Musée d'Orsay: Attributed to Georges Rey Day and Night

Attributed to Georges Rey
Day and Night

Day and Night
Attributed to Georges Rey
Day and Night
Between 1900 and 1906
Maple and sycamore, marquetry in various woods
H. 130; W. 89 cm
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Le jour et la nuit [Day and Night]

Featured in a catalogue for a public auction in Versailles in 1970, this chair was then described as "having been owned, according to tradition, by Sarah Bernhardt". Nothing supports this story, but the enduring link between this piece of furniture and the name of the famous tragic actress is symbolic of the influence that she alone had in the area of decorative arts. The fact that little is known about the person who made it, a cabinet maker or a woodcarver by the name of Georges Rey, adds further mystery to the object.

Carved decorations completely cover the frame of the chair. Branches and roots extend through the feet, the legs and the back, surrounding the person sitting there with plants and flowers. At the top, on the left, a large sunflower recalls the interest that certain decorators expressed in this flower. Within this abundance of organic forms, there are also the curves of a female body and even fantastic animals which can be made out here and there. At the bottom of the chair, a mouse and a snail are a reminder that as Japanese prints and paintings became more widely available, these small animals and other insects frequently featured in European 'objets d'art.'

Day and Night perfectly reflects an era which was passionate about new floral and plant forms, and distinguished by a totally new, ornamental boldness. Many Art Nouveau cabinet makers, such as Gallé, Vallin and Majorelle, shared this taste for decorative abundance, but here it attains a rarely equalled, almost baroque climax.

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