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The furniture on display here belonged to two successive commissions.
In 1879, Charles Gillot asked his friend the illustrator Eugène Grasset to decorate and design the furnishings of the main rooms of his mansion at 79 rue Madame in Paris’s 6th arrondissement. Built for his mother between 1875 and 1877, the residence also housed a printing works specialised in the new photoengraving process. Grasset designed the furniture for the main rooms: the grande galerie containing Gillot’s major collection of far-eastern, medieval and Renaissance art, the dining room and the bedroom. All this furniture was designed by Grasset between 1880 and 1885 and made by the cabinetmaker Fulgraff, then working for Charles Gillot.
In 1905, when Charles Gillot’s daughter, Louise-Marcelle Seure (1884-1958) married the archaeologist Georges Seure, she commissioned Eugène Grasset to design a walnut dining room suite comprising a large table, six chairs, a side table and a dresser for her new apartment. Madame Seure, whom Grasset had taught decoration for three years at the Ecole Guérin, wanted to create a decor similar to that of the family home in rue Madame.
Transposing his talents as an illustrator into wood and wrought iron, Eugène Grasset freely created motifs with manifold influences. The eye loses itself in the profusion of animal, vegetable and mineral decoration. Rats and weasels are scurrying up and down the columns of the dresser and night birds are nesting on the fireplace in the company of rabbits, frogs, fish, wild cats, cockerels and bats... Plants and fruit abound: corncobs, flowers and pine and wild rose branches. This naturalist imagery is also peopled with fantastic creatures: columns have the forms of chimera and sphinxes while griffons and gargoyles haunt the sculpted decoration. The four square door panels of Charles Gillot’s fireplace depict allegories of Work, Study, War and Peace. The theme of the decoration of Louise-Marcelle Seure’s dining room dresser is food and drink.
Despite the profusion of ornamentation, the furniture and decoration created by Eugène Grasset between 1880 and 1905 has great aesthetic unity. The rigorous architecture of the furniture, the massive structure of horizontals and verticals and the simplicity of the volumes reflect the teaching of Viollet-le-Duc and foreshadow Art Nouveau.