Neoclassical rugs, Empire rugs, Federal rugs, Directoire rugs, and English Regency Rugs are inspired by the architecture of classical Greece and Rome. These ancient civilizatons and their achitecture symbolized democracy and republican values to 18th century Europeans as well as to the Founding Fathers of the new United States.
The neoclassical ceiling of the Raphael Loggias in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Neoclassical architecture developed regional variations such as French Directoire Style, the French Empire Style, the American Federal Style, the English Regency Style and the Russian Neoclassical Style. Image courtesy asergeev.com.
The Allure of Neoclassical Rugs. 18th century Europeans, tired of monarchic rule began to yearn for the democratic ideals of Rome and ancient Athens. The architecture of Classical Greece and Republican Rome had the simplicity of geometric forms and a grandeur of scale that symbolized rationality, democracy and longevity. Neoclassical rugs derive their motifs from classical Roman and Greek architecture. Drawings of ancient Roman buildings had become more widely available and these were used as inspiration for neoclassical rugs.
Italian architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) made detailed sketches of the ruins of ancient Rome. These sketches provided models for neoclassical architecture and neoclassical rugs. Image courtesy of The Getty Museum.
A neoclassical ceiling by Robert Adams (1728-1792) for the Music Room of the Home House, London. Robert Adam traveled to Rome in 1754 and spent five years studying architecture under Clerisseau and Piranesi. After his return to London he became a leader of the English neoclassical style and one of England’s most successful and fashionable architects. His version of neoclassicism became known as the “Adams Style” and influenced Federal rugs and Federal architecture. Adams designed neoclassical rugs, furniture and fittings for his buildings. Image courtesy Wikepedia.
The Directoire Savonnerie rug is also available as a Directoire Needlepoint rug.
Directoire rugs derive their name from the five Directors (French: Directoire) who held executive power in France after the French Revolution, from November 1795 to November 1799. During this time no one wanted to give the appearance of belonging to the aristocracy and this led to a radical change in fashions in clothing as well as in the decorative arts. Inspiration was sought from classical Greece and Rome because these ancient civilization symbolized democracy. Directoire architecture and Directoire rugs have a simplicity that is in sharp contrast to the embellishments of the preceding Rococo period.
A blue and cream Empire Savonnerie rug in the library of Napoleon’s Chateau de Malmaison. Empire rugs drew heavily on the symbols, ornaments and glory of the Roman Empire.
Empire Rugs. The French Empire Style was created by architects Charles Percier and Pierrre Fontaine who had gone to Rome in the 1790’s to study classical architecture. They were commissioned by Napoleon’s to build his empire style residence at Malmaison. Percier and Fontaine designed Empire Savonnerie rugs and Empire Aubusson rugs for Napoleon and for others. Napoleon claimed that the Empire Style had a liberating and enlightening influence on the Republic just as the Napoleonic code had a liberating effect on the peoples of Europe.
The Menton Empire needlepoint rug is inspired by an Empire Savonnerie rug designed by Percier and Fontaine. The French Empire Style had a direct influence on the American Federal Style.
Federal Rugs.The Founding Fathers of the United States consciously associated the newly formed nation with the ancient democracies of Greece and the republican values of Rome by using Roman architecture as a model. The Federal style applied neoclassical principles to the already prevalent Georgian style of the colonial era. Robert Adam was an influence as well as the rational city plan of Pierre L’Enfant for Washington, D.C. Federal rugs are inspired by the motifs and geometric principles of Federal architecture.
The neoclassical pattern of the inlaid wood floor of the Italian Cabinet Room in the Hermitage Museum has a similarity to the Federal Savonnerie rug below. Image courtesy asergeev.com
Pamplona Federal Savonnerie rug in brown, red, green and yellow.
The neoclassical ceiling in the Knights Hall, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Image courtesy asergeev.com
Pamplona Federal Savonnerie rug in cream, yellow, coral, green and blue.
Neoclassical patterned wood parquet floor in the Malachite Room, Hermitage Museum. Image courtesy asergeev.com.
The Gravitas Aubusson Rug is a Federal Rug in gray, brown, gold and red.
An Empire rug pattern in rendered in tile for the Flemish Art Room in the Hermitage Museum. Note the similarity of pattern with the Federal Aubusson rug below. Image courtesy asergeev.com.