The Golden Age of French Furniture
The Golden Age of French Furniture. From the Workshop to the Palace exhibition has been extended until 28 September and can now be visited for free. The elegance and flawless technique of 18th-century French furniture is the focus of an exhibition that reveals the secrets behind this admirable art so beloved by Calouste Gulbenkian. The exhibition brings together emblematic pieces from the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, the Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva Foundation and other works from major national and international institutions.
In the Modern Collection, there is a new exhibition route to discover, which includes pieces recently added to the collection and focuses on the theme of Artistic Journeys.
Known as the Golden Age of French furniture, the 18th century saw great transformations in the field, in which an exceptional level of technical and artistic quality was achieved. The particular circumstances of the period provided a favourable environment for this to happen. The exhibition starts with some emblematic pieces from the Founder’s Collection that were produced during this period, notably Jean-Henri Riesener’s roll-top desk, and significant loans from national and international institutions, such as the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
It aims to explore the different production phases of these pieces, from the raw material, the wood, to the delicate and exuberant pieces of furniture destined for royal palaces, revealing the secrets of their creation: the craftsmen and workshops that lay at their origin, the materials of choice, the techniques and tools with which they were created. The Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva Foundation, endowed with the technical knowledge to provide a more practical viewpoint, is the ideal partner for this exhibition.
From the late 17th century, customs and conventions started to become less strict, a change that was felt in many aspects of society, including the way in which people socialised and lived together. These changes in behaviour were also reflected in the interiors of the period. The taste for comfort alongside sophistication became increasingly important in palace life. The fashions in furniture followed the transformations of society, adapting to these new requirements.
To respond to the demands of an enlightened and sophisticated elite eager for novelty, cabinetmakers and woodcarvers turned towards technical innovation. Furniture was now regarded as something with a specific functionality, without forgetting the aesthetic side. Its creators, whether architects, decorators or even skilled artisans, rose to the challenge of satisfying their clients’ desires, heralding the dawn of modern design.
Curated by: Clara Serra
Opening hours: 10am – 6pm
Closed on Tuesdays, Easter Sundays and 1 May
To book a guided visit, call:
217 823 800
More information —
In conversation with the curator Clara Serra
Friday, 6 March, 5.30pm
In conversation with the curator and guest Margarida Serra
Saturday, 21 March, 2.30pm
In conversation with the curator and guest Jacky Cavallari
Evolution of marquetry techniques in 18th-century French furniture
Friday, 3 April, 5.30pm
In conversation with the curator and guest Luis Mendonça de Carvalho
Nature in 18th-century French furniture
As part of the Earth Day programme
Saturday 18 April, 4.00pm
Saturday, 9th and 30th May, 3pm
Visits for schools and organised groups
217 823 800 (M-F, 10am to 1pm)
See the video at: https://youtu.be/z8ONkQ_OpN4
Life and work. A vision of 18th-century Parisian cabinetmakers
With Helen Jacobsen, conservator of 18th-century French Decorative Arts – The Wallace Collection, London
Wednesday, 15 April, 6pm
Furniture design in 18th-century France
With Peter Fuhring, scientific consultant at Fondation Custodia, Paris
Thursday, 28 May, 6pm