With the Regency style, the period of the history of French furniture marks the passage from Louis XIV to Louis XV style and goes from the beginning of the century to 1730. A classic style of passage, lacking an easily identifiable physiognomy: curves and counter curves go perfectly in tune with angles and straight lines, the stylization of the decorations makes a constant reference to nature.
In England this style takes on the typical characteristics of Queen Anne style: the beauty of the furniture is entrusted above all to their structural shape and the quality of the grain of walnut wood, used for veneer, which covers them completely. The marquetry is made from strips of wood with the veins arranged in the width in order to delimit the veneered areas. Comfort and discreet decoration are the hallmarks of Queen Anne's style, but it runs out in a very short space of time.
From 1740 onwards, rococo flavor spread throughout Europe, a true triumph of fantasy and absolute freedom of expression, which, in some cases, translates into real national styles.
what happens in France with the Louis XV style, which presents precise formal characteristics: disimmetry, deformation, movement and naturalism. in this period, a large quantity of furniture is produced, often linked to a single function and of small dimensions. A very broad typology is thus developed.
Perfect synthesis of form and decoration, the Louis XV style also entrusts the design with the choice of woods that are cut and combined in such a way as to exalt, with chromatic games and chiaroscuro effects, the compositional scheme. Stonewalled, radical and lacquered panels, variously coloured, become fashionable. Winding lines prevail.
The technique uses the same tools as in the previous century, even if the carving tools become more numerous and equipped with thinner and sharper blades to create more decisive and sharp reliefs. The filler is used to fill the joints and polishing is done with shellac using a long and complex procedure, which is finally completed with waxing with beeswax. The tendency to conceal the constructive aspects develops; the nails, with rectangular head, are forged in various sizes to adapt to the various parts of the cabinet; the joints are generally dovetail; the thickness of the wood is thinner.
The armchairs have curved legs, lose the crosspieces and padding, they become very comfortable. The floral carvings are very diffused, the studs and locks have floral and asymmetrical lines. The most important storage unit in this period is the drawer, which can take the form of three drawers superimposed and with short legs or with two or four drawers arranged in two rows and with long legs. A variant is the canton of the canton. The desks are widely used, particularly those of the tipper type.
At this time when the furniture takes on specific functions, absolutely new pieces of furniture such as the toilet and the playing table are created. The toilet has the appearance of a small desk with fake drawers and access to the compartments for cosmetics takes place from above through three cores, the central one consists of a hinged mirror that can take on various positions. The gaming table, similar in shape and decoration to the console, is developed in various models (inlaid, accordion, telescope and drawer) to best perform the function for which it is intended.
Between 1760 and 1790, the Chippendale style developed in England, which sums up different artistic trends by superimposing rococo, Gothic and Chinese elements. Common characteristic of Chippendale furniture is the use of mahogany imported from Cuba and decorated with fine inlays, urn motifs, bunches of berries, leonine heads.
In Italy, the Rocococo, also called barocchetto, is late and is definitely inspired by Louis XV. Great luck, especially in Venice, he knows the lacquered furniture: the colour, tempera, is laid on a plaster preparation and fixed with the sandracca, a transparent resin that oxidizes over time assuming a yellowish shade. China's black is also affirmed, a variety of oriental inspired lacquering, also realized in red tones, which proposes exotic themes and subjects in decorative motifs.
After a short period, called Transition, which proposes new decorative models without completely abandoning the forms of the previous period, in the last thirty years of the eighteenth century the interest in classical Greek and Roman art is awakened. This is how the Neoclassical style that in France takes on the shapes of the Louis XVI style is affirming itself throughout Europe: prevalence of the straight line, minor decorative elements, panels normally lacquered black and gold, smooth veneers and the use of white are the distinctive features. In short, the reference to classical antiquity as a source of inspiration in the search for harmony and proportions becomes very important.
To decorate the surfaces of the furniture, use is made of paving and marquetry techniques, composing meticulous mosaics in which the tiles are arranged inside the design with different veins so as to create plays of light and chiaroscuro effects. As a result, a great variety of woods (up to one hundred different qualities) are used and the pictorial values created are enhanced by spirit polishing, a solution of alcohol shellac that is passed with a buffer up to ten successive coats, in order to obtain a polishing almost mirror.
Wood thicknesses, both for the structure and for the slabs, are becoming increasingly reduced; the furniture elements are joined together with long and thin nails and joints, the seal is ensured by the use of a very resistant glue. Much attention is paid to sanding, for which sandpaper can now be used (new abrasive tool obtained by bonding sand of different grain grains on cardboard sheets by means of adhesive). The first recessed locks for the hardware are beginning to appear.
Under English influence, mahogany veneers become fashionable, replacing the smallest and most imaginative inlays in many pieces of furniture. The legs of the furniture sum up the straight shapes, underlined by grooves or spirals ascending, are applied golden bronzes in strips or rectangles.
The most interesting piece of furniture of the period is the secrétaire, equipped with various drawers, doors, secret storerooms and a cupboard that is used to write. The neoclassical bed (which has now taken on a large part of the double bed) generally has two head and feet of equal height, decorated with perforated folders or padded with a square frame. From a technical point of view, bed screws are used for the connections: these are screws that have staggered holes on the cylindrical head in which to insert an iron to turn them.
At the end of the century, the Directory style developed, linked to a more academic and theatrical classicism.
In Italy, neoclassicism is closer to the style of the imperial age than to the Greco-Roman age and is distinguished by its grandeur without too many frills. In Florence we begin to use scagliola (a marble paste) as a cheaper material for the table tops; in Milan Giuseppe Maggiolini, the most famous Italian author of inlaid furniture, applies to his creations a delicate and measured classicism and strictly rectangular, a very accurate veneer. In Italy, the neoclassical furniture was produced until the late nineteenth century.