Empire style

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Empire style,

manner of French interior decoration and costume which evolved from the Directoire styleDirectoire style
, in French interior decoration and costume, the manner prevailing about the time of the Directory (1795–99), from which the name is derived. A style transitional between Louis XVI and Empire, it is characterized by a departure from the sumptuousness of
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. Designated Empire because of its identification with the reign of Napoleon I, it was largely inspired by his architects PercierPercier, Charles
, 1764–1838, French architect. He won (1786) the Grand Prix de Rome, and in 1794 he became associated with Pierre François Léonard Fontaine. Napoleon appointed them as government architects, and this post lasted until the emperor's fall.
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 and FontaineFontaine, Pierre François Léonard
, 1762–1853, French architect. He was known chiefly for the work which, beginning in 1794, he did jointly with Charles Percier; the development of the Empire style in France was almost exclusively an expression of their
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. Traditional classical motifs, already seen in the reign of Louis XVI, were supplemented by symbols of imperial grandeur—the emperor's monogram and his emblem, the bee; representations of military trophies; and after the successful campaigns in Egypt, Egyptian motifs. Furniture was characterized by clear-cut silhouettes and symmetry in decoration. Pedestal tables with claw feet and gondola, or sleigh, beds were in vogue. The staple wood was mahogany, solid or veneer; brass and ormoluormolu
, finish used on metal to imitate gold. It is employed chiefly for furniture mountings. The term originally applied to a coating of ground gold and was extended to alloys of copper and zinc.
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 mounts were the chief embellishments. Stucco decoration or painted classical motifs often enriched the walls; the ceilings were plain. The style continued in fashion until c.1830. A simplified form was adopted in England and the United States; a German bourgeois adaptation is known as Biedermeier. The empress Josephine introduced the high-waisted court dress with train, which shows Greek influence. Men began to wear full-length trousers and polished top hats. The style of the first Empire is to be distinguished from that of the second (1852–70), which was gaudy and ostentatious.


See S. Grandjean, Empire Furniture: 1800–1825 (1966) and P. E. W. Cunnington, Costumes of the Nineteenth Century (1971).

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Empire style

The elaborate Neoclassic style of the French Empire in the wake of Napoleon, characterized by the use of delicate but elaborate ornamentation, imitated from Greek and Roman examples, and by the use of military and Egyptian motifs.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Empire Style


a style in art and architecture (primarily decorative) that flourished during the first 30 years of the 19th century; the final stage in the evolution of classicism.

Empire style, like classicism, was oriented toward the models of classical art and included the artistic legacy of archaic Greece and imperial Rome, from which it drew motifs for the embodiment of majestic power and military might; monumental forms of massive porticoes (primarily Doric and Tuscan orders) and military emblems used for architectural detail and decor (lictor-bearing fasces, military armor, laurel wreaths, eagles, and so on). Empire style also included distinct features derived from ancient Egyptian architecture and sculpture (huge unbroken surfaces of walls and pylons, massive geometric volumes, Egyptian ornamentation, stylized sphinxes, and so on).

Empire style was rooted in classicism, in which the search for exquisite simplicity of form and decor gradually gave way to an aspiration toward an extreme lapidary quality and thorough expressiveness. An extreme manifestation of this tendency was the austere asceticism, imbued with a spirit of civic pride, which characterized the projects of C. N. Ledoux and a number of other architects during the period of the Great French Revolution. The artistic ideas and new conceptions of city planning they advanced became the basis of the development of the Empire style, which was variously interpreted in different countries, depending upon the specific conditions of social and political life.

During the empire of Napoleon I, memorial architecture served to glorify the achievements of the state (triumphal arches, memorial pillars), sometimes duplicating ancient Roman models. (The Arc du Carrousel in Paris, 1806, designed by C. Percier and P. Fontaine, is a replica of the arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.) The decoration of the deliberately ostentatious interiors of the palaces rebuilt by Percier and Fontaine for the imperial court and the new nobility (the Malmaison, the Fontainebleau, the Beauharnais chateaus), the motifs of Egyptian reliefs, Etruscan vases, Pompeiian murals, Greek and Roman decor, and Renaissance frescoes and ornaments are in harmony with the Empire style furniture by F. O. Jacob and the bronze creations of P. P. Thomire, stylized in the spirit of the furnishings of a wealthy ancient Roman residence.

In Great Britain, Denmark, and Italy the Empire style acquired distinctive national features; in Russia and Germany it became the expression of the ideas of national sovereignty which these nations had defended in the wars against Napoleon.

The Empire style in Russia produced models of world significance in civic architecture (the group of buildings in Leningrad designed by the architect K. I. Rossi), public buildings (the Admiralty, 1806–23, designed by A. D. Zakharov; the Mining Institute in Leningrad, 1806, designed by A. N. Voronikhin), monumental works of sculpture (the memorial to Minin and Pozharskii in Moscow, 1804–18, by I. P. Martos), and applied art (the “Gur’evskii service,” 1809–18, from the Imperial China Works in St. Petersburg). Intimacy and lyricism are inherent features of the Empire homes in Moscow designed by the architect A. G. Grigor’ev (the Selezneva House, 1814—now the A. S. Pushkin Museum—and the Stanitskaia, 1817–22—now the L. N. Tolstoy Museum), with their well-arranged and comfortable interiors.

The Empire style gave way to various eclectic trends which signified a crisis in the artistic system of classicism.


Nekrasov, A. I. Russkii ampir. Moscow, 1935.
Bourgeois, E. Le style Empire, ses origines et ses caracteres. Paris, 1930.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Empire style

The elaborate neoclassic style of the French First Empire (1804–1815).
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
This architecture would be exported to Mussolini's empire in Libya, Ethiopia and Eritrea, but it was in the Soviet Union under Stalin that classicism really expanded as an imperial architecture; in Russia and Ukraine, it is often called 'Stalin's Empire Style'.
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It is Second Empire style, according to the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System, and has a granite face, Ionic pilasters and a mansard roof.
A wrap dress can be quite flattering if you're sporting a little too much tummy, as can an empire style dress with a high waist.
This district of Paris is particularly rich in history, and the hotelOs second empire style is also reflected in the surrounding buildings.O Built in 1855 and originally located in the building which is now known as the Louvre des Antiquaires, the Grand Htel du Louvre was the first luxury hotel in France.
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5) The French 19th Century Empire Style white marble and ormolu-mounted fireplace mantel in the master bedroom.

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