is an early-19th-century design movement in architecture, furniture, other decorative arts, and the visual arts followed in Europe and America until around 1830.
The style originated in and takes its name from the rule of Napoleon I in the First French Empire, where it was intended to idealize Napoleon's leadership and the French state. The style corresponds to the Biedermeier style in the German-speaking lands, Federal style in the United States and to the Regency style in Britain. The previous style was called Louis XVI style, in France.
The Empire style was based on aspects of the Roman Empire. It is the second phase of neoclassicism which is also called "Directoire", after a government system.
Furniture typically had symbols and ornaments borrowed from the glorious ancient Greek and Roman empires.
The furniture was made from heavy woods such as mahogany and ebony, imported from the colonies, with dark finishes often with decorative bronze mounts. Marble tops were popular as were Egyptian motifs like sphinxes, griffins, urns and eagles and the Napoleonic symbols, the eagle, the bee, the initials "I" and a large "N."
Gilded bronze (ormolu) details displayed a high level of craftsmanship.
Thomas Sheraton - 18th-century furniture designer, once characterized mahogany as "best suited to furniture where strength is demanded as well as a wood that works up easily, has a beautiful figure and polishes so well that it is an ornament to any room in which it may be placed." Matching his words to his work, Sheraton designed much mahogany furniture. The qualities that impressed Sheraton are particularly evident in a distinctive pattern of wood called "flame mahogany."
The flame figure in the wood is revealed by slicing through the face of the branch at the point where it joins another element of the tree.
(from French 'or moulu', signifying ground or pounded gold) is an 18th-century English term for applying finely ground, high-carat gold in a mercury amalgam to an object of bronze. The mercury is driven off in a kiln leaving behind a gold-coloured veneer known as 'gilt bronze'.
The manufacture of true ormolu employs a process known as mercury-gilding or fire-gilding, in which a solution of nitrate of mercury is applied to a piece of copper, brass, or bronze, followed by the application of an amalgam of gold and mercury. The item was then exposed to extreme heat until the mercury burned off and the gold remained, adhered to the metal object.
No true ormolu was produced in France after around 1830 because legislation had outlawed the use of mercury. Therefore, other techniques were used instead but nothing surpasses the original mercury-firing ormolu method for sheer beauty and richness of colour. Electroplating is the most common modern technique. Ormolu techniques are essentially the same as those used on silver, to produce silver-gilt (also known as vermeil).