Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann is a French decorator of Alsatian origin. Considered one of the fathers of Art Deco, this decorator as much as cabinetmaker draws his inspiration from 18th century art. Ruhlmann, whose company quickly became famous, began designing innovative furniture and interiors in 1913, where the simplicity of lines and surfaces is combined with the richness and variety of colours and materials. These forms, which were new for the time, quickly appealed to a large number of enthusiasts.
The "Rectangular State" cabinet dating from 1922-1923 was bequeathed to the MAD by Mrs. Albert and Mrs. Raymond Wattinne, on behalf of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Édouard Rasson, in 1969. Made of ebony and featuring a single leaf opening onto three shelves, amaranth veneer and noble materials such as gilt bronze and ivory marquetry, this perfectly finished object is a creation of style and not only a functional one.
The ivory work is mainly used with ebony to make the floral vase, symbol of the Art Deco style, which stands in the centre of the cabinet. This motif represents a medallion dotted with flowers and foliage. The elements are simplified in order to create harmony. The sets of inlays stand out on the rosewood background. With this cabinet "Rectangular State" the cabinetmaker renews and rewrites the furniture of the classical period.
This floral decoration is exceptional and original; Ruhlmann during his career used these figurative decorations only very rarely.
His technique is constantly being perfected and he will very often use his furniture for important and wealthy clients. The care taken in the manufacture of his furniture makes them works of art which keep all their unity and beauty whatever their destination.
This cabinet comes from the apartment of Édouard Rasson, a rich textile industrialist from Roubaix who was already in possession of several works by Ruhlmann. It was given by his two daughters in execution of the will of their father.
It was not unusual for Ruhlmann to have many copies of the same piece executed by his two cabinetmaking workshops. He thus varied the shapes and types of wood for the creation of unique pieces of furniture. Several examples of this prestigious piece of furniture are known to this day, most of them in the collections of major American institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute in Chicago and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Throughout his career, Ruhlmann advocated a return to the traditions of French cabinetmaking, in particular the technique and refinement of veneers.
Visual: Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879-1933), cabinet "État rectangle", Paris, ca. 1922-1923, Amaranth veneer, ivory and ebony marquetry, gilt bronze, red satinwood interior, 126.7 x 84 x 31.5 cm, Inv. 42786 © MAD