The ancestor of the Universal Exhibitions

The ancestor of the Universal Exhibitions

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  • The Exhibition of French Industry Products in the Cour Carrée.


  • Toilet table and chair.

    DESARNAUD-CHARPENTIER Rosalie (1782 - 1871)

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Title: The Exhibition of French Industry Products in the Cour Carrée.

Author : ANONYMOUS (-)

Creation date : 1801

Date shown: 1801

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Carnavalet museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Ladetsite web

Picture reference: 1991 CAR 0753 / D 06002

The Exhibition of French Industry Products in the Cour Carrée.

© Photo library of the Museums of the City of Paris - Photo Ladet

To close

Title: Toilet table and chair.

Author : DESARNAUD-CHARPENTIER Rosalie (1782 - 1871)

Creation date : 1819

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: crystal; gilded bronze

Storage location: Louvre Museum (Paris) website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - V. Guy

Picture reference: 91DE4251 / OA 11229; OA 11230

Toilet table and chair.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - V. Guy

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Industry exposed to revive the French economy

The first exhibition of French industrial products took place in 1798 at the initiative of Minister François de Neufchâteau. In the aftermath of the Revolution, with the national economy to be strengthened, especially vis-à-vis England, the juxtaposition of a wide variety of techniques and the issuance of rewards were to stimulate fruitful national competition.

Image Analysis

Variety and richness

In 1801, the exhibition took place in the Cour Carrée du Louvre, furnished for this purpose. The place was symbolic. One year after the opening of the Antiques Museum, the palace housed the most modern and luxurious creations. This second edition affirmed the return of Paris to the head of luxury creation, a place that no other capital had contested with it since the beginning of the 18th century.

Carnavalet’s anonymous drawing evokes the diversity of the objects presented: furniture, furnishing bronzes, crystals or fabrics, which demonstrate precious know-how and a renewed neoclassical style.

After a single edition under the Empire, the Restoration revived these exhibitions in 1819. They took on a strong competitive character, each house specially creating objects with the aim of winning public praise, but especially first prizes. In each field, therefore, more and more daring and original creations appeared.

Marie Désarnaud-Charpentier’s boutique specialized in the production and sale of mounted crystal objects and furniture. This dressing table with an armchair that she presented at the 1819 exhibition was undoubtedly her greatest success. If, by its round and light shapes and its neoclassical decoration on the theme of beauty and charm, it illustrates very well the style in vogue under the Restoration, its technique of creation is surprising. The metal structure of the cabinet is in fact entirely concealed by cut crystal elements held in place by very high quality gilded and chiseled bronzes. The top is covered with a plate of églomisé glass with a blue background. It was the first time that an object of this importance had been realized in this way. The jury awarded him a gold medal, and the Duchess of Berry greeted this novelty by purchasing this toilet for her pleasure castle in Rosny-sur-Seine.


Under the Restoration, the role of patron that the royal family played under the Ancien Régime seemed to have disappeared. The exhibitions of industrial products were an opportunity for her, through the purchases she made there, to reconnect with this tradition. But only the Duchess of Berry, niece of Louis XVIII, fulfilled this function with enough interest and talent to really influence the style of her time. The Chateau de Rosny, where the toilet was sent, summed up the Duchess' good taste.

This style was especially marked by the evolution of creative techniques, which this toilet effectively demonstrates. Indeed, such an achievement was only possible thanks to the development of crystal factories which, in eastern France, perfected the methods of melting and cutting crystal from the traditional glass craft. Louis XVIII and Charles X were both very attentive to the development of factories in Lorraine and favored them through their sustained interest and personal protection (cf. Baccarat).

The first exhibitions of the products of the industry were organized in haste and the public success did not really match what the design kept at Carnavalet suggests. Nevertheless, the principle was established from the beginning that works of art should have a special exhibition, with a system of rewards modeled on that of the Salons of the Academy. This was to give them recognition that they did not previously enjoy and to give them the dual status of artistic creations and engines of the national economy. The many orders that Napoleon I placed with the Lyon silk factories were part of the same desire.

It is in this that these early events can be considered the ancestors of the World's Fairs of the second half of the century.

  • Decorative Art
  • Universal exhibitions
  • Louvre
  • furniture
  • neoclassicism
  • industrial Revolution


Anne DION-TENENBAUM A golden age of the decorative arts, 1814-1848 Paris, RMN, 1991.

To cite this article

Nicolas COURTIN, "The ancestor of Universal Expositions"

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