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Empire and Regency: Decoration in the Age of Napoleon

More than 1,400 images from twenty primary source illustrated pattern books, scrapbooks, and a set of original French goldsmith's drawings from the late 18th to early 20th-centuries which feature interior decoration, furnishings, furniture patterns, and views relating to the Empire and Regency Styles.

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[Empire style. Clock in bronze doré placed on ebony base. With 3 classic figures below the dial and angels blowing trumpets.] Digital ID: 1211877 [Empire style. Clock in bronze doré placed on ebony base. With 3 classic figures below the dial and angels blowing trumpets.] Digital ID: 1211877

Collection History

These books, along with some extracted plates, feature in the NYPL exhibition "Decoration in the Age of Napoleon: Empire Elegance Versus Regency Refinement," Edna Barnes Salomon Gallery, September 3, 2004 - April 2, 2005. Many of these volumes come from the Astor and Lenox Library collections and from the private library of the architect Thomas Hastings, of the partnership Carrere and Hastings, responsible for the Library's landmark building on Fifth Avenue.

Background

Out of the formal Neoclassicism that pervaded late eighteenth-century European building and decoration were born two distinct movements, now known as the Empire Style and the Regency Style. The origins of these styles were deeply political and social in nature. Napoleon I, self-styled Emperor of the French, assumed the throne in 1804, and immediately launched an ambitious art and design program that lasted until the end of his reign in 1815. The Empire Style spread across Europe, particularly to those countries that fell under the rule of France. Napoleon's rival for influence on the arts was George, Prince of Wales, and Prince Regent from 1811-1820, and finally, King George IV of England. The Regency period has been variously dated, but it generally begins in 1783 and ends by 1837. Both the Empire and Regency Styles continue today as popular period revival modes.

Related Resources

NYPL. "The Empire and Regency Styles," by Paula Baxter. (2004) <http://www.nypl.org/research/chss/spe/art/artarc/empire/>

Library Division(s)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the vast collections of The New York Public Library, including drawings, illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.