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The Régence style has no valid existence but is a convenient classification for furniture still retaining certain features of the Louis XIV style and already displaying some that belong to the Louis XV style. Historically the Régence covers that period of time from 1715 to 1723 when Philippe d’Orléans was appointed regent for Louis XV. In cabinetwork, however, the Régence roughly extended from about 1700 to 1720. Régence cabinetwork possessed the nobility and symmetry proper to the Louis XIV style, but those singular qualities of greatness and formal grandeur were gone, and in their place were signs of the supple gracefulness so typical of the Louis XV style. In a word, during the Régence a new spirit, which was to be the spirit of the eighteenth century, the century of gallant amenities, began to transform the arts from the stately and heroic to the amiable and gallant.

If Boulle is the representative par excellence of the Louis XIV style, Charles Cressent is equally so for the Régence. Cressent, who was a sculptor, modeled his own bronzes and supervised their execution. He often drew the inspiration for his bronze ornament from Robert de Cotte and for his figures from Gillot and Watteau, such as their frolicsome singeries with monkey acrobats. From Watteau he borrowed those charming busts of smiling young women, called espagnolettes, with which he liked to ornament the top of cabriole legs of his bureaux plats. In accordance with the general spirit of the period, Cressent favored amaranth, palissander and violet wood.

At this time the study of chairs gives us the most complete picture or the evolution or transition from the Louis XIV style to the Louis XV. The principal difference between a late Louis XIV chair and one obviously belonging to the Régence is the armposts, which in the latter set back on the upholstered seat, a new feature of design resulting from the fashion of paniers. Typical Régence features include manchettes (armpads); a shaped wood apron beneath the upholstered seat, joining the cabriole legs in an unbroken molding; the gradual disappearance of stretchers as the chair became less heavy; and the upholstered chair back displaying a carved wood frame. The cabriole leg, instead of terminating in a cloven-hoof foot, began to end in a small volute with an acanthus leaf starting up from it. The rectilinear uprights of the chair back and the quadrangulair plan of the seat persisted the longest of all Louis XIV characteristics. When the transition was complete, the chair no longer possessed a single straight line; it was Louis XV.

The ponderous Régence commode, provided with three rows of drawers extending almost to the floor, acquired a new form in the commode en tombeau. Under its marble top, the first stage of the façade was concave, the middle strongly convex, and the lower part curved back. In contrast is the lighter Louis XV commode, also with a serpentine front, but having long curving legs and only two rows of drawers.


Learn about each era:

> Middle Ages

> Renaissance and Louis XIII
> Louis XIV
> Régence
> Louis XV
> Transition and Louis XVI
> Directoire
> Empire
> XIXth century
> Art Nouveau
> The Modern Movement


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