- CARLO BUGATTI
`Profil de Jeune Fille' Armchair
- wood, painted and gilded vellum, bronze and copper
- 110cm x 51.5cm x 52cm
Sale: Ader Picard Tajan, Paris, Collection Alain Lesieutre, 13 December 1989, lot 317
Acquired directly from the above
Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Die Bugattis, 1983, pl. 5, cat. no. 56
Paris, musée d'Orsay, reConnaître Carlo Bugatti, 2001, pp. 56-57, cat. no. 50, & p. 93
Philippe Dejean, Carlo-Rembrandt-Ettore-Jean Bugatti, Paris, 1981, pp. 72-73, a closely comparable example exhibited at the Esposizione Internationale d'arte Decorativa Moderna, Turin, 1902
This armchair, with its classically influenced profile of a young girl, is a perfect example of Carlo Bugatti's work at the turn of the 20th century.
Son of a renowned sculptor, Carlo Bugatti (1856-1940) was brought up in an artistic atmosphere and developed an interest in architecture at a young age. He eventually devoted himself to the creation of furniture and became a successful cabinet-maker, celebrated for his highly distinctive vision. In common with many designers at the end of the 19th century Bugatti was fascinated by the art of the Renaissance, and his work was also greatly influenced by the art and architecture of the Middle East. He frequently employed the techniques and materials of oriental craftsmen, including the extensive use of vellum, copper, and bone and metal inlays. His perennial attraction to architecture is evident in the clearly visible structure of his pieces, which combine geometric motifs into original shapes.
This armchair is typical of the direction that Bugatti's work took at the beginning of the 20th century, when he began to hide the wooden structure of his furniture by covering his creations entirely in vellum. The general line of his armchairs became simpler, and put the emphasis on the decoration. He worked primarily with circular and scalloped shapes, present here in the backrest and the copper elements that connect the feet. This organic style anticipated the extraordinary sculptural forms which would find their pinnacle in the four rooms designed for the Turin exhibition in 1902. Bugatti used copper to underline the general structure, in this case using both the prominent scalloped elements together with strips of copper on the seat and back-rest, all decorated with repoussé dragonflies. Covering furniture in vellum gave Bugatti the opportunity to apply painted polychrome motifs to the expansive white surfaces, and he used these both to maintain the unity of the decoration by painting similar motifs to those on the copper and to further highlight the structure of the chair. The gold and reddish-orange pigments used for the painted dragonfly and floral motifs compliment the polished copper, and contrast with the whiteness of the vellum to give this armchair a great sense of luxury.
The bronze sabots of the present armchair, cast in the form of a fantastical animal, are a pre-cursor to Bugatti's extraordinary works in silver or bronze which were made by the silversmiths A.A. Hébrard. These pieces, small in number, draw upon a bestiary that included zoophytes and other creatures of Bugatti's vivid imagination.