Musée d'Orsay: Escalier de Cristal Circular Screen

Escalier de Cristal
Circular Screen

Circular Screen
Escalier de Cristal, Pannier Frères et Cie
Circular Screen
Between 1885 and 1890
Rio rosewood, acid-etched glass, chased and gilded bronze
H. 99; W. 56; D. 26 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Circular Screen (detail)

Ecran circulaire [Circular Screen]

In spite of the lack of any signature or mark, this decorative screen is without doubt a product of L'Escalier de Cristal, a sumptuous shop in Paris, selling porcelain, crystal and bronze furnishings. This object, in fact, features in a notebook in which Henry Pannier, co-director of the shop with his brother Georges, used to make a sketch of each item of furniture and each object produced by the Escalier de Cristal. Alongside the drawing he would make a note of the price, the name of the maker and who commissioned it. Thus, we know that eight screens of this type were produced. Three of these were destined for clients living in London and Rome, an indication of the international reputation of Escalier de Cristal.

This object in particular reveals the Western world's fascination for the Far East throughout the 1880s. Thus, the wonderful glass engraving presents a cockerel and a hen, taken directly from theukiyo-e, repertoire, more specifically from the drawings of Hokusai and Sogakudo. As for the bronzes, there are many references here to the bronzes of the last Shogun era, both fantastic, like the dragon mask on the top of the screen, and naturalist, like the partridge on the centre of the base.
Objects like these were a response to the late 19th century city dweller's desire to recreate an imaginary Orient, adapted to his taste for opulent decoration. It is produced in a spirit of eclecticism, an eclecticism which selects its sources with care, and transposes them with great freedom. There is no desire to capture or understand the essence itself of these sources, but merely a wish to create a beautiful object which astonishes, enchants and disorientates.

Enlarge font size Reduce font size Tip a friend Print