Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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"État" Cabinet

Designer:
Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann (French, Paris 1879–1933 Paris)
Date:
Designed 1922; manufactured 1925–26
Medium:
Macassar ebony, amaranth, ivory, oak, lumber-core plywood, poplar, chestnut, mahogany, silvered brass
Dimensions:
50 1/4 x 33 3/4 x 14 in. (127.6 x 85.7 x 35.6 cm)
Classification:
Furniture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1925
Accession Number:
25.231.1
Not on view
Disillusioned by the failure of Art Nouveau and competing with advances in design and manufacturing in Austria and Germany, French designers in the early twentieth century felt the need to reestablish their role as leaders in the luxury trade. The Société des Artistes Décorateurs, founded in 1900, encouraged new standards for French design and production through its annual exhibitions at the Salon d'Automne. In 1912 the French government voted to sponsor an international exhibition of decorative arts promoting French preeminence in the field. The exhibition, scheduled for 1915, was postponed on account of World War I and did not take place until 1925. It was this fair, the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, that gave its name to the style Art Deco.


Held in Paris between April and October 1925, the exposition, which occupied a large site in central Paris, drew more than six million visitors. The primary requirement for inclusion (over twenty foreign countries were invited to participate) was that all works had to be thoroughly modern; no copying of historical styles of the past would be permitted. Nevertheless, the majority of work exhibited was firmly rooted in the traditions of the past. The stylistic unity of the exhibits (which ranged from architecture to perfume bottles) indicates that Art Deco had become an internationally mature style by 1925 — one that had flourished following World War I and peaked at the time of the fair. The enormous commercial success of Art Deco ensured that designers and manufacturers throughout Europe would continue to promote the style well into the 1930s.


Perhaps the most renowned French designer of his day, Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann is considered the primary exponent of high-style French taste following World War I. Aesthetic refinement, sumptuous materials, and impeccable construction techniques place his work on a par with the finest eighteenth-century furniture — a formal and ornamental source for many of his designs. This cabinet, commissioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1925, is a variant of a piece shown at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes that was purchased by the French government.

Inscription: Signed and inscribed (back at top of frame, branded): Ruhlmann / O.
Ruhlmann et Laurent, Paris (commissioned in 1925 by MMA)

Baltimore. Walters Art Gallery. "Art Nouveau to Art Moderne: Twentieth-Century Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," March 2–April 28, 1985, no catalogue.

Raleigh. North Carolina Museum of Art. "Art Nouveau to Art Moderne: Twentieth-Century Decorative Arts from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 22–August 11, 1985, unnum. brochure (as "Cabinet").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Significant Objects," November 26, 2002–May 2, 2004, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco," June 10–September 5, 2004, no. 28.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco," September 30–December 12, 2004, no. 28.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Modern Design," March 30–December 3, 2006, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Modern Design: Selections from the Collection," May 30–October 5, 2008, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of French Art Deco," August 4, 2009–January 23, 2011, no catalogue.

Joseph Breck. "Modern Decorative Arts: Some Recent Purchases." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 21 (February 1926), p. 38.

Joseph Breck. "Accessions and Notes: Furniture by Ruhlmann." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 21 (March 1926), p. 88.

Penelope Hunter. "Art Déco: The Last Hurrah." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 30 (June–July 1972), p. 267.

Penelope Hunter. "Art Deco and The Metropolitan Museum of Art." Connoisseur 179 (April 1972), p. 273.

Penelope Hunter-Stiebel. "The Decorative Arts of the Twentieth Century." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 37 (Winter 1979–1980), p. 25.

Penelope Hunter-Stiebel. The Fine Art of the Furniture Maker. Rochester, N.Y., 1981, pp. 92–98.

Karen Davies. At Home in Manhattan: Modern Decorative Arts, 1925 to the Depression. Exh. cat., Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven, 1983, p. 17, no. 2, ill. (Sydney and Frances Lewis collection).

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, p. 465, no. 60, ill. (color).

Ghenete Zelleke in Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco. Ed. Emmanuel Bréon and Rosalind Pepall. Exh. cat., Musée des Années 30. Paris, 2004, pp. 152–57, 291.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 408, ill. (color).

Stephen Harrison in Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World's Fairs, 1851–1939. Exh. cat., Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. Pittsburgh, 2012, p. 221, fig. 54 (color).

Jared Goss. French Art Deco. New York, 2014, pp. 196–98, 249 n. 2, p. 262, no. 55, ill. (color).



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