Reflecting the aesthetic and political aspirations of France under Napoleon’s leadership, the Empire style combines subtle textures with opulent patterns. As in the frame below, which juxtaposes leaf motif, front bead, and flat panel, objects during this period cultivated elegance in contrasts and employed unique visual strategies within alternating regions.
Designs drew heavily for inspiration on symbols and ornaments borrowed from the ancient Greek and Roman empires. Though originating in France, the style quickly spread throughout Europe.
The style took particular root in Imperial Russia, where it was used to celebrate the victory over Napoleon, and influenced numerous designers, and craftsmen of the day, as is evidenced in many of the objects being sold at auction next month during Christie’s and Sotheby’s Russian sales. Hailing from both Russia and other countries, the objects that make up the Russian collections exemplify the desire to combine disparate elements, eliciting new forms of concord.
Lowy has one of the most comprehensive collections of French Empire frames in the world. For more information on Lowy’s collection of 5,000 antique frames, visit www.lowyonline.com or call 212-861-8585.