French Furniture Terms – Glossary

A Venetian carved and polychromed secretary/desk

p4A ItemID F7945063
A George II-style chinoiserie lacquered and gilt-decorated games table, mid-20th century

p4A ItemID F7945061
A pair of Georgian-style carved mahogany armchairs

p4A ItemID F7944905
A French Provincial carved oak commode, 18th century

p4A ItemID F7944902

Glossary of French Furniture Terms

Bergere: Literally translated “shepherdess”, but refers to a wide, comfortable upholstered armchair with a curved and fully upholstered back, like a low wing chair in that it envelopes the body.

Bombe: A bulbous, curvaceous silhouette that became popular during the 18th century’s high Rococo/Louis XV style.

Bouillotte Table: A French table, usually circular, used to play bouillotte, a card game for three to five persons, popular during the Revolution and well into the 19th century. Reproductions continue to be made.

Cabriole Leg: A leg shape that follows a sinuous s-curve popular within the Rococo style.

Chaise a la Reine:Literally translated, “queen’s chair”. It is an upholstered chair with a flat (not concave) back and wood frame.

Chinoiserie: A western decorative interpretation of the Chinese aesthetic. Artists used dragons, “china-men” with peaked hats, bonsai trees and other “oriental” motifs to decorate European forms of pottery and furniture, usually in gold on a black ground.

Commode: A chest of drawers made in France beginning in the 18th century, replacing the armoire or chest as the preferred means of storage. Also used to describe a bedroom cupboard that incorporates a chamber pot or washbasin.

Espagnolette: A molded bronze head of a woman with a stiff lace collar used as a fitting on some high-style case pieces of Regence and Rococo furniture.

Fauteuil: An armchair having open arms with an exposed wood frame.

Fluting: An edging technique used in both woodworking and metalworking of concave ridges.

Gadrooning: An edging technique used in both woodworking and metalworking of tear-shaped, convex ridges.


Marquetry:
A veneering technique that involves placing small pieces of wood or other material (shell, metals, stone) in a decorative pattern, most frequently on case furniture. The overall effect can be geometric or pictorial. Andre-Charles Boulle was considered an innovator and master of this technique.

Pliant: A French folding stool from the 18th and 19th centuries, which derives its name from the verb “to fold”. They are often highly carved and found with seat cushions.

Rafraichissoir A small French wine table usually with a marble top inset with a pair or more of recessed metal lined receptacles to receive wine bottles. The apron will usually have a small drawer to store wine related implements.

Rococo Style: a contraction of the words “rocaille et coquille” French words meaning “rock and shell” and referring to the depiction of natural elements popular within this style. The Rococo style is usually contrasted with the Classical style: fluidity versus rigidity, asymmetry versus symmetry, and antique design elements versus natural design elements.

Secretaire a Abattant: a French drop-front desk that has the appearance of a cabinet when closed.


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