The Art of Living at the French Court Furniture and art objects from the 18th century

Royal furniture, 1775–1790 Room 631, Sully Wing, Left 1

A museum can present decorative art objects in display cases or on walls…but it can also choose to show them in context. From sofa to chandelier, from fireplace to curtain tassel, the goal is to create a comprehensive and coherent display – just like the real thing!

Furnishing the royal residences

Throughout the reigns of Louis XIV, XV and XVI, the French art of living developed and the royal residences were transformed accordingly. The Court of Louis XIV was officially established at Versailles in 1682, but the Sun King continued to use his palaces in Fontainebleau, Compiègne and Marly – and wherever he went, the decoration and furnishings had to be fit for a king.

French savoir-faire

This was the era of great French manufactories, with tapestries from Les Gobelins and Beauvais, porcelain from Sèvres, rugs from La Savonnerie and silks from the many workshops of Lyon. Cabinetmakers such as Charles Cressent, Martin Carlin, Jean-François Oeben and Jean-Henri Riesener became famous names. To meet the demands of the royal court, manufactories and workshops produced items ranging from precious furniture pieces, ceremonial dinner services and sophisticated scientific instruments to everyday objects.

Decorative arts at the Louvre

The idea of representing a particular historical period through a combination of architecture, interior decoration and art emerged in Germany in the late 19th century. The so-called ‘period rooms’ adopted by American museums began to present decorative art objects in purpose-designed, fully furnished interiors.

Experience the atmosphere of a great 18th-century royal or aristocratic residence in Paris or the provinces! Most of the period rooms display furniture and decorative objects gleaned from various châteaux and private mansions, but some show pieces that originally belonged together, from sources such as the drawing room of the Château d’Abondant in northern France, the Parisian mansion of the financier Marquet de Peyre and the Turkish rooms of the Comte d’Artois (Louis XVI’s brother) at the Château de Versailles.

Marie-Antoinette’s furniture and collections Room 632, Sully Wing, Left 1

18th-century furniture and decorative arts

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Did you know?

What does a queen need in her travel case?

Marie Antoinette's travel case Room 627, Sully wing, Level 1

The secret of porcelain

Lidded bowl and tray Room 623, Sully wing, Level 1

More to explore

The Splendour of the Second Empire

The Napoleon III Apartments

Sun, Gold and Diamonds

The Galerie d’Apollon