Fauteuil a La Reine
This 18th-century carved walnut armchair is a fine example of a fauteuil à la reine. The fauteuil à la reine is a French armchair of great style that was conceived to complement the “Louis” chair inspired by the reigns of Kings Louis XIV (r. 1643–1715), Louis XV (r. 1715–1774) and Louis XVI (r. 1774–1792). The comfort of these armchairs is palpable. Flat, marginally inclined high backs characterize the fauteuil à la reine. The extended armrests were originally devised to enable women wearing large, elaborate dresses to sit down with ease among company. Sturdy in nature, such armchairs most often rest against a wall. Due to its delicate, curvy drawn-out serpentine lines, this particular piece likely dates to the early half of the 18th century, when the feminine Rococo style was in fashion. Moreover, its curved cabriole legs also aligns this fauteuil à la reine with the Louis XV era (1720–1760). The back is typical of the central indentation style – one of four popular styles associated with armchairs at the time. The undulating outline of the chair makes it especially attractive, and its curves are in harmony with the various floral patterns of the renewed tent stitch needlepoint. The soft greens, rose, lavenders and brown border that predominate the needlepoint add to the chair’s stately appearance.
At this time in history in France there was growing discontent with the monarchy and the established order. Louis XV was a highly unpopular king for his sexual excesses, overall weakness, and for losing Canada to the British. A strong ruler like Louis XIV could enhance the position of the monarchy, while Louis XV weakened it. The writings of the philosophers such as Voltaire (1694–1778) were a clear sign of discontent, but the king chose to ignore them.