The style of Louis XIV dominated France for over 70 years, and during this time it constantly underwent some changes. Design experts identify 3 main periods of the development of this direction:
- Early (1643-1660) – with a predominance of motives of antique and French classicism.
- Medium (1660-1690) – with extensive borrowing of elements of the Baroque style.
- Late (1690-1715) – with a gradual shift in accents in the design of rooms towards free lines and lightness of forms.
The characteristic features of the Louis XIV style in interior design can rightfully be attributed:
- Huge paintings by artists in sizes taller than human growth on the walls.
- A large number of palace furniture made of elite wood species, decorated with skillful carving, inlay and gilding.
- Refined shape of furniture legs (dressers, secretaries, tables, chairs and armchairs).
- Upholstery of seats and backs with expensive fabrics with intricate ornaments. The abundance of carpets and silk fabrics in the decoration of the rooms.
- Massive crystal chandeliers suspended from the painted ceiling.
- A large number of very different decor (lace, tableware, forged items) in the setting of the premises.
- Extensive use of marble and precious woods as the main finishing materials.
- Rich design of mirror and picture frames.
The Sun King, with the help of a whole galaxy of skilled craftsmen, created a unique luxurious interior style, the grandeur of which still makes an amazing impression on any person. But these days, even the richest people rarely try to copy this setting in their apartments.
The history of the Grand Style is inextricably linked with the era of the reign of Louis XIV and dates back to 1643. The young 5-year-old king, who ascended the throne, inherited the Louvre from his father, which for more than 300 years was the official residence of French monarchs.
In those years, classicism prevailed in art, and the real government of France was in the hands of Cardinal Mazarin. Therefore, the early period of the Great Style was not marked by significant changes in design and architecture.
But in 1661, after the death of Mazarin, Louis concentrated absolute power in his hands and immediately began to act. He ordered the construction of Versailles, which was then a modest hunting lodge. The ambitious monarch attracted the best minds of France to the implementation of his plan, personally supervised the construction and expansion of the palace until his death.
Outstanding masters worked on the creation of a luxurious palace complex:
- André Le Nôtre landscaped a huge area of more than 8.2 km² of the complex;
- Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart led the architectural work;
- Charles Le Brun was appointed in charge of the interior decoration of the rooms of the palace;
- André-Charles Boulle created luxurious furniture designs.
It is Charles Lebrun that most historians attribute the authorship of the creation of the Grand Style in interior design. The famous artist skillfully used the patronage of the king, selected the decoration for each room and personally painted the premises of the Palace of Versailles. For the effective implementation of the plans of the monarch, Lebrun founded the “Manufactory of royal furnishings”.
For almost 30 years this company has been producing for Versailles:
- carpets and furniture;
- lamps and draperies;
- mosaics and window sills.
Lebrun managed to gracefully combine elements of classicism and baroque in a new design style, which the king liked very much. The artist supervised the interior decoration of Versailles until his death in 1690.
After the death of Lebrun, Louis XIV did not find a worthy replacement for him and gradually began to lose interest in the idea of further expanding his residence. In the next 25 years, the Grand Style, although it remained dominant, began to be seriously influenced by the nascent Rococo. The death of Louis XIV in 1715 marked the decline in popularity of the name style of the great French king. The time has come for changes and conditions have been created for the emergence of new trends in interior design.