In 1879, Charles Gillot asked his friend, the illustrator Eugène Grasset, to design the decoration and furniture of the main rooms in his mansion at 79, Rue Madame in the sixth arrondissement of Paris. This mansion, built for his mother between 1875 and 1877, contained a printing workshop that specialized in the brand new “photoengraving” technique. Grasset was to design the furniture for the main rooms: the large gallery with its considerable collection of Far Eastern, medieval and Renaissance art, the dining room and the bedroom. Grasset designed the oak furniture between 1880 and 1885; it was then made by the cabinetmaker Fulgraff, who worked for Charles Gillot at that time.
On her marriage to the archaeologist Georges Seure in 1905, Charles Gillot’s daughter Louise-Marcelle Seure (1884-1958) commissioned a walnut dining room suite from Eugène Grasset comprising a large table, six chairs, a dessert trolley and a sideboard. The young woman, who had been Grasset’s pupil for three years at the École Guérin where he taught decorative painting, wanted the apartment she moved into after her wedding to be decorated in a style recalling that of the mansion on Rue Madame.
The furniture suite designed by Grasset for Charles Gillot’s mansion is in keeping with the motto of the Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs: “Beauty in Usefulness.”
Eugène Grasset’s freely designed motifs were inspired by various influences, and he applied his skill as an illustrator to his work with wood and wrought iron which he decorated abundantly with intertwining images of nature, animals, plants and minerals. Rats and weasels scamper along the columns of the sideboard-dresser, and night birds nest on the fireplace alongside rabbits, frogs, fish, wild cats, bats and cockerels. Plants and fruits abound, with ears of wheat, flowers, branches of pine and wild rose. This naturalist imagery is interspersed with touches of fantasy. Columns take the form of chimeras; sphinxes, griffins and gargoyles embellish the carved decoration which has something of an allegorical and symbolic quality. The four square panels on the doors of Charles Gillot’s fireplace represent the allegories of Work, Study, War and Peace. The sideboard in Louise-Marcelle Seure’s dining room, on the other hand, is entirely dedicated to the themes of food and drink.