This monumental Louis XV armoire exhibits the rare beauty of French provincial furniture. Crafted of lustrous walnut, this armoire features double doors, one of which opens with the original key, while the other opens with an interior latch. Exceptional carving distinguishes this piece, as well. Crowned by a highly detailed basket of flowers, this armoire also sports rare five-point stars. Fluidly-shaped panels, original hinges and pierced key plates, and bun feet complete this magnificent design. Exceptional Louis XV period armoires such as this are the epitome of French provincial furniture and are increasingly difficult to find in such wonderful condition. In addition, those that retain their original hardware are incredibly scarce, for it was often removed and melted down for ammunition during the unrest of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
73 1/2” wide x 30” deep x 118 7/8” high
The first armoires appeared in France during the latter half of the 17th century and were most often the dominant feature of the home. These large cupboards were used to hold a family’s belongings from linens to clothing to silver and even food. Cabinetmakers drew their inspiration from the cupboards of Italy, Germany and Spain, but by the reign of Louis XV, the French armoire had reached its height of popularity and possessed a distinctly French flair.
One of the most significant features of fine Provincial armoires is the locks and hinges. Because these cupboards were a very important part of the household, little expense was spared in outfitting them with the finest hardware. Long ornate hinges, elaborately scrolled lock escutcheons and even the keys with intricate scrolling designs were an integral part of the overall design of the armoire. Often, the hinges, lock and key cost more to produce than the armoire itself.
The expense of such a grand armoire was enormous and it often served as an indication of a family’s wealth and social standing. As their wealth and possessions grew, armoires were added to the household and it was not unusual for a particularly wealthy family to house several armoires, though almost certainly not all of the high caliber and size as this example. It is also interesting to note that most French provincial armoires were crafted of oak since it was a readily available resource. Walnut armoires such as this, of an exceptional size, were much less common and generally reserved for the wealthiest families. Today they are considered the finest examples of the period. As styles changed, the armoire evolved into a smaller, more reserved cupboard, making these massive creations all the more important.
French Provincial Decorative Art, Catharine Oglesby, 1951