The Golden Age of French Furniture

From the Workshop to the Palace

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In the 18th century, French furniture attained an unprecedented degree of excellency. This exhibition highlights some emblematic items of furniture and aims to show what lies behind the execution of these fantastic pieces.

Known as the Golden Age of French furniture, the 18th century witnessed many transformations in the field, having reached an unparalleled level of technical and artistic quality. This was facilitated by the favourable conditions present at the time.

The exhibition features several emblematic items of furniture produced during this era, which now form part of the Founder’s Collection, including Jean-Henri Riesener’s roll-top desk, as well as significant national and international loans from the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, among others.

It aims to explore the various phases involved in producing these items, from the raw material, wood, to the delicate, extravagant furniture created for royal palaces, revealing the secrets behind their creation: the artisans that conceived them, the preferred materials and the techniques and tools used. Collaboration with the Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva was essential, providing information on materials and technical details to give the exhibition a more practical component.

From the end of the 17th century, traditions became more relaxed, influencing many aspects of society such as the way in which people interacted and lived together. These behavioural changes were reflected in the interior settings of the era. The taste for comfort, combined with a quest for sophistication, took on increasing importance in palace life.

Furniture accompanied societal transformation, adapting itself to new emerging needs. In order to meet the requirements of an enlightened, sophisticated clientèle, always on the lookout for new trends, cabinet-makers and ébénistes began to innovate in terms of the techniques they used. Furniture was now designed with a specific purpose in mind, although its aesthetic appearance was also taken into consideration. Whether they were architects, decorators or even skilled artisans, furniture designers attempted to meet the needs of their customers, heralding the dawn of modern design.

Curators: Clara Serra

expo_mobiliario_5-2-1 Jean-Henri Riesener. Rolltop (detail). Paris, c. 1772. Oak and exotic woods, gilt bronze, velvet. Founder’s Collection
expo_mobiliario_4-2 Jean-Henri Riesener. Rolltop (detail). Paris, c. 1772. Oak and exotic woods, gilt bronze, velvet. Founder’s Collection



André-Jacob Roubo

The Design – Where It All Begins

Tools and Joints

The Wood

Marquetry and Ébénisterie

Gilt Bronzes

An 18th-Century Workshop

18th- Century Furniture

Complementary Programs

Guided tour

Saturday, 12, 19 September, 15:00
Saturday, 19 September, 11:00

Talk with the curator Clara Serra 

Beauty and expertise of 18th– century French furniture (in Portuguese only)
Saturday, 26 September, 16:00

Vida e obra. Uma visão da vida dos ebanistas parisienses do século XVIII
Com Helen Jacobsen, conservadora das Artes Decorativas francesas do século XVIII – The Wallace Collection, Londres.
Quinta, 3 setembro, 18:00
Saber mais

Life and work. An insight into lives of 18th– century Parisian cabinetmakers
With Helen Jacobsen (curator of French 18th– century Decorative Arts – The Wallace Collection, London)
Thursday, 3 September, 18:00
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