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How Second-Empire Style Inspired Schumacher’s New Collection

A baroque spin on neoclassicism defined the era of Napoleon III.

June 30, 2024

Schumacher’s Colmery Paisley wallpaper panels—a neutral take on a favorite 19th-century motif—bring a sense of history to a Hudson Valley dining room.

PIETER ESTERSOHN

In the mid 19th century, France embraced a renaissance of opulence and craftsmanship under the rule of Napoleon III, putting a baroque, saturated spin on neoclassical style—and setting the stage for the highly stylized designs of the Art Nouveau era to come. Schumacher’s new collection, Le Max, draws from that period to bring a sense of Second Empire elegance to 21st-century living.

  • The deep hues of Sylvain Floral Stripe are quintessentially Second Empire.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN
  • La Rue Stripe is a dead ringer for a 19th-century document.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN
  • Curtains in Colmery Paisley Panel fabric evoke a Kashmir shawl.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN
  • Auguste Stripe covers an antique Napoleon III chair from Schumacher.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN
  • Apolline Botanical wallpaper nods to the European craze for Indian chintzes

    PIETER ESTERSOHN
  • Hubert’s Bees wallpaper celebrates the symbol of Napoleon I and III.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN

    The deep hues of Sylvain Floral Stripe are quintessentially Second Empire.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN

    La Rue Stripe is a dead ringer for a 19th-century document.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN

    Curtains in Colmery Paisley Panel fabric evoke a Kashmir shawl.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN

    Auguste Stripe covers an antique Napoleon III chair from Schumacher.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN

    Apolline Botanical wallpaper nods to the European craze for Indian chintzes

    PIETER ESTERSOHN

    Hubert’s Bees wallpaper celebrates the symbol of Napoleon I and III.

    PIETER ESTERSOHN

SECOND EMPIRE STYLE

The reign of Napoleon III from 1852 to 1870 saw an eclectic mix of styles—Gothic, Renaissance, Louis XV and XVI—revived and reimagined for the industrial age. The advent of synthetic aniline dyes allowed for deeper textile colors, increased cast- iron production made it a popular material for everything from beds to guéridons, and new tufting techniques resulted in luxuriously padded seating.

Giuseppe Castiglione, Empress Eugénie in the Salon at the Tuileries, 1868.

Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images

Artists like Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Alfred-Émile-Léopold Stevens captured this mood shift in their paintings, depicting women wrapped in lush Kashmir shawls, upholstery trimmed with tassels and bullion fringe, and richly lacquered ebony wood.

  • Hippolyte Flandrin, Portrait of Napoleon III, 1861.

    Leemage/Corbis via Getty Images

  • Alfred-Émile-Léopold Stevens, Departing for the Promenade (Will You Go Out with Me, Fido?), 1859.

    Philadelphia Museum of Art

  • Alfred-Émile-Léopold Stevens, The Visit, 1869.

    Dallas Museum of Art/Brad Flowers


SEE MORE FROM SCHUMACHER’S LE MAX COLLECTION


THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN VOLUME 12 OF FREDERIC MAGAZINE. CLICK HERE TO SUBSCRIBE!