This section is from the book "Your Home And Its Decoration", by The Sherwin-Williams Company. See also: Nell Hill's Feather Your Nest: It's All in the Details.
Simon Vouet, born 1590, died 1649, was the first of the French Renaissance to employ abundantly the floral detail in connection with more conventional scroll work. This later was to become characteristic of the period of the "Grand Monarque." Vouet was the forerunner of La Pautre and J. Berain, both of whom show his influence in their work. In the year 1627 he was appointed painter to the king.
During the reign of Louis XIII. the cartouche, encarpa, wreath, ribbon, cherub, and masque were freely used. The cartouche was large in scale and often grotesque, with heavy fruit pendants, the edges cut into curling tendrils of bulky character. These also showed slightly indicated eyes or noses, producing grotesques of" varying expressions.
In the ornamentation of this period, both in stone and wood, one feels the generosity of relief and breadth of surface. Pediments were sometimes broken by cartouches, but not so frequently as in later schools. Battle scenes were carved in the panels, and the broken curve is used in consols, with the acanthus on the face. See Plate XCIII.
The reign of Louis the Grand extended from 1643 to 1715. The arts prospered greatly during this period. A studied elegance and restraint is indicated in all of the designs of that time. Among the repetitions of ornament are the acanthus or other foliage, often with serrated edges when used in flat decoration and in shells. At this time, too, the latticed backgrounds for panels were used.
During his reign the palace of Versailles and the Invalides were designed by Jules Hardouin Mansard. Le Brun also flourished at this period. Claude Perrault designed and built the facade and colonnade on the Louvre, and ranks as one of the greatest architects Europe has ever known. His designs are distinguished by their solidity and richness of decoration, such as marked certain periods of the Italian Renaissance. See Plates XCIV and XCV.
During the reign of Louis XV. a riot of decorative ideas prevailed, climaxing in the freedom of the Rococo. Here we find the use of the reversed curves in the cartouche. The beauty of the ornament of this period is great in its imaginative and airy quality.
Rococo is derived from "rocaille"; sea weed, shells, and the rocks are what it stands for. Delicate and almost like the foam of the sea are some of these designs.
The restraint of the decoration in the time of Louis the Grand, together with the restraint of the manners of the court, were thrown aside at this later period. See Plate XCV.
A noticeable reaction from the excesses of the Louis XV. period is felt in the Louis XVI. The flourish and sweep of the Rococo is gone. Only an echo or it is to be noted in the curves and contours of more sedate character. Garlands of fruit and flowers with pine cones for finials are used. Vases, cherubs, griffins, and palms are again introduced, suggestive of the Roman. Where curved borders are used they are merely reminiscent of the Louis XV. time. Borders, generally, are in straight lines with rectangular breaks, and the pearl guillouche and the ribbon are resorted to. The ribbon appears most frequently ingeniously designed in borders and frames. See Plates XCV and XCVI.
Plate XCVIII. The screen of the Jacobean period, 1603-1690, portrays in the thin-turned standards somewhat the influence of metal work of Spain. It is of oak inlaid with ebony. The cabinet recalls the details of furniture found in the Low Country.