Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jacques Doucet's Studio St. James at Neuilly-sur-Seine

If you don't know by now, I am more than a little obsessed with research. In fact, it often drives me to distraction but it comes with the territory working in the "art biz". I especially love to learn all I can about places that no longer exist. Gazing deep into a period photo or painting and absorbing the details of how the room was decorated and used...especially if it is filled with treasures. Wondering what all the objects are and where on earth they are now... or if they even survive at all. Enter couturier Jacques Doucet's Studio St. James at Neuilly-sur-Seine. Jacques Doucet was famous as a fashion label but the man himself was a voracious collector. In 1912, at the age of nearly 60 he sold his conventional collection of French antiques and fine arts and embraced the avant-garde to an astounding degree.

This lush corner of the grand salon from the Studio is a feast for the eyes and I have taken the liberty of pointing out a few masterworks:

Tucked into the corner was this exotic ebony cartonnier by Pierre Legrain with lacquer panels executed by Edouard Degaine. It was created around 1925 and presently resides in the permanent collection of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

This unusual lacquer "Bilboquet" table sat adjacent to the sofa and is an extremely rare early work by Eileen Gray before she fully embraced modernism. It dates to circa 1915 and presently resides in a private collection.

This late Amedeo Modigliani masterwork hung on the far wall and is entitled "The Pink Blouse". It was painted in 1919 and is currently housed in the Musée Angladon.

This early cubist delight hung just above the Legrain cabinet. It is entitled "Man with a Guitar" by Pablo Picasso and was painted in the south of France in the fall of 1912. It now forms part of the permanent collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This haunting work titled "The Snake Charmer" is a large masterwork executed by French primitive painter Henri Rousseau in 1907. It now hangs in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

This exoticist sofa dominated the room and was created by Marcel Coard around 1927. It is cleverly carved in rosewood to resemble rattan and is further embellished with ivory. It is a perfect counterpoint the African influenced works by Legrain that were scattered throughout the home. The sofa was given to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond in 1985.

This almost cubistic carpet sat in front of the Coard Sofa and is a work by Pierre Legrain executed in 1924. It surfaced last month at the Chateau de Gourdon Sale at Christie's Paris and fetched €325,000.

Nestled in the center of Doucet's "Oriental Cabinet" was this chinese/egyptian inspired "Lotus" table executed by Eileen Gray in 1915. It has been widely published but yet resides within a private collection.

If the previous treasures were not enough, Picasso's iconic "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" of 1907 held pride of place at the top of the Studio's stair landing. The painting now hangs in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

This is another view of the long living room within the Studio and perfectly illustrates how black and white photography denies the modern eye the true vibrancy of a period interior. Thankfully we know the whereabouts of many of the works seen above.

This "African" chair was created by Pierre Legrain in 1924 and can be viewed today at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

This rare green lacquer and eggshell encrusted side cabinet anchored the large wall at the left of the image. It was created by Paul-Louis Mergier around 1928 and is now part of the permanent collection of Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Placed just above the Mergier cabinet was Henri Matisse's "Goldfish and Palette" painted in the fall of 1914. It can be viewed today at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Visible in the foreground of the image is yet another African influenced work. This time it is an eggshell lacquered side table based on stool form. It was executed by Pierre Legrain in 1923 and is now at Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
This monumental rosewood and python skin veneered bureau is just visible in the background of the image. It was created by Marcel Coard around 1925 and once again it can be found today at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.

Doucet's eye was amazing to say the very least and collections of this level are rarely seen today. We can at least console ourselves with these lush images and dream of what it was like to be surrounded by such masterworks all under one roof.

In researching another lacquer topic I stumbled across another piece from the studio that has survived to this day. First things first, here is a period image of the Doucet Studio's foyer.
Like many important pieces from the period, this table has passed through the hands of Galerie Vallois in Paris.
This image appears to be from the 1980s or 1990s and it has not surfaced in some time so it is likely resting in a private collection.
The table is a real oddity, but in the best sense. It is vaguely Chinese in form but the charioteers that emerge from the legs are right out of classical antiquity. Hopefully more pieces will emerge--AR.


  1. Hello:
    What a wonderful post. Informative, beautifully illustrated, structured and interestingly written, we have not only enjoyed reading this but have found it all totally fascinating.

    And what a collection, all to be found in the hands of one person. If only one's grandparents had possessed such an eye and, of course, such discriminating taste!

  2. The Lotus table is fantastic!

  3. So this is really random. Promise I'm not too creepy. In my MA program I have been assigned a research project on this studio. And I don't know where to start looking for information about the objects (I've never done an interior before). In my desperate google searches I found this blog post. Mind blown. I was wondering if I could maybe ask you what your sources are?

  4. Not to worry, start with Lambeth's 2005 tome on Doucet. The interior is mostly discussed in books and articles about Eileen Gray and Pierre Legrain...check the footnotes for period citations.

    Here are a few I have at my fingertips:

    Léon Deshairs, Le XVème salon des Artistes Décorateurs dans Art et Décoration, 1924, id., p. 182.

    René Joubin, Le Studio de Jacques Doucet dans L'Illustration, 3 mai 1930, p. 17.

  5. Brilliant! Thanks plenty, Aestheticus. This is extremely helpful.