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État cabinet, 1926
by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art.
By Cynthia Drayton
This 1926 état rectangle cabinet, in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was the fourth example produced by the Ruhlmann firm. The first was purchased by the French government at the 1922 Salon d'Automne and was displayed again at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne. Edward C. Moore Jr., the son of Tiffany and Company's late nineteenth-century artistic director established a fund in 1922 for the purchase of modern decorative arts. While in Paris for the 1925 exhibition, the Met's decorative arts curator Joseph Breck saw the earlier Ruhlmann cabinet on display and then wrote to the museum's president, Robert de Forest, that he had commissioned a replica of it for the Met. The museum and the Ruhlmann firm exchanged extensive correspondence about the expensive purchase price.
Ruhlmann’s cabinets reflect the quintessential art deco style with an emphasis on luxurious ornament and clean lines. The term art deco derived from the title of the 1925 Paris exhibition, Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Moderne, sponsored by the French government and intended to reestablish French designers as leaders in the luxury trade.
Ruhlmann grew up in his father's paint, mirror, and glass business, which he inherited in 1907. Six years later under the E. J. Ruhlmann firm name, he added an autonomous interior decoration business. Ruhlmann introduced his furniture at the 1913 Salon d'Automne.
The cabinet features a sumptuous marquetry pattern of a fluted, urn-shaped vase overflowing with roses and other flowers boldly rendered in ivory and amaranth (or purplewood), a rare exotic wood found in case furniture created by eighteenth-century French ébénistes. The marquetry on Ruhlmann's cabinet is made of interlocking pieces similar to a jigsaw puzzle. Ruhlmann first drew a vase overflowing with flowers on a small carpet in his 1913 sketchbook. The motif was first applied to a three-legged corner cabinet or état d'angle, in 1922. The marquetry on the museum's cabinet is analogous to the one owned by the French government except for the absence of scrolling handles on the vase.
Measurements: height: 50 1/4, width 33 1/4, depth 14 inches
Technique: Macassar ebony veneer over oak and poplar
Interior: mahogany, poplar, macassar ebony
Marquetry: amaranth and ivory
Estimate: $150 - $300 (FMV)
Listed By: Stephanie Retz
Location: Providence, RI
Estimate By: Jorge Luis González
The thick potting, simple decoration, small size and deep shape of the tray would indicate late 18th or early 19th century continental manufacture.» View All