Made popular by Napoleon Bonaparte, French Empire is Neoclassical in style and inspired by the principal characteristics of Greco-Roman décor. This French-style was used as propaganda by Napoleon to idealize his leadership and the French state.
Empire period furniture was crafted in and around Paris after the French Revolution was synonymous with the new Napoleonic regime.
The French economy at the time was growing rapidly and this new Empire style was most popular among the bourgeois and members of the aristocracy. Furnishing a large residence in Empire style was a reminder to guests and family members of the owner’s wealth, power, and connections to the French empire.
Empire-style furniture displayed symbols of opulence, love, sensuality, and seduction such as swans, lyres, bows, and arrows. Acanthus leaves, rosettes, and military symbols used throughout Louis XVI’s reign as emperor were also used.
After Napoleon’s return from Egypt, the French began their obsession with all things Egyptian. Symbols or Sphinxes, winged lions, lotus blossoms, Caryatids and scarabs were common elements found throughout French décor.
Traditional Napoleonic symbols like the crown, laurel wreaths, cornucopias, horns, and bees were still commonly used, with the woods of choice being Mahogany, Rosewood, and Ebony.
Marble tops were gray or black in color with sharp corners.