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FURNITURE
THE NANCY SCHOOL 2:
LOUIS MAJORELLE

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A marquetry credenza by Louis Majorelle
c.1900; ht 89in/226cm; value code A

 

Identification checklist for Majorelle furniture

1. Is the piece architectural (featuring mainly inlaid decoration), or sculptural (with mainly carved decoration)?
2. Is decoration based on sinuous natural forms?
3. Are any carved motifs naturalistic?
4. Is the piece signed?
5. Is it hand-made?
6. Is it in an exotic or strongly grained wood, such as mahogany?
7. Is any marquetry of very high quality?
8. Is there a chicory leaf motif, inlaid or carved?
9. On chairs with arms, is the leg part of the armrest?
10. On sculptural pieces, has a lot of attention been paid to the supports?
11. Do pieces feature ormolu (gilt bronze) mounts, especially on the feet or supports?


Louis Majorelle (French, 1859- 1926)

Majorelle took over his father's cabinet-making business in 1879. His early work was in a Rococo style but as a member of the Nancy School he was influenced by Gallé‚ (see page) and adopted Art Nouveau forms, creating an individual, elegant style. He favoured exotic and strongly grained woods, such as mahogany, and often used gilt bronze mounts. Like Gallé‚'s, his decoration was based on sinuous forms and natural motifs.

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On sculptural pieces, such as the carved mahogany side table above, decoration is often restricted to supports. These are reeded here, but. fluted examples are also

common, and legs usually terminate in slightly outswept feet. The wood grain is used to complement the design and to provide decoration.
* Mounts on sculptural pieces are often integral to the design.

Typical features and marks
The credenza in the main picture has has symmetrical form and inlaid decoration common to Majorelle's architectural pieces. Also typical are the short, solid feet and the supports (both embellished with metal mounts), the back panel, fitted with pleated silk, and the chicory leaf motif. There is an inlaid marquetry signature. Most of his work is marked, often on doors, and may be branded, stamped, inlaid or carved.

Collecting
Majorelle worked partly to commission, but also produced designs for a catalogue. Even so, his work is rare. Chairs with original fabric command a premium. As well as pieces in Majorelle's style, some unmarked items exist that may well have been designed by him. His work is well-documented and if in doubt collectors should refer to a documented example. His style was often imitated, which can be confusing to collectors, but fakes are so far unknown.


EUGÈNE VALLIN (French, 1856-1922)

Like Majorelle, Vallin was a cabinet-maker turned furniture designer, and a member of the Nancy School. He designed interiors, including ceilings,

Vallin's curvilinear forms are evident in the mahogany bureau and chair, right. 'The writing area is the only level surface. Stalk elements appear to evolve from the back plate. Mounts and handles are unobtrusive and the tapered supports have outswept club feet. Vallin's work is rarer than Gallé's or Majorelle's, but commands similar prices.

panelling and furniture. His pieces tend to be sculptural and imposing, with strong, curved, natural forms and decoration supplied by the natural wood grain. Sinuous stalk elements appear, often in supports

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