Other Decorative Accessories And Movable Decorations

During the dominance of the Rococo style, tapestries of the old pattern continued in use to some extent where large, formal rooms or galleries left a place for them. Other accessories, however, had usurped most of their function. Hangings at doors and windows were made of silks, taffetas, brocades, damasks, velvets and printed linens, light colours and dainty patterns being most in favour. Door and window heads were very commonly adorned with shaped valances or loopings, and the hangings were frequently draped back. Pictures for the walls of many of the rooms were not at a premium (v. paragraph on the use of mirrors). Porcelains, both Oriental and of Western fabrication, were in great demand, and, along with pieces of bronze or marble sculpture, were introduced with great frequency. Many of the Oriental porcelains, such, for instance, as some of the finer Chinese ginger jars, were carefully set with ornate ormolu mounts.

Chandeliers of crystal, brass, or of ormolu, depended from the centres of ceilings in the more elegant and important rooms. Sconces of chiselled ormolu, in graceful, flowing designs, were hung in symmetrical positions on the panelled walls. Candelabra were designed to accord with them.

During the period of neo-Classic influence, while the love for the old tapestries never quite died out, there was a perceptible turning toward the newer Aubusson tapestries of paler, lighter hue and more blithesome pattern for such wall surfaces as required a large hanging. Door and window hangings were of practically the same fabrics as noted for the Rococo period. Light colours and dainty patterns also remained in favour, with the addition of a well-defined vogue for stripes. At door and window heads there were both straight and shaped valances, and likewise looped draping or else shirred ray-like folds centring in a button, the two latter treatments being suitable for round-arched windows. Valance mouldings or boxes were likewise in use and added a distinct note to the composition. In accordance with the prevalent rectilinear emphasis, door and window hangings generally fell in straight folds.

Pictures regained the position from which they had been temporarily ousted during the most mirror-loving days of the Rococo period. The disposition of rooms was not less symmetrical or ordered nor was the extensive use of mirrors discontinued, but it became the fashion either to hang pictures within panels that accorded with their dimensions or to remove them from their frames and empanel them. Porcelains and other objects of vertu, whether Oriental or Occidental, found abundant appreciation and were freely employed. In addition to the taste for Oriental forms and European fashions of recent date in ceramics, there was keen interest in revived classic forms in pottery and porcelain. At the same time, with the re-awakened classic sense, bronze and marble sculpture enjoyed increased favour. What was said of lighting appliances for the foregoing period applies with equal force for the neo-Classic, the only significant difference being the substitution of Classic for the Bococo design.

Tapestries in the Empire period were distinctly out of place. They were tolerated where they had to be retained, but their presence was not sought as a factor in decorative schemes. Hangings of silk, satin, brocade or velvet were voluminous and impressive by their ample folds and by their shaped valances and cornice mouldings or by their intricate loopings at window heads. Pictures had more leeway in decorative practice, as many of the wall surfaces were unbroken by panel boundaries. Porcelains and sculpture were popular in their imposing and heroic dimensions, and where they aided vigorous contrasts of strong colour. To chandeliers, sconces and candelabra, many of which were of exceedingly beautiful design and workmanship, in glass, marble, crystal, brass, bronze and ormolu, must be added the lamps for mantel garniture, usually of bronze, with etched or cut-glass globes and pendent prisms. The fire iron and hearth accessories of the period also aided the ensemble with their polished brass fittings.

Materials And Colour

The fabrics and other materials in use at the successive periods have already been more or less fully noted. To what has been said it is only necessary to add that during the Bococo and neo-Classic periods a great use was made of Aubusson tapestry for furniture covers and that in the Empire period a great deal of heavy brocade, brocatelle, damask, velvet and rep was used not only for hangings but also for wall coverings, likewise that haircloth, figured and plain, began to occupy an appreciable space in upholstery calculations. Throughout both the Louis Quinze and Louis Seize styles there was a marked preference for cheerful and light colourings, whether in woodwork, furniture or fabrics. At the same time, delicacy of pattern was a sine qua non. These characteristics were well exemplified in the Aubusson and Savon-nerie rugs and carpets so much used at this date. During the Directoire episode, while the colouring occasionally became more vigorous in emulation of Pompeian precedent, the design was so restrained and shapely that there was no oppressive impression of heaviness. With the full blossoming of the Empire style, the whole colour preference changed. Strong and heavy reds, greens, purples, yellows and other vigorous hues in raw and often combative tones came into high favour and the patterns reflected the militaristic and imperial tone observable in all other decoration.


Throughout the Boooco and neo-Classic periods a balanced, orderly and symmetrical disposition of furnishings and decorations was considered indispensable to a well-appointed interior. The modes might change, but the conception of order remained unaltered.