Musée d'Orsay: Louis Majorelle 'Orchid' display case

Louis Majorelle
'Orchid' display case

'Orchid' display case
Louis Majorelle (1859-1926)
'Orchid' display case
Model designed circa 1905
Moulded solid mahogany, mahogany veneer, chased and gilded bronzes
H. 219; W.139; D. 58 cm
© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

'Orchid' display case
'Orchid' display case

Vitrine "Orchidées" ['Orchid' display case]

This piece is typical of the stylistic choices which won Majorelle general critical and public acclaim and made him the leading representative of "modern" French furniture of his time.
It illustrates the language he developed on the eve of the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1900. Shaking off the influence of Gallé, who had enabled him to escape the weight of styles from the past by the study of plant models, he put the emphasis on structure and gave less space to ornamentation, which nonetheless remained botanical. The plants are easily identifiable and form the structure of the modelling.

This large semi-circular display case decorated with gilt bronzes on the orchid theme is a good example of the luxury furniture designed by Majorelle. A luxury that neither the gilt bronze nor the rich, warm mahogany render ostentatious because of the elegant simplicity of the architectural lines which never stray into excessive suppleness. The tradition of the fifteenth century is apparent here, especially in the use of gilded wood which, following for a time in the footsteps of his father Auguste whom he had succeeded in 1879, Majorelle had long made a specialty.

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