Another Furniture Lesson


Napoleon hated rococo furniture. He would flop his butt into one of those Louis XV-style chairs, pull out his pocket-knife and just carve away at the damned thing. What he wanted to see around was the Empire-style furniture — things that reminded him of events meaningful to him; for example, the Egyptian campaign, or some other victories and treaties. At the Big Trianon we have a very good example of such trophy-like furniture dear to the Emperor.

This piece of malachite was given to Napoleon by the Russian Tsar, Alexander. Malachite comes from the Ural Mountains, and only in sizes to fit into a ring; so, to make a sink out of malachite, they would have to compress thousands of tiny semi-precious stones together and then polish them down to the required shape, which was a lot of work in those days. Napoleon appreciated the effort made by the enemy at the time of signing the Tilsit Treaty. Today we know that the Russians could not be trusted, especially when bearing lavish gifts: they thought they had paid the Emperor off and kept on trading with the English!

What to do? Napoleon wanted all of Versailles rebuilt and redecorated, but he had to save money for the Russian campaign. My reader knows of course how that ended. Br-rr-rrr!!! Two years later on the island of Saint Helena the ex-Emperor was sitting again in a Louis XV-style chair, still trying to reshape it with his pocket knife.

The previous article on the Empire-style furniture was Someone’s Been Sleeping in My Bed!

 

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This entry was posted in Chateau Versailles, Louis XV, Napoleon, Versailles, Versailles Furniture. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Another Furniture Lesson

  1. Sweet post! where else can I learn about Napoleon’s taste in décor?

    • It is true that I have not discussed it enough. My only other article was about Napoleon’s bed, in which Louis XVIII died in Tuileries Palace. I should link it to this article. Wikipedia shows you some samples of Empire-style furniture, the article’s name will be “Style Empire” — all in French, but the pictures are universal language. There is a lot of furniture to see at the Louvre, next to Napoleon III apartments, then of course, the Big Trianon, Malmaison, Fontainebleau. The Empire-style furniture lasted for about twenty years — from the early 1800’s until the early twenties (XIX century); the type of wood that is used is all local European variety — nothing exotic, that is because during the blockade you could not import much: the English ships were not allowed in any European ports — commercially Napoleon was squeezing England out. Egypt was the main theme of the Empire Style: chimeras, sphinxes, pyramids, pharaohs, mummies, cats, obelisks, hieroglyphs, but also bees — the mascot first used by Bonaparte; then the Eagle, for the Empire; and finally simple N for Napoleon, but quite often you can see all the three combined.

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