1804 – 1815
Empire style begins with the 19th century, from 1804 to 1815 under the reign of Napoleon 1st (1769-1821). He’s characterized by an ornamentation inspired by Greco-Latin and Egyptian antiquity that the Egyptian campaign had inspired under the Directory. The emperor marks his reign with an official style. The Empire style will prevail throughout Europe through its political expansion.
New ornaments and decorations are imposed by the architects ornamentalists and decorators Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre-François Leonard Fontaine (1762-1853) who were with the artists and craftsmen of the time the inspirers decorative arts desired by the Emperor Napoleon I.
Patterns and ornamentations specific to the reign of Emperor Napoleon:
- Animals: the eagle, symbol of imperial power. The lion, the Ram, the winged horses… The sphinx, the dragon, the chimerical animals.
- The swans in the emblems of Empress Josephine.
- Warlike attributes: Laurel, olive and oak crown, helmet, quiver, sword, shield, sword …
- Monograms of the emperor and empress Josephine: The I (imperator) and the N of Napoleon. Joséphine’s J.
- Human figures, antique and Greco-Roman patterns, ancient musical instruments.
Empire period mirrors are mostly primed and gilded with fine gold, a more lemon gold characteristic of the Empire style with ornaments of great finesse. Others can be made of wood painted green, white or gray. They are also in light, moire, and dark mahogany wood or mahogany veneer with chiseled bronzes. They can be encrusted with thin threads of light or dark wood, copper or steel. From 1806 due to the British blockade, walnut, elm, thuja and olive wood replaced mahogany.
Glass mirrors are still manufactured using mercury, its large dimensions glass allow of making psyche mirrors, fireplace mirrors.
Empire style continued to exist until 1830 with the return of the Bourbons (Royal family) under Restoration style.