Tuesday, 21 April 2009

New information on Jacques Doucet's Marcoussis Rug

St James Studio of Jacques Doucet, Illustration, May 3 1930. The Carpet Index Library

When beginning the research of carpet and rug design work over twenty years ago, with little initial knowledge of the carpet world in general, it seemed difficult to believe that by compiling an exhaustive documentation on the subject, it would lead to changes in the accepted history of carpet and rug design.

A good example to illustrate these changes in accepted perception, is Jacques Doucet. he was one of the worlds leading fashion designers at the beginning of the twentieth century. It could be said that Doucet was a catalyst for the beginning of the Art Deco period, when he decided to sell all of his classical collection of furniture through a huge auction sale that took place in 1912. This event was as large and as important as the recent Yves Saint Laurent & Pierre Berge sale that took place in February 2009 (see February 9 blog entry).

The commitment Doucet had for modern artists, writers and designers helped to give the necessary impulse towards adopting the modern movement. It was only the First World War that postponed the move towards the Art Deco style, the movement that was to place french artists and designers at the forefront of contemporary art and design in the 1920s.

Doucet's new studio apartment on the rue Saint James in Neuilly, was furnished by some of the best designers of the period, and it was treated as a public shop window for all that was new and contemporary in France. Included were carpet designs produced by Myklos, Lurcat and Marcoussis. The studio was highlighted in the magazine Illustration, published in 1930, through a set of colour illustrations. The image in this post shows the carpet by Marcoussis in Doucet's apartment.

Since the 1930 Illustration article, the history of the Marcoussis carpet has been fairly straightforward, with the history being documented in the two sales during the carpets lifetime. One was at the Hotel Drouot, Paris in 1972, while the other was at Sotheby's Parke-Bernet in Monaco, on October 24 1982, with the owners being identified as firstly R Walker and then Sidney and Frances Lewis. The latter offered the carpet to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts , for their Decorative Art collection, where it remains to this day.

Looking at the other rugs produced by Marcoussis, the Carpet Index could not find any with a comparable design or style and when our library of rug images from Jean Lurcat were examined, it appeared that he had begun his decorative career with Pierre Chareau and his 'La Boutique', which was used for the distribution of his rug designs.

In the magazine Amour de l'Art, published in 1924, a carpet similar to Doucet's was shown. However, the first image of the Doucet rug appears in L'Official de la Couture, No 52, published in 1925 (not 1926 as is often stated), with the Myrbor designation. Myrbor was the art gallery run by Marie Cuttoli for the production of art textiles. Doucet discovered Cuttoli's rugs in the 1925 International Art Deco Exhibition. A similar carpet, but with a number of small differences, appears in the photo of the gallery from 1926. Therese Bonnet also photographed similar rugs from the period, such as Equerre by Lurcat produced in 1927.

Having researched the career of Jean Lurcat, it is clear that he was not proud of the Cuttoli period of his work, which corresponds to a hybrid production in terms of style. This helps to explain why he did not claim to be the designer of the piece during his lifetime. This can be explained by the subsequent career of Lurcat, as he was later to be recognised internationally as both a successful fine artist and one of the major french tapestry designers of the twentieth century. he was clearly unhappy with his earlier work and preferred not to add it to his later, more mature style.

Post written by Jean Manuel de Noronha

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