The stylistic features of the Empire period were influenced by Antique art, mythology and war, as well as by nature, flowers and eroticism, a taste illustrated profusely by the decorative arts. Thanks to the architects Charles Percier (1764-1838) and Pierre Fontaine (1762-1853), the Empire style developed a coherent decorative system dedicated to the glory of the Regime, endowing every ornament with a precise meaning.
For instance, the palm motif, associated with victory, and the cornucopia, symbolising prosperity, refer to the peace introduced by the Empire, while at the same time exalting the military and civilian virtues of the Napoleonic conquests. The swan, an ambiguous symbol of love, and the butterfly, an allegory of desire, together with the lyre, also evoke Apollo, the Sun God of Beauty, a dominant figure in the arts and expressions of sensuality.
All these motifs became widespread in the form of decorative bronzes and furniture, distinguished by their pure shapes, the simplicity of the ornamentation or the quality of the wood, especially mahogany. They can also be found on porcelain, silverware, glass objects and textiles. Although swans, butterflies and lyres were more popular as decorative motifs for furniture and objects in the bedroom, bathroom, boudoir or sitting room, while palms and cornucopias tended to be used for studies and libraries, these motifs were nevertheless frequently combined.
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