The beau idéal: a style for the Empire

The aesthetic model in the late eighteenth century was that of classical Greece and Rome, the cradles of both democracy and empire. The canons of classical ideal beauty or beau idéal, based on simplicity and purity of form and decoration, dictated the rules of the Empire style. Furniture with strict geometric lines was veneered with mahogany – an exotic wood with warm colors – and decorated with gilt bronze appliques. New pieces appeared – such as full-length cheval mirrors, sleigh beds and athénienne stands – and panoramic wallpaper adorned the walls.

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