Boiserie de salle à manger
This collection of furniture remained relatively unknown until it was dismantled and bought by the future Musée d'Orsay in 1977 as until then, it had never been shown in public. It is the only decoration by Charpentier that has been preserved.
It was commissioned by Adrien Bénard (1846-1912) for the dining room of his villa in Champrosay (Essonne). This banker was one of the patrons of the Art Nouveau artists, and it was under his directorship that the Compagnie du Métropolitain Parisien chose Hector Guimard to design the entrances to the underground railway.
By 1900, Charpentier had already produced several decorative interiors, but it was at Champrosay that he was at his most innovative. Restricted by two columns supporting a beam, he skilfully got round the obstacle, creating an astonishing, new decorative motif (L'Illustration). He transformed the columns into pillars clad in wood, from which sprang a large low-slung arc that appeared to support the central beam.
For this country dining room, he used only climbing plants for the decorative elements. Each panel is carved with a different motif - convolvulus, climbing roses, raspberry canes, peas, beans – whose delicate, sinuous forms are in counterpoint to the powerful curves of the structure.
Bronze fittings with touches of gold set off the red of the mahogany, but only the door handles and the drawer knobs, in the form of gooseberries, now remain. The fingerplates on the doors have also disappeared.
As for the large jardinière by the ceramicist Alexandre Bigot, it fits perfectly in the overall design with its undulating lines and light green-grey colour that subtly complements the dark red of the mahogany. Two small faces of laughing children, one of Charpentier's favourite themes, are hidden in the foliage.
Let us conclude with the anonymous observations in L'Illustration: "[...] everything here bears the original and personal mark of the artist; every element has been created specifically for its intended location. So the overall effect of this dining room set is unusually striking. Beautiful proportions, a laudable concern for simplicity and logic in the choice and positioning of decorative motifs, these are its great qualities [...]. Mr. Bénard's dining room deserves to be regarded as one of the most accomplished decorative works of Alexandre Charpentier's statuary".