Friday, January 28, 2011

Louis XIII, His Chair and Furniture, But Not His Cognac, In a Nutshell (plus Sally Bowles)

Louis XIII Cognac

The real Louis 13 had nothing to do with the cognac first produced in the 1870s. Our Louis was long dead by then. Just thought it would be an example of his influence through the ages. 

Or clever marketing. You decide.

The style of furniture associated with Louis 13 emerges around 1589, but monarch Louis 13's reign begins in 1610, he's 9 years old. Mom, Maria de Medici

Just look at that standing lace collar. And the pearls.

appoints Cardinal Richelieu as chief advisor. In historical references we can relate to, it is the time of Descartes, Galileo, and the Three Musketeers.

The 3 Musketeers from The Man in the Iron Mask.
I'm sure they drank cognac, and other libations.

Louis 13 style furniture is characterized by rectangular shapes, usually in oak or walnut.

Can't see a monarch sitting here but can easily envision 
Jeremy Irons, quill to vellum, at this table bureau. 

Turnings play a big role, barley twist like above, and the baluster style below.

In contrast to later French styles, Louis 13 seems rustic, even charming. Not a glint of gilt.

Some of this is the normal evolution of style and technology, but mostly, in my opinion, it was economic.

With apologies to Mr. Fosse, "....a franc, a yen, a buck or a pound...."

I am neither economist nor historian, merely an observer/googler of world events. Here's the condensed version.

  • Shortly after Louis 13 takes the throne, Europe is engulfed in the 30 Years' War (1618-1648).
  • When Louis 13 was 19 he personally led the expedition that took La Rochelle. 
  • Then he declared war on Spain in 1635.
  • Civilians die in obscene numbers.
  • Louis raises taxes; war is expensive.
  • Louis' subject rebel which leads to civil war.
  • Louis now has two wars on his plate.
  • Louis dies in 1643 at the young age of 42, and five years before The Peace.

In a nutshell: 
Louis 13 spent his entire adult life in a state of war;
furniture was not a priority.

Has this 400 year old style filtered down to today? 

Yes and no. Furniture mass marketers have pushed Mid-Century modern to the point of exclusion of any other style. Millenials see nothing but Mid-Century and so it has become their style. 

Those willing to look beyond the last century and into the past can still find plenty of inspiration and options.

Like this nice set of 12 mid-20th century Louis 13 style chairs on 1stDibs. We could easily change the fabric.

1st dibs

And this clever mix of styles and textures from a 2008 show house.

From Traditional Home.

A 17th Century French walnut buffet a deux corps (two cases, or bodies, one over the other) from Fireside Antiques in Baton Rouge, Alabama. It has presence.

Fireside Antiques on The Highboy.

I certainly do not advocate doing an entire room in any one particular style. But, a single piece in a style from a bygone era lends character and interest. 

What do you think. Love it, hate it, need it, on the fence? Own it?

Thanks for reading,
Linda Pakravan


  1. love the long table; wish I had the dining room big enough for it!

  2. I do not like it -too heavy looking.


Please do. I love to know what you think!