We begin a series of articles devoted to decorative objects outside of Guimard’s production but used by him to ornate both his furniture creations — on the occasion of an exhibition for example — or his own dwellings in the case of his private mansion on avenue Mozart. The identification of some of them was made possible thanks to a few rare photos published in magazines, but above all by the high-definition scanned photographs from the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York and the collection bequeathed by the architect’s widow to the library of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris.
On these documents, vases, statues, sculptures or everyday objects often decorate — sometimes in a surprising way — Guimard’s furniture. They have never really been the subject of an in-depth study as the attention is focused on the furniture itself (the inventory of which is still not completed…). Some of these objects are visibly contemporary with the architect, such as this vase we are studying today, others are of very different styles and periods, such as these statuettes of ancient inspiration which will be the subject of a future article.
But beyond this information which tells us about Guimard’s artistic tastes, we may wonder about the architect’s will to integrate so many objects so different to a style that bears his name and is known to be difficult to reconcile with other styles and even with other forms of Art Nouveau. The architect was certainly aware of the strong aesthetic personality of his furniture. Perhaps he wanted to prove that the Guimard style could nevertheless blend in with the objects in the decor of future buyers?
In the case of the decoration of the private mansion on avenue Mozart, another question soon arose: the delicate issue of the origin of the objects which did not belong to Guimard’s production. Some of these were certainly brought by his wife, but in the absence of additional information, it seems impossible to make a statement on this subject. This is perhaps the case of the vase from the Guimard’s bedroom that can be seen in the photos of that time.
Its streamlined form makes it one of the objects that best suits the Guimard style and fits easily into the decoration of the room. It appears on two shots, placed on the same stand, in two different places in the room — to the right of the bed and near Mrs Guimard’s dressing table — probably the sign of several photographic sessions.
This vase presents strong similarities with a glassware of identical shape marketed by the Daum factory. Featuring a long stretched neck developed from a solid quadrangular base, the piece, about 70 centimetres high, retains its square geometric section, reinforced by a slight over thickness at each corner. These models, with their easily identifiable silhouette, are well known and Daum has created a range of about thirty different ornamentations, from hair ferns to sycamore winglets and representations of physalis or sailboats on a Mediterranean sunset.
In the sometimes surprising world of Art Nouveau glass lovers, it is not uncommon to refer to some of these vases by the strange term “berluzes”. The etymology of this denomination remains controversial and two hypotheses continue to oppose each other.
The first is that the term originated in the jargon of the workers of the old glass factories in the Saint Louis Les Bitche basin and refers to the vessel that allowed the staff exposed to the heat of the furnaces to quench their thirst. The object, known as a “berling”, usually made on site in a fairly rustic glass, most often had the appearance of a soliflore vase with a slightly bent neck into which, perpetuating the tradition of lemon balm water flasks, pieces of liquorice sticks were inserted to give the drink a more pleasant scent and taste. “Berluze” would therefore be a linguistic distortion of this original Moselle “berling”.
The other version, which is common among the families of employees of the famous crystal factory in Nancy, is that during the manufacture of one of the first soliflores of this type, a copy would have been so much askew that the “Père Daum” would have asked aloud if the glassmaker who had just made it had “la berlue” (i.e. had hallucinations)? This is obviously to be taken with caution, like many oral testimonies transmitted “according to family tradition”, as there is no evidence to corroborate anything.
Paradoxically, it is on a document from the archives of the Maison Majorelle dating from the decade 1890-1900 that we find the first mention of a “berluze” on the back of a photograph showing a carved and inlaid glass marquettry display cabinet decorated with numerous trinkets.
This soliflore is perfectly characteristic of the floral naturalist style that identifies the early productions of the Daum brothers.
Usually, the engraved specimens offer a lesser thickness of the angular profiles compared to those made of marmoreal glass coloured by vitrification of oxide powders, known as “jade glass”.
The more or less slender appearance of the vases actually depended on the height of each unit, which could vary by several centimetres from one specimen to another. They were made from a cast iron mould, but the rates imposed by the head of the factory hall meant that they were always taken out of the mould a little too early and, as their temperature was still very high during the de-stemming operation, the gravity and the relatively heavy weight of the pieces meant that they were sometimes likely to lengthen significantly.
In parallel with these vases with a square base, Daum has also tried to produce like-minded creations on a triangular base, but these have not been as commercially successful.
The long-necked soliflores quickly became a familiar figure in Art Nouveau style glassware. They are also found in glazed stoneware, for example at the Pierrefonds factory in the Oise region of France, with a model of modest dimensions and a more rounded base.
The vase from the Guimard’s bedroom does not appear in any of the museum collections that hosted the various donations from the architect’s widow. Moreover, even if one of the inventories of the contents of the Guimard Hotel made on the eve of the exile of the couple to the United States evokes “a small Daum vase”, it is unlikely that it corresponds to the vase studied today. It is therefore quite possible that it was given to relatives of the Guimard family when they moved or dispersed their collection.
Justine Posalski and Olivier Pons
Translation : Alan Bryden
Our previous article showed that the ceramic decorations at Castel Béranger are only partially attributable to the Bigot company, which specialized in glazed stoneware. By looking at a contemporary creation, that of the stand presented by Guimard at the Exposition de la Céramique in 1897, we continue to clarify the roles of the ceramic companies that Guimard called upon, the role of the modellers who assisted him, and the nature of the products of their work (stoneware or terracotta). Some ceramic decorations made in the filiation of those of Castel Béranger, but for other constructions, will also be mentioned.
The panel with the cat arching its back which we presented previously can be found (probably before its final installation on the Castel Béranger) included in Guimard’s stand at the Exposition de la Céramique et de tous les Arts du feu in 1897.
This exhibition mixed all the products of ceramics (and glassware) whether they are building materials, technical materials or artistic expressions. For the latter, in addition to the indispensable retrospective section, we find the names of those who will soon express themselves in a remarkable way in the modern style: Bigot, Lachenal, Delaherche, Massier, Dalpayrat, but also larger and more industrial companies with necessarily eclectic productions such as Loebnitz, Keller & Guérin, Muller, Gilardoni & Brault. Of course, the Manufacture de Sèvres is widely represented.
The only picture we have of the Guimard stand is on one of the postcards of the series Le Style Guimard .
Since the Parisian public could only then incidentally know of the existence of the Castel Béranger under completion, this stand was the first public manifestation of Guimard’s modern style and certainly caused a visual shock by its radically innovative aspect. More than just a stand, this presentation is a true architectural achievement presenting a building porch leaning against a blind wall decorated with mirrors. Its walls are made of brick and Guimard, by adding an awning to the tiled roof, has deployed an important combination of ridge, cornice and tympanum which surmounts the rich framing of the openings with clerestory, including a mullioned window and window box in the lower part. The decoration continues inside with a console and pilaster at the start of the staircase, panelling that accompanies the ascent of the steps and probably a ceiling.
On the website of La Tribune de l’Art, a specialised news magazine, in an article dated 24 April, Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges gives a complete history of the Guimard Museum project carried by Le Cercle Guimard and Fabien Choné. At the end of this account, the journalist questions the Ministry of Culture on the museum potential of the Hotel Mezzara, recalling precisely the proposal of the Cercle Guimard. She also questions the Ministry of Finance about the call for tenders — still to come — and its selection criteria.
For the Cercle Guimard and its project, the support of La Tribune de l’Art is a strong sign. This survey can only encourage and comfort the community of enthusiasts who see the Hotel Mezzara as the future standard bearer of French Art Nouveau.
The Castel Béranger’s ceramic decorations are usually renowned for being made of glazed stoneware and for having been produced by the Bigot company. But the discovery of new documents allows us to revise this opinion. We do not discuss here the stoneware mosaics that are mentioned in the article on the decoration of the vestibule. The latter, as well as the article on the panel with the cat arching its back, have been modified.
The Castel Béranger (1895-1898), an apartment building intended for the lower middle class, bore the hopes of a young architect anxious to make a name for himself through a media stunt and thus escape the fate promised to architects who had not graduated from the École des Beaux-Arts: a laborious and obscure life. Its composite and colourful facade bears the mark of the architect’s sudden conversion from a neo-Viollet-le-Duc style to Art Nouveau. It uses many materials: dressed stone, millstone, red brick, glazed brick, ironwork, ornamental cast iron, stained glass and architectural ceramics.
For the latter material, Guimard turned for the first time to two new companies, to the detriment of Muller & Cie who had previously supplied him with the glazed ceramic panels he used to decorate his buildings. Of these two companies, the oldest and largest in terms of production volume is Gilardoni fils, A. Brault et Cie . The most recent is A. Bigot et Cie, which has positioned itself exclusively on glazed stoneware. Bigot was then very attentive to new stylistic trends and Guimard seems to have wanted to experiment with this new material with him. The list of contributors he included on one of the first plates of the Castel Béranger portfolio mentions these two companies in the following terms:
We are certain of Bigot’s participation on two supplies that received his signature: the decoration of the vestibule (signed at the bottom of each panel) and the fireplaces in some dining rooms.
This series of articles devoted to the company of the ceramist Émile Muller in Ivry and its relationship with the Art nouveau movement concludes with a study centred on its production of modern style fireplaces. We thus offer ourselves an escape from Guimard’s creations since, to our knowledge, he did not ask Muller to create and even less to edit objects of the fixed decor. But we take the opportunity of this article to reveal the existence of fake fireplaces of a well-known model of Muller, one of which is in the Metropolitan Museum of New York.
The fireplace — the hearth — has always symbolized at the same time the place of domestic life and where the family unit gathers around when it brings a little comfort during the cold months of the year. In the 19th century, as the dining room became the core bourgeois reception room, the fireplace was an essential part of the decor, even if its functional role diminished as innovations progressed, such as the stove and then the salamander, which was adapted in front of its hearth, and especially central heating by radiators or hot air ducts. The fireplace was then reduced to a role of auxiliary or mid-season heating. However, neither the owners, nor the decorators, were ready to abdicate its presence in the house and its role in social representation.
Art nouveau style fireplaces
Art nouveau will be the style in which the formal aspect of the fireplace will literally explode. From 1895 to 1900, modern models were few, and above all not very visible because they were intended for private interiors, without mass production, with the exception of a few rare models presented in specialized magazines or official trade shows.
In the French sections of the 1900 Universal Exhibition, one can first come across fireplaces whose structure is still clearly neo-Gothic or neo-Renaissance but whose decoration is simply modernized, such as those by William Haensler, Georges Turck or the stand of the Professional Schools of the City of Paris. Other fireplaces are clearly Art nouveau in style, such as those in the dining rooms of the Épeaux and Dumas companys, both in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, which reinterpret the naturalistic style of the Nancéiens in superabundance.
The fireplace presented by Louis Bigaux is more personal, as is that of Henri Bellery-Desfontaine, who gives pride of place to painting on its large hood.
But real stylistic innovations are also present at this exhibition, within the class 66 (fixed decoration of public buildings and homes) with the wooden fireplace from Pierre Selmersheim’s stand and that of Guimard in bronzed cast iron and enamelled lava where structure and decoration merge into organic forms.
For a few years, unique pieces as exceptional as the fireplace in the Masson dining room in Nancy will be produced for wealthy sponsors. They are obviously out of reach for the vast majority of bourgeois budgets.
The purchase of a fireplace, part of the fixed decor of a residence, only concerns owners in the case of a new construction or the modernization of an old dwelling, and not the tenants. This is why the furniture sets sold by cabinet making firms on catalogue usually do not include them. They do, however, offer them at widely varying prices. The Épeaux house, for example, which on the eve of the First World War still hadn’t managed to sell its 1900 exhibition fireplace, displays it in its catalogue at 4,800 F-gold.
The Art Nouveau glazed stoneware fireplaces
Even though marble workshops produced carved mantels on a production line in a few tirelessly repeated models, any fantasy or simply any novelty would be all the more costly as an expensive material must be crafted by a specialized worker. Manufacturers of tile products, manufacturers of glazed stoneware tiles, as well as industrial stove makers therefore quickly understood that, thanks to glazed ceramics and especially glazed stoneware, they could go beyond the simple supply of tiles intended to decorate mantelpieces to mass produce the mantels themselves, made up of a few easily assembled elements offering excellent thermal qualities. In a simple horseshoe pattern around the hearth and with only the obligation to surmount it with one or more shelves and possibly to provide space for accessories (shovels and pokers), they could give free rein to the imagination of designers. This type of article is then of a sufficiently interesting profit for most manufacturers to launch on the market models of glazed stoneware fireplaces of modern style. Below are a few examples.
The earthenware factory of Sarreguemines, in the German-occupied Lorraine region, which for commercial reasons hid behind the names of its French plants in Digoin and Vitry-le-François, presented an Art Nouveau style glazed stoneware fireplace at the 1900 Universal Exhibition by the architect Victor Bury. The beautiful corolla motif of its central part is unfortunately weakened by the modeling of the rest of the mantel, consoles and shelves that the heat of the hearth seems to have melted away.
This series of articles devoted to the company of the ceramist Émile Muller in Ivry gives an overview of his creations in the field of Art Nouveau. In this fourth article, we try to identify the collaboration between Muller & Cie and Hector Guimard.
The Villa Charles Jassedé
Shortly after the construction of Louis Jassedé’s private mansion began in 1893, rue Chardon Lagache in Paris, Guimard began the construction of a villa in the Paris suburbs for Charles Jassedé, Louis’ cousin, at 63 route de Clamart (currently avenue du Général-de-Gaulle) in Issy-les-Moulineaux. As usual, he pushed the building back to the edge of the plot so that he could make the most of the garden.
Built on a much smaller budget than the Jassedé Hotel, this country house nevertheless presents some picturesque details such as its two deflections on the street façade, the high chimneys and the corbelling (more symbolic than real) of the straight span of this facade by oblique irons.
On this occasion, Guimard does not create new models of architectural ceramics, but simply draws from those he already has published at Muller & Cie and even from those in the catalogue. He therefore reuses his metope no. 13 to girdle the base of the corbelled bay (five metopes on the street side, seven on the right-hand side of the façade), also taking up the framing by angle irons and iron blades as for the lintels of the windows of the Hotel Jassedé.
This series of articles devoted to the company of the ceramist Émile Muller in Ivry gives an overview of his creations in the field of Art Nouveau. In this third article, and then in the next one, we address the collaboration between Muller & Cie and Hector Guimard.
Our articles will not present all of Guimard’s architectural ceramic designs known and intended for Muller nor all of the instances of use of his decorative panels by other architects. This exhaustive study is being carried out in parallel for the constitution of a specific repertory.
Hector Guimard is a special case among the modern architects who supplied models to Muller & Cie, since he called upon the Grande Tuilerie d’Ivry for the decoration of his first villas built in the West of Paris in the early 1890s. These orders immediately led to the publication of models. But curiously, as soon as the Castel Béranger was built in 1895-1898, Guimard no longer seemed to place orders with Muller & Cie and turned to Gilardoni & Brault and Alexandre Bigot. Almost a decade later, however, 14 of his models still appear in Muller & Cie’s 1904 catalogue n° 2.
From his first known construction, a modest pavilion praising the therapeutic methods of electricity and electromagnetism for an obscure Ferdinand de Boyères at the 1889 Universal Exhibition, Guimard used ceramics to decorate the panels inserted in the joinery. The professional magazine La Construction Moderne of 22 March 1890 gives an engraving of it (probably from a photo) but we do not know which ceramic models were used or who was the supplier.
Two years later, in 1891, for the Hotel Roszé at 34 rue Boileau in the 16th arrondissement, we have the certainty of a real collaboration between Guimard and Muller & Cie thanks to the presence of several panels of the Hotel on the 1904 catalogue n° 2. At that time, Guimard was only 24 years old and he was far from having the notoriety that would be his from the Castel Béranger. The novelty of his models, which seems less obvious today, must have been enough for Louis d’Émile Muller to feel that this young architect deserved attention.
The friezes on either side of the lintel of the first-floor window on the left-hand span of the street facade are clad with four-part panels showing a branch from which a blue and a white flower emerge alternately.
This series of articles dedicated to the company of the ceramist Émile Muller in Ivry gives an overview of his creations in the field of Art Nouveau. The first article summarized the history of the company. In this second article we look more precisely at the collaborations with the artists and architects of this artistic movement. The third and fourth article will focus on Hector Guimard’s model editions at Muller & Cie and the fith on the fireplace sector.
Following the death of Émile Muller in 1889 after the Universal Exhibition, his son Louis d’Émile Muller took over the management of the company. The latter developed an artistic sector by publishing contemporary artists and intensifying relations with architects for the creation of new models to be published or not.
The private mansion known as La Pagode, built in a Japanese style in 1895-1896 by the architect Alexandre Marcel for the director of Bon Marché, at 57 rue de Babylone in Paris, is a good example of this. Only a part of the enamelled stoneware decoration can be found in the catalogue.
Among the young designers who came into contact with Muller & Cie many will participate in one way or another in the Art Nouveau artistic movement, focused on decorative art and architecture. Their work will generate a large number of new models that are likely to be reused by others. It is therefore essential for a company such as the Grande Tuilerie d’Ivry to keep up to date and to be able to supply without delay those architects, contractors and decorators who are not themselves creators but who wish to give their work a modern look. The Muller & Cie catalogues will therefore include a significant number of Art Nouveau style models.
Catalogue n° 1, which includes building materials with bricks and tiles, is enriched with models in which Art Nouveau makes a discreet appearance on plate 33 with two models of verge tiles and pediments which frame a more traditional neo-Renaissance model. These are models not signed by an architect and were therefore purchased from an anonymous industrial artist.
We will rely more readily on the plethoric catalogue no. 2 of 1904, which is mainly devoted to products for exterior and interior architectural decoration, but which also includes vases, pieces of art and trinkets. Many well-known artists can be found in this catalogue, and among those who worked in the Art Nouveau movement are the sculptors Pierre Roche, Ringel d’Illzach, Jean Dampt, Timoléon Guérin and Louis Chalon.