Although the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum is closed, you can virtually tour the exhibition online.
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.
Curator: Clara Serra
Calouste Gulbenkian Museum
Av. de Berna, 45A,
1067-001 Lisbon, Portugal