Events News | March 3, 2020

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

Find out mores

In conversation with the curator and guest Margarida Serra

Saturday, 21 March, 2.30pm

Find out more

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

Guided visits

Saturday, 9th and 30th May, 3pm



Visits for schools and organised groups

By appointment

217 823 800 (M-F, 10am to 1pm)


More information


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

The Golden Age of French Furniture
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