The reign of Louis XV, or Louis Quinze represented a shift in style and taste. The beginning of the reign of Louis XV (1710-1730), the period of the Regency, was largely a continuation of the massive, glorious style of his great-grandfather and predecessor, Louis XIV. However, when Louis XV came into his reign, the style markedly shifted under the influence of his mistress Madame de Pompadour and is considered the beginning of the European Rococo movement.
The first period of Louis Quinze style (1730-1750), became more original, decorative, and exuberant and known by the French term rocaille, a combination of the French terms for rock and seashell. Rocaille was exuberant and inspired by nature, like the Rococo style of other European countries, but typically less overloaded with decoration and more symmetrical. This was a reaction to the large, heavy, and geometric forms of Louis XIV style. The furniture became lighter and more comfortable with an emphasis on curved lines and asymmetry. The themes, rather than military in nature, became more romantic, featuring pastoral, fishing, and hunting scenes, beautiful women, symbols of love like boquets and cupid with his arrow, and musical motifs featuring horns and violins. In contrast to the furniture of Louis XIV, which was designed for the vast halls of the palace of Versailles, the furniture of Louis VX was designed for the smaller, more intimate salons created by Louis XV and his mistresses, Madame de Pompadour and Madame DuBarry. The furniture was therefore lighter, more comfortable, and could easily be rearranged or moved from room to room. The traverse support of the legs became unnecessary and was eliminated, and the legs of the furniture were always curved. Chairs were designed for people to sit back comfortably. New types of furniture appeared, like the chiffonier, a five-drawer cabinet, and the table de toilette, or vanity table featuring three shutters, the central one containing a mirror.
The last period of Louis XV Style (1750-1774), known as the Second Style or Style Transition, became more sober, ordered, and neo-classical in nature under the influence of recent archaeological discoveries in Greece and Italy and in reaction to the excesses of rocaille. Roman and Greek motifs began to be featured, and we also begin to see a Chinese decorative influence, called Chinoiserie, along with other exotic styles.
This light and gracefully elegant style, coupled with its scale and practicality, makes it a continuing favorite among designers and homeowners alike!