city at night

city at night

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

French Elegance

Louis XIV of France, who reigned from 1654 until 1715, considered himself not only an absolute monarch, but the absolute arbiter of taste.  He assembled the finest artisans and artists to furnish and decorate his lavish palace at Versailles.  France became Europe's hub of fine and decorative arts, and throughout the eighteenth century Europe continued to look to France as the epitome of elegance.  However, the glittering luxury of the aristocrats hid the suffering and inequality of the lower classes, and the old regime of the Bourbons would eventually be toppled by the French Revolution.

Here are some of the items in the Cleveland Museum of Art from the era of Louis and his successors.

This cabinet and clock were built around 1690 by André Charles Boulle, who was appointed as the cabinet maker to King Louis XIV,

These chairs are upholstered with tapestries that depict stories from the "Fables" of Jean La Fontaine.  They were made in 1717 for the wedding of a Count and Countess.

This bookcase from the early 1700s would have been filled with leather-bound books.  An  aristocrat of the era was supposed to enjoy reading, or at least give the impression that he enjoyed reading.

Nicolas de Largilliere was a portrait painter who was influenced by earlier Flemish painters such as Van Dyck.  This portrait of a French count, done in 1734, is remarkable for its informality.  The count's shirt is open and there is powder on his coat.

Jean-Marc Nettier was known for his portraits of the ladies of the court of Louis XV dressed in mythological attire.  This woman posed as Diana, goddess of the hunt.  Some think that it is a portrait of Louis's mistress Madame de Pompadour; others say that it does not resemble her.

Slightly erotic scenes from mythology were popular.  Jean Francois de Troy did this painting of "Pan and Syrinx".  The chaste nymph Syrinx fled the lecherous advances of Pan.  When she was trapped at the edge of a river, she asked the river nymphs for help, and they transformed her into reeds.

These figurines of a dancer and a bagpiper were produced in the mid-1700s by the Vincennes-Sevres Porcelain factory.

The same factory made this tureen and platter.

A gilt bronze candelabrum from around 1750

A gilt bronze clock

Not all luxury goods came from France.  This figurine of musicians came from the highly esteemed Meissen Porcelain Factory near Dresden, Germany.

Bohemia was famous for its fine glassware.

There is more to come from the elegant eighteenth century in France.


  1. Fabulous items to see. The French clock and cabinet are magnificent.......

    1. We are very fortunate to have such a fine art museum here in Cleveland. It is not as enormous as some, but the quality of the collection is very high, and it covers the entire range of art history.