Finding Inspiration in Masterpieces: Part III, Musée des Arts Decoratifs

Part III of our series is here, and our next stop is the Musée des Arts Decoratifs! Next week we’ll be back to talk about Dave’s next steps for his ambitious personal project(s). – Jenn

By D4m1en (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By D4m1en (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Half hour outside and I was ready for the next stop: the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, down the street from the entrance to the Louvre (and literally within another wing of the same palace. )

The layout in this museum is not as attractive as the earlier two – pieces are pretty much just lined up by period. In most cities the collection of 15th to 18th century furniture would be amazing, but not after seeing the other two museums in the same day.



This collection uniquely continued on to current works. French 19th c furniture was less derivative than British or American. The Art Nouveau collection was very good – Galle, Majorelle, and others. There was early art deco from 1910 that I had not been aware of. The reason that I was visiting my third furniture museum in one day though was to see the Art Deco pieces. I was hoping to see some Ruhlmann as well as some of the other designers that had exhibited at the 1925 World’s Fair in Paris.



The Art Deco exhibit was at the furthest end of the building, in several large rooms. Ruhlmann had pride of place, as he should. There were four beautiful pieces lined up along a partition.  The first was a roll top desk, a direct descendant of the Oeben desk.  It unfortunately was damaged – the joint holding the front to the side was open. Scandal!  The joint had failed because it was a single dowel! That makes some of the very thin connections more clear – he was willing to sacrifice function for form. The piece was extremely elegant, but the finish was also marred. The tambours in the roll top must have flexed and the ebony slats were rubbing against the housing. With very fine tolerances, wood is not necessarily a great material, only the most beautiful.



There were several pieces along the wall. I went around to the other side and there were five more Ruhlmann pieces. The first was the very famous cabinet état, a triangular cabinet almost four feet tall, three feet wide, with the most amazing marquetry on the door. Unlike some museums, this piece was so accessible I could have touched it. I didn’t.  The marquetry looked fragile, and deserved to be left alone. I was able to photograph the entire piece exterior at very close distance, close enough to see the saw cuts in the marquetry.


I had gone to Paris to find an art deco piece to replicate, and had found the Oeben desk instead. In for a penny, in for a pound.  I would make this piece also!

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Heller & Heller

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