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Empire

Empire (French empire – empire from the Latin. Imperium – command, power) – an art style created in France at the beginning of the 19th century, during the era of Napoleon Bonaparte’s empire. The chronological framework of the original French “Empire Style” is limited to a very short period of time: from the end of the reign of the Directory (1799) or the year of the coronation of Napoleon (1804) to the restoration of the Bourbon dynasty (1815). The main elements of the Empire, gleaned from ancient art, were already contained in the classicism of Louis XVI (Neoclassicism) and were crystallized in the “Directory style”. However, Empire is fundamentally different from Classicism. Napoleon strove for the splendor and aura of glory of the Roman emperors. Therefore, the artists of the French Empire were strictly ordered to take as a basis the art form of Ancient RomeEmpire.Empire – the style is hard and cold. P. Verlet defined it as “the hardened style of Louis XVI.” The decorative motifs of the Empire style consist mainly of elements of the ancient Roman military equipment: legionnaire signs with eagles, bundles of spears, shields, bunches of arrows, speaker axes. Along with the Roman one can notice the motives of Egyptian art. This is due to the fact that even in the era of the late Roman Empire, along with the ancient cults of Isis and Horus, the elements of ornamentation and sculpture of Ancient Egypt penetrated into Rome. After the Egyptian campaign of Napoleon (1798-1799) in the art of the French Empire, Egyptian motifs became even more widespread.

There are other differences between Empire and Classicism. If in Classicism the volumetric form and decor are connected in a plastic way and do not have clear boundaries, then in Empire the composition is usually based on a strong contrast of the clean field of the wall surface, furniture, vessel and narrow ornamental belts in strictly designated places, emphasizing the structural division of the form. For Classicism, soft, muted colors are characteristic, for Empire, bright – red, blue, white with gold.

It is noteworthy that the leading role in the formation of the new style did not belong to the architect, but to the painter J.L. To David. Even on the eve of the revolution, this artist in his paintings glorified heroic episodes from the history of Ancient Rome: “The Oath of Horatius” (1784), “Lie” (1789). The fame of the artist turned him into a court painter, and he glorified Napoleon’s military feats as he did before the great Romans.

Another feature of Empire is characteristic. The inherent regulation almost completely eliminated the emergence of local national schools. Empire is essentially cosmopolitan. It is noteworthy that not one of the countries defeated by Napoleon essentially adopted this style, and only the only victorious country Russia voluntarily exported the “style of the empire.”

In Europe, therefore, there were two varieties of Empire: French and Russian. Russian Empire was a bit softer than French. It was also divided into two branches: metropolitan and provincial. K. Rossi was the personification of the capital’s “Petersburg Empire”, and he softened the rigidity of the Napoleonic style with his Italian-Russian taste. The provincial “Moscow Empire” and the style of the noble estates near Moscow were even more original. Therefore, the terms “Russian Empire” or “Moscow Empire” can only be adopted allegorically. In England, the Empire style was also not widely used. The “English Empire” is sometimes conventionally called the “style of George IV” (1820-1830), which came after the English “Regency style. Thus, the terminological rigor obliges us to call Empire only the artistic style of French art of the early 19th century.

Empire architecture is characterized by monumentality, geometric correctness of volumes and integrity (triumphal arches, columns, palaces). The ceremonial palace interiors were richly decorated with picturesque panels inspired by Pompeian paintings, reliefs reminiscent of Egyptian sphinxes, vases, furniture and antique bronze.

Another feature of Empire is characteristic. The inherent regulation almost completely eliminated the emergence of local national schools. Empire is essentially cosmopolitan. It is noteworthy that not one of the countries defeated by Napoleon essentially adopted this style, and only the only victorious country Russia voluntarily exported the “style of the empire.”

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