Sunday, 6 December 2009

An Example of Ruhlmann's Style: The c1932 Dubly Drawing Room with a Sourzac Round Carpet. Part 3 of 3

The c1932 Dubly Drawing Room with a Sourzac Round Carpet, Deco d'Aujourd'hui, Dec-Feb 1934. The Carpet Index Library

After 1927 Leon Dubly became an important customer for Ruhlmann who designed his apartment. Certain models of furniture, chairs and tables, are identified with his name. When Ruhlmann undertook the decoration of the drawing room, he was no longer in his 'aristocratic' period, one that had been much criticised. The overall result was of a much more delicate and elegant feel. The work produced in order to obtain this result was always impressive, as we will demonstrate.

The Basic Drawing Room Characteristics
As you can see in the illustration shown above, the room presented a high ceiling and an imperfect square shape. All the light derived from large windows that are not visible in the illustration, but were on the right hand side of the room. The first objective was to avoid the room having a 'box' feeling and to avoid anyone noticing the two entering angles on the left hand side, this breaks up the view when entering the room. Ruhlmann visually reduced the height of the ceiling by installing a wooden frame directly onto the walls. In using a large width for the vertical pilasters, in opposition to the thinner horizontal bands, he created a perspective and a visible architecture in the room that focused attention. If you look closely you will notice that the first pilaster covered the first angle on the left hand side, while the second the fourth. The pilasters were made of palissandre from India, one of the favourite woods used by Ruhlmann. They were devoid of decoration and were finished above in a delicate golden frieze. The latter easily resonated with the bronze work of the furniture, mirror frame and lights. To give unity to all the remaining walls, he used a clear blue silky upholstered tapestry forming a network of lozenges, in opposition to the massive straight pilasters. As a result the eye quickly forgot the angles and was smoothly invited to embrace the bright room space.

The Furniture
The selected furniture was reduced and placed in order to valorise their shapes and selected materials. The colour recalled that of the palissandre. It was centred along the walls and one forgot the corners. The legs of the furniture had bronze endings, which reinforced the feeling of lightness and separated the different visual levels: the floor from the furniture and the walls. A medium round table stood in the middle of the room, which meant that it was very easy to circulate in the room. From the furniture we can understand the function of the room; it is not the main drawing room, but that of a more private 'antechamber' or boudoir, to receive visitors or to ask them to wait in a pleasant surrounding.

The Carpet of Denise Sourzac
We have not found any information regarding Denise Sourzac, we only know that Ruhlmann regularly collaborated with Rene Sourzac on certain projects. She might well have been his sister, wife or daughter, which shows the familiar spirit of the company. Here Ruhlmann chose a very large circular carpet, about 3.5-4 meters in diameter (11-13 feet), to unify the room and to cover the walking zones. The circular shape echoed the mirror, the table top and the square initial volume of the room without creating a 'box' effect. In order to mix the different volumes, the carpet ran slightly under the secretaire. This also offered some comfort to the person sitting and preserved the plain carpet below from over usage.

This model was first presented in 1928 in the SAD exhibition (The box of the actress Jacqueline Francell), then in 1930 with a different background colour, In The Carpet Index Files we have photos of Dubly's furniture taken with this latter rug. We estimate that Ruhlmann leant the carpet to the customer while the final one was being woven. In fact the carpet from the illustration presents slight differences that show how Ruhlmann was attentive to all the details:

1)The centre of the rug was not symbolized by four concentric circles as in the other rugs, so the composition was much lighter and more dynamic, thus the radiating effect was reinforced. The eye was not stopped by the centre. The plain circle also revealed the shape of the table legs.
2)The border was composed of successive points orientated towards the centre. In the other rugs that was not the case, the design of the point was composed of three triangles in different colours and they were orientated towards the selvedge. The eye was conducted to remain in the centre of the room. The selvedge had been simplified and there was no relief effect or long fringes. This was done in order to overly attract attention.
3)The number of colours was reduced to two instead of at least three.
4)The radiating background contained two concentric thin circles which were very discreet because Ruhlmann did not use a dark colour. This was intriguing for the eye because the lines of the rug were 'incomplete', as if it was a mistake. It is very noticeable that the horizontal network of lozenges echoed the tapestry and broke the regularity of the linear quality of the room. The carpet was less 'perfect' that the rest of the furnishings and giving lightness to the massive rug which weighed about 40-50 kilos.

This example really illustrates how Ruhlmann liked to manipulate opposite concepts in a decorative scheme, dark and light zones, straight and circular lines, static and dynamic compositions, plain and designed surfaces, cold and warm colours. For these reasons there is a tension that is in fact transformed and then forgotten by the magic effect of the final result: a very delicate and elegant solution.

For Ruhlmann the decoration of the furniture and carpet served several functions: to integrate all of the furniture and wall coverings in one space; to guide the eye to focus on the major characters of the furniture piece; and to give a personality to the object.

Now you understand why it is necessary to consider the environment of the rugs created by skilled decorators. When the rugs are presented alone, as in the majority of cases when appearing in auction, there is a huge loss of information. The carpet remains flat and isolated and the keys to decode its design are no longer available. The purpose of this blog is to reveal these aspects and to transmit them to the next generation, a task that no longer seems to be taught in contemporary design schools which focus on concepts, technology and functionalities.

Ruhlmann - Genius of Art Deco, E. Breon & R. Pepall eds., 2004.
Ruhlmann - Genie de l'Art Deco, E. Breon & R. Pepall eds., 2002. French first edition.
Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann Architecture d'Interieur, 2 vols, Flammarion, 2004.

News & Auctions
1)December 6 2009: LAMA, Los Angeles: a Jack Lenor Larsen carpet and a round American Modern Starburst rug.
2)December 8 2009: Christie's New York: several interesting rugs from Marion Dorn lot 354; Edward McKnight Kauffer lot 367; Bart van der Leck by Metz & Co, lot 383; attrb. Jules Leleu, lot 347; Vivienne Weastwood lot 479; and a Berta Senestrey flatweave, lot 368.
3)December 8 2009: Wright, Chicago: rugs by Herbert Bayer, Frank Stella and Davis Shaw Nichols.
4)December 9 2009: Sotheby's Paris: painting on a rug by Mai-Thu Perret.

Article written by Jean Manuel de Noronha


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