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Understanding Louis XV Antique Furniture

History of the period:

Louis XV was the nephew of King Louis XIV and ruled France between 1715 and 1774. He is most commonly known for being one of the most unpopular kings in France. During his reign, he managed to upset almost all social groups in his country, but surprisingly, in his own exclusive way, that segregation from his people led to the Louis XV period among the most sought after French furniture in the world.

Due to the imbalance of his country, the remaining Louis XV furniture is seen as a great treasure that heralds a period of serious public unrest in France and symbolizes the determination of his people as a whole but, in particular, in his furniture designers to continue to inspire, create and supply a legacy of beautiful, intricate and detailed furniture that remains a coveted design style to date.

For all the things that went wrong with the reign of Louis XV as king of France, one thing that is undeniable is the detailed quality of the furniture that arose from this dark period in the history of France to hold the head of something quite opposite , both elegant and fluent, in a moment of sad desolation.

What makes Louis XV furniture Louis XV furniture?

There are a number of distinctive design features that articulate this design style. It is quite common to hear or see furniture incorrectly described as Louis XV, when in fact I am Louis XIV. What separates the two is actually quite distinctive, and I will list them below.

Louis XV furniture is:

  • Designed in a more sinuous way
  • Flowing forms and forms
  • Not made with straight lines, straight cuts or anything that appears angular
  • Intricately carved and seemingly infinitely detailed
  • Hand painted
  • Shells tend to form the focal points of each design
  • Symbolic of romance, sensuality and love
  • Light and graceful

Louis XV furniture it is not:

  • Relying on presence to declare his request, such as Gothic furniture
  • Made with straight cuts
  • Large, voluminous or angular
  • Strong and masculine
  • Machine painted
  • Machine cut

You will find that Louis XIV style furniture is quite the opposite in Louis XV style, and where I listed the points above that are not associated with Louis XV, you will tend to find the same features found in Louis XIV style furniture, for example , will be more angular and less graceful, more in line with a masculine strength of style of a graceful and romantic thread as seen in Louis XV furniture. It is a very common mistake, most likely due to the similarities in the name, but it is crucial when identifying antique furniture to get the correct periods as unsurprisingly, it can wreak havoc on the auction buyer!

The next problem I tend to see quite often in my field is the misselling of replicas as originals.

Identification of antique furniture of the real Louis XV

Yes, sad as it is, there will always be those of us who feel the need to misrepresent antiques for personal gain by selling copies or replicas. When buying antiques, especially online, be sure to use a respected dealer, such as LJR Windwake & Sons, or a seller specializing in your desired style, in this case, a Louis XV antique furniture specialist. It is vitally important to be absolutely scrupulous when buying antiques online at auction sites or retailers, but fortunately I have some good advice on how to make sure that the furniture you are buying is the good deal.

1. Request details on how the sideboard was made

Make sure to ask the seller to explain how the piece was made, making sure to describe the joints in the wood. If they are visible and keep in mind that the carpentry of an “ancient” would not be cut by machine but in reality it would be cut by hand, ask him to describe you. Hand-cut joints are likely to be rougher and perhaps not as exact as machine-cut joints, which should be a good indication of originality and the antique you are buying is actually an ‘antique’ and not something that is got knocked off a production line in ShenZhen, China, 2006.

The best way to find a cut is to remove a design and look closely where the front and back of the drawer are attached to the sides of the drawer. If a joint were made by hand, it would be dovetail and would have only a few dovetail joints, and they would not be exactly the same. If the dovetails are close together and precisely cut, they will have been cut by machine. The handmade dovetails almost always indicate a piece made before 1860.

2. Look for imperfections like cuts and cuts

Another great way to help identify the validity of an antique or handmade furniture would be to look closely for carvings and cuts on the back, sides and bottom of the design. Cuts and cuts usually indicate that a manual tool was used to plan, shave or cut wood. Straight cuts, of the type that would be obtained from a straight saw, are also good signs while cuts that seem circular in appearance mean that the cut was made with a circular saw, again not in use until 1860.

3. Exact symmetry? There’s no way!

This is probably the simplest sign of machine-made furniture compared to hand-made ones. If something looks exactly symmetrical, it is likely that it has been cut by the machines, so be sure to request many photos of the furniture you are buying.

4. Request a detailed description of the finish

The finishing style is also a great way to identify the age of a Louis XV piece. Some finishes were in use in different periods, which is an excellent way to identify the age of your antique furniture. For Louis XV, it should all be hand-painted. Hand painting is often identifiable by slight imperfections in the brush strokes or edges, although some of the best Louis XVs show no sign of human error, since the quality was so high, it is always advisable to ask for images of all the paints, especially for the imperfections that can actually ADD to the value of your furniture.

5. Make sure the seller explains the type of wood used in the production

This is often a simple method of measuring an age because in general, as a general rule, anything before 1700 was made of oak, from 1700 onwards (our Louis XV era), mahogany and walnut were the chosen woods . if it is pine, it normally indicates an American piece of furniture and is normally indicative of slightly cheaper works. The precious and ancient ancient Louis XV treasures will be made of mahogany or walnut.


Always be careful when buying antique furniture, but if you are thinking of buying, be sure to arm yourself with as much research as possible before attending auction houses. It is also very advisable to go to the auction with a particular item in mind. Visit the open days, take notes, go home and look for what you have seen, then participate in the auctions with a renewed knowledge of your purchase and always try to get as much information as possible from the seller, whether you buy online or in a house auction.


by Lee Rushworth

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