- Hans Ottomeyer
The name derives from the first French Empire under Napoleon I (see Bonaparte family, §1). The dates defining the period of the Empire historically (1804–14) and the duration of the style itself are at variance: the early phase, referred to by contemporaries as ‘le goût antique’, was a late form of Neo-classicism and became more developed as the chaos resulting from the French Revolution subsided c. 1797. The Directoire style and the Consulate style—terms similarly derived from political periods in France—were both part of the development of the Empire style.
The term was originally applied to architecture, but because Napoleon rejected the building of new castles and palaces as wasteful, the style was especially used in interior design and decoration, later being extended to other decorative arts and fashion. There was strong conscious allusion to the civilization of imperial Rome through the building forms and motifs used by the first Roman emperors, who pursued goals of internal peace and a new order together with an expansionist military policy, as did Napoleon. Personal taste and comfort became of secondary importance to the demonstration of wealth and power. The Empire style spread throughout Europe and acquired fresh impetus with the Napoleonic conquests....