Empire style ....... Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary
The French émigré ébéniste (furniture maker) Charles-Honoré Lannuier is without question one of the most impressive cabinetmakers in American history, although he only worked for 16 short years in New York City before his death in 1819 at the age of 40. For years he has been in the shadow of the far better known New York cabinetmaker Duncan Phyfe
As a young man, Charles Honoré Lannuier fled his native Paris to escape the social and political chaos that followed the Revolution. After settling in America, he soon distinguished himself as one of the most talented cabinetmakers of the 19th century. Lannuier not only capitalized on America's attraction to the French style, he helped to refine it. His ornate creations became synonymous with wealth and taste, conferring prestige upon their newly prosperous owners.
During the first decades of the nineteenth century, Duncan Phyfe and Charles-Honoré Lannuier were the acknowledged leaders of the New York furniture trade. Both immigrant craftsmen, they established a distinctive New York style of cabinetmaking that incorporated contemporary European design. Americans throughout the young nation considered their work to be the pinnacle of taste and sophistication.
Honoré Lannuier trained in Paris as an ébéniste (the French term for cabinetmaker) before relocating to New York in 1803. From 1804 until his death in 1819, he operated a shop at 60 Broad Street, among the city's thriving manufacturing and financial districts.
Extant artifacts reveal his reliance on journals and books published by French designers such as Pierre de La Mésangère (1761—1831), and Charles Percier (1764—1838) and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine (1762—1853).
To compete with those working in the more restrained Anglo-American taste, though, Lannuier occasionally melded the two approaches into an assimilated style that would appeal to a broad range of consumers.
Like Phyfe, Lannuier often incorporated decorative elements taken from the architecture
and furnishings of ancient Greece and Rome.
- Illustration above: Empire lyre trestle work table - Winterthur Museum