Jean Royère (1902-1981) was one of the last European interior designers known to fully furnish entire interiors to suit the tastes of his clients. Royère liked to claim that he had no formal training as a designer—“I’m a designer with no education in the field. Why? Quite simply because it wasn’t the career originally intended for me,” he claimed in a 1963 interview. Royere was originally trained as a banker and it was not until the age of twenty-nine that he started to work at a furniture factory, where he learned the rudiments of industrial furniture. There, he quickly established a solid and promising reputation, ultimately leading him to exhibit at the 1934 Salon d’Automne in Paris, and at the Societé des Artistes Decorateurs the following year.
While he looked up to respected furnituremakers like Djo Bourgeois and Ruhlmann, Royère often admitted that he never subscribed to any particular school of interior design. He in fact stated that foreign design had proved more influential on his work. Royère had always been drawn to the worlds outside of his native France, possibly because of his father’s frequent trips abroad. Once his reputation in France was firmly established, with the opening of his first decorating business on Rue d’Argenson in 1943, Royère sought to expand his increasingly growing clientele in Europe and the Middle East: he first opened an agency in Cairo in 1946, which proved to be Royère’s launching pad in the Middle East. Its rapid success prompted the opening of an office in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1947, a country to which he had often travelled before and with which he fell in love.
The wealthy Egyptian and Lebanese clients that hired Royère gave him carte blanche in furnishing and decorating entire houses, thus providing the designer with a newly found freedom to experiment with textures, forms, and arrangements. His success with private clients prompted him to work on important commissions throughout the Middle East, the most prestigious of which include the Consulate General of France in Alexandria, the Bristol and Capitole hotels in Beirut, the Senate of Teheran, and the family residences of the Shah of Iran, King Farouk of Egypt, and King Hussein of Jordan.
The present “Croisillon” suite is one of key pieces from a private residence commission in Beirut, and exemplifies the type of luxurious and whimsical interiors and furniture created by Royère throughout the 1940s and 1950s in the Middle East. A recurring element in Jean Royère’s work, the so-called “Croisillon” motif was first introduced in 1938, as part of a suite similar to the present lot, which furnished the living room of a private residence in Belgium. The original set included a sofa and a pair of armchairs, and was photographed for the first time for the French periodical Ensembles Mobiliers the following year. “Croisillon” patterns attest to Royère’s modernist sensibility towards the end of the 1930s as he favored the use of simple lines and geometric elements. In this elaborate set comprising a sofa, three armchairs, three bridge armchairs, and two gueridons (lots13-16), the diamond pattern complements a robust, U-shaped lacquered frame with round molded edges, creating an elegant and playful sculptural design.
Archival photographs show “Croisillon” pieces in many Middle Eastern bourgeois interiors, with the motif repeated on large screens, bed frames, and doors. The pattern was reproduced across a range of different mediums like wood and lacquered metal, and quickly became one of the designer’s most iconic motifs at home and abroad. This “Croisillon” suite embodies the very best of Royère: intuitive proportions, uncluttered forms, and luxurious materials. A rare sight on the Design market, this ensemble with exceptional provenance has remained complete and in the hands of the original Lebanese owners for the better part of its existence.