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Finding Inspiration in Masterworks: Part IV, the Ruhlmann Cabinet D’Etat

For the last segment of our Masterworks series (for now – Dave and Elizabeth are heading back to Europe this summer!) we’re back to talk about Dave’s new ambitious personal project(s): the Oeben Secretaire a Cylindre and a Ruhlmann Cabinet D’Etat. In our previous installment at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs Dave had just decided that instead of taking away 1 project from these masterpieces, he would take on two.

If you missed any of the previous posts, you can catch them here: Part I, Part II, Part III. – Jenn

Ruhlmann's Cabinet D'Etat on the left, vs. Oeben's Secretaire a Cylindre on the right.

Decisions, decisions – Ruhlmann’s Cabinet D’Etat on the left, vs. Oeben’s Secretaire a Cylindre on the right.

I’m not 100% sure which I will start first. At this point I intend to collect information on both pieces, and start making test or sample parts when I know enough to feel it would be useful.  I also need time from the items I need to run my daily business, so that I can work on these longer term visionary items.
The issues with the Ruhlmann pieces are similar to the Oeben piece. The structure isn’t clear, and the marquetry is of an extraordinary quality and size. From my inspection at the time I concluded that the flowers are made in smaller clusters then inlaid into the background. There has been remarkably little published about Ruhlmann’s cabinet construction.  He didn’t make any furniture himself, he designed the object then skilled employees translated the concept into furniture.  Ruhlmann selected the materials, but it isn’t clear to me yet whether he was involved in reviewing the construction details.  I need to spend some time reviewing the materials in the decorative arts museum library to understand this better.

A side-by-side look at the marquetry styles

A side-by-side look at the marquetry styles

This blog will be helpful by making me think things through.  So far it has made me realize that I need to contact the curators at both museums to see if additional information is available, and possibly to have a private viewing of these pieces when we go back to Paris for our 35th wedding anniversary. Also, that there is an online catalog for these museums that will be much more useful now that I am interested in particular pieces rather than everything in general.

Oeben was also famous for his mechanical components.  Moving parts and hidden drawers were standard.  I am not yet aware of any in this piece, but it seems unlikely that something with such a complex design would not have any special features.  It will be fun to find them.

 

In preparation for my time at the American School of French Marquetry, I began a sample Ruhlmann panel motif first.

In preparation for my time at the American School of French Marquetry, I began a sample Ruhlmann panel motif first.

For more behind the scenes, be sure to follow Dave on Instagram! We’ll be back next Tuesday with a review of Dave’s time at the American School of French Marquetry in sunny San Diego!

 

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Heller & Heller

Custom Furniture

Serving Virginia & Beyond