Sunday, 29 November 2009

Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann's Carpets and Rugs, Design and Designers: Henry Stephany, Maurice Picaud, Emile Gaudissard, Leon Voguet and Denise Sourzac. Part 2 of 3

I will now answer some basic questions that will help you to understand Ruhlmann's works and methods. It will hopefully spare you a lot of time and energy in reading and searching, and hopefully you will enjoy and appreciate the article.

Question 1: Who designed the Ruhlmann carpets?
Ruhlmann selected a staff of designers to translate his ideas and draw all the necessary maquettes in different scales, including the final plain scale draft of the furniture and other products from the company. From the published archives we can estimate that this was also the case for the carpets. The inspiration came either from Ruhlmann's sketches, elaborated on previously, or from his collaborators depending upon the projects. For carpet design Henry Stephany and Maurice Picaud (also called Pico) were among the most talented collaborators that were mentioned in both catalogues and press articles. Others such as Porteneuve, Fontayne, Lardin and Rousseau might also have contributed, but the documents available do not mention either their names or initials. In practise, Ruhlmann had complete control over his design studio, and all decisions needed his approval. Contrary to the furniture that was usually stamped, it seems that the carpets did not carry any signature or monogram. They might well have had a label but I have never seen one or read about their existence. It seems that the carpets were woven by only one company in Aubusson: Braquenie.

Carpet designed by Stephany for Ruhlmann, NR 3056, presenting the Viennese influence, plate 46, in Tapis by Leon Moussinac, Albert Levy ed. A similar model was in the Ruhlmann's office and was sold to Mr. Nicolle

Question 2: How can we identify Ruhlmann carpets?
The furniture, when finished was stamped with the Ruhlmann signature; the carpets do not bear any logo, monogram or signature. The drawings do not bear initials or names either. We can attribute a designers name or a Ruhlmann origin through press articles, photos and exhibition catalogues. Of course we can try looking through the different archives but so far an exhaustive catalogue has not yet been produced. Rugs presented in auction invoices or certificates might joint the lot. Otherwise you will have to rely on the expertise of the seller or a specialist in order to fully identify them.

Question 3: How many carpets have been woven?
After Ruhlmann's death a collaborator was commissioned to produce and complete the classification of the archives. The documents donated to French institutions were studied and included in this project. All recent publications have benefited from that work. It appears now that the products from Ruhlmann have a new reference number, NR, instead of the previous AN. For the carpets, their number begins with 3XXX. The Carpet Index database has about 25 carpets identified by their number, from NR 3001 to NR 3205. We also have about the same number without a reference attribution, which makes a total of about 50. We have estimated that the Ruhlmann company produced at least 200 models (the sketches are not included), but at present I am not able to estimate how many were actually woven because Ruhlmann worked like a tailor and did not hesitate to personalise each order, as I will describe in the next post. Each model could have a combination of different colour choices and sizes, as well as some slight changes in the composition. As a result the rug sales seem to have been important, but have definitely been underestimated by a number of different art historians.

Question 4: Which Ruhlmann rugs were famous?
The most famous carpets were presented in several exhibitions, the most important being the ones that took place in Paris:

1)1925, the International Decorative Art Exhibition: carpets designed by Gaudissart and Voguet NR 3175 for the Pavillon du Collectionneur, respectively for the dining room, large drawing room and for the Ambassade Francaise, the Stephany NR 3107.
2)1926, SAD, The collector's office, a carpet by Fontayne called Mouvement Perpetuel, NR 3057.
3)1927, carpet for the Tea Room of the liner Ile de France, NR 3015, AR 2512.
4)1928, SAD, La Chambre d'Apparat, the Pomp Room, carpet by Stephany, NR 3180.
5)1929, SAD, L'appartement d'un Prince Heritier des Indes du Prince a la Cite Universitaire, one sample is exhibited at the Chateau Gourdon Museum, France.
6)1930, SAD, the box of the actress Jacqueline Francel, carpet by Denise Sourzac.
7)1932, SAD, Rendez-vous des Chasseurs de Truites, two carpets by Sourzac and Picaud, NR 3058.

One must not forget that Eileen Gray, who also produced very expensive furniture for a selected international clientele, survived thanks to the rug sales in the 1920s. I hope to have demonstrated that carpet deserves to be considered as being on the same level as any other piece of furniture. It is time to end the habit of using the name of the artist in order to sell their rugs and to ignore the latter productions in referenced biographies for their unclear reasoning.

The context has been established. In the next post I will try, through the use of an example, to express the excellent choices Ruhlmann made in both decoration and carpet design and to convince you, if you still have any remaining doubts as to his genius.

News and Auctions
1)November 26 2009, Christie's, Paris, lot 30: a round carpet from Ruhlmann (part 2/2). The result was below the estimate. On December 5 2000, a large round carpet with a similar background but much wider (4m diameter), was presented in Paris by the auction house Le Mouel & Le Mouel, lot 82. The result was among the highest obtained for an Art Deco rug (2 215 280 FF, over 300 000 euros, premium included), but there is an explanation as to the high auction price, the rug was part of Ruhlmann's private furniture collection.
2)December 7 2009, Piasa, Paris: three rugs from modern artists on sale: Statmos Theodorus, Andy Warhol (Flowers) and Mark Rothko.

Article written by Jean Manuel de Noronha

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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