"It is a severe kind of art, an art of heroism, of civic virtue. It succeeded to embrace the French Revolution, to adorn the Directory, to illustrate the Consulate and to give the Empire its decor" resumes M. Fumaroli, member of the French Academy.
Neoclassicism was born in Italy around 1730, with the rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and it flourished between 1750 and 1830 in architecture, painting, sculpture, and decorative arts. This enthusiasm for Greco-Roman Antiquity was first led by intellectuals, as Johann Joachim Winckelmann who published in 1764 the History of Ancient Art, in which the art theorist praised the freedom of the Greek artists and gave to neoclassicism a political connotation.
After the excesses of Rococo, neoclassicism was characterized by a return to simplicity, to straight lines, to an ornamentation taking after the antique repertoire. The painters Jacques-Louis David and Anton Raphael Mengs, the sculptor Canova, the architects Jacques Ange Gabriel or Percier and Fontaine, and the cabinet maker Leleu were the great names of this style.