The Napoleon III-Second Empire style was built on the codes already set by the 1844 Exhibition under King Louis-Philippe. It is an era of rich decoration and ornamentation. Decorative artists, such as the ornamental sculptor Alfred Jacquemart, the metalworker Charles Christofle, and the cabinetmaker Alfred Beurdeley, gained a certain status during this period.
Second Empire art was just as attached to tradition as it was to progress and the social evolutions of its time.
On one hand, the 19th century was the century of eclecticism, where different styles from the past were reused and mixed together to create a "style without style." For example, the Second Empire saw a revival of tortoiseshell and metal marquetry furniture in the style of André-Charles Boulle, "meubles à mécanisme" (furniture with a special, sometimes secret, mechanism) inspired by the 18th century, Louis XV and Louis XVI-style living rooms, and Renaissance-Henri II-style dining rooms.
Also, Empress Eugénie, as she was a great admirer of Marie-Antoinette, brought back decorative elements from the Louis XVI style, like flower-baskets and tied ribbons, which led to a "Louis XVI-Empress style".
On the other hand, the 19th century was the century of industrialization in France, which progressed throughout the Second Empire. Technical progress led to new inventions such as large tufted cushions, industrially produced cast iron furniture, gold-plating, carton pierre, and electroplating. In this way, luxurious decors became more affordable for the public.
During the Second Empire, Paris was completely transformed by Napoleon III and Baron Haussmann. Many monuments were renovated or constructed, such as the Palais de Justice and the Paris Opera for example. New Haussmann buildings were often inhabited by Bourgeois who wished to decorate their interiors luxuriously and magnificently. Exuberant shapes and profuse decorative motifs were typical of the Napoleon III style.