Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879-1933)
Paris, c. 1922-1923
Amaranth veneer, ivory and ebony marquetry, gilt bronze, red satinwood interior
126.7 x 84 x 31.5 cm
Gift of Mmes Albert and Raymond Wattinne in the name of their parents, M. and Mme Édouard Rasson, 1969
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This single-door cabinet has three inside shelves. It has two straight back legs and two curved front legs that are attached to the body by two scrolls accentuated by an ivory thread. The four sabots on the legs, the dotted frame around the vase of flowers, the top of the uprights and the frieze of rectangles around the cabinet top are also of ivory. Ivory is chiefly used, however, together with ebony, for the central medallion filled with flowers and foliage around a characteristic Art Deco vase of flowers. This floral decoration, although imposing, does not detract from the overall structure of the cabinet. Even at the start of his career, Ruhlmann produced few pieces with figurative decoration. One example of the latter is a small 1913 gilt wood cabinet that recently appeared at a public auction; its door is decorated with figures in eighteenth-century dress in a garden setting. Another is the “chariot” sideboard of 1919, held in the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The figurative decoration on other pieces is limited to the large lock plates carved by Alfred Janniot or Simon Foucault; examples include the meuble à fards cabinet in the Musée André-Malraux in Le Havre and a chest with a gravel motif in the Mobilier National. This cabinet came from the apartment of Édouard Rasson, a wealthy textile industrialist in Roubaix; his two daughters donated it to the museum in accordance with their father’s wishes. Rasson owned several furniture pieces by Ruhlmann, including the first example of the “Ambassador” desk, made in 1923 (also held by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs). There are several known examples of this cabinet: two of them – called État d’angle – were made as three-legged corner cabinets (Brooklyn Museum, New York; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond). In addition to the example in our museum, three other rectangular, four-legged, flat-bottomed cabinets called État rectangle have been identified to date (in the Mobilier National in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Art Institute in Chicago). The first État d’angle was made in 1916; the first État rectangle was exhibited at the 1922 Salon d’Automne, where it was described as a “precious furniture piece in Macassar ebony with ivory marquetry.” Ruhlmann’s two cabinetmaking workshops produced many examples from the same model, using various species of wood. The cabinet in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, considered one of Ruhlmann’s masterpieces, was made in amaranth, rosewood or Macassar ebony veneer.
Florence Camard, Ruhlmann, Paris, Éditions du Regard, 1983.
Ruhlmann, un génie de l’art déco, exhibition catalogue, Boulogne-Billancourt, Musée des Années 30, Montreal, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Paris, Somogy, 2001.