In the early 1920s, many Americans, including critics, journalists, and even government officials believed that there was little or no good modern design being produced in the United States. In response to that concern, several of the nation's leading museums and department stores sought to...
In the early 1920s, many Americans, including critics, journalists, and even government officials believed that there was little or no good modern design being produced in the United States. In response to that concern, several of the nation's leading museums and department stores sought to instruct and inspire designers and improve consumer's taste by exposing them to good styles of the past and the exciting new fashions coming from Europe. In 1925, for example, New York's top furniture retailer, W. & J. Sloane, established a manufacturing subsidiary named the Company of Master Craftsmen to create affordable reproductions of antiques from a "golden age" of furniture design. Sloane collaborated with curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to make exact copies of some of the museum's furniture, calling its products "registered reproductions" and suggesting that their faithful reiteration of accepted masterpieces from the past would elevate current taste. At the same time, the Metropolitan Museum showcased the latest Art Deco designs in a touring exhibition of modern furniture by French designer Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann. The Company of Master Craftsmen quickly added this new, alternative source for improving the sophistication of American furniture to their repertoire. They developed adaptations of the French designs, such as this armoire, part of an en suite bedroom set. In name, form, and ornament, this piece emulates Ruhlmann's furniture. Yet its innovative and less expensive materials and construction techniques, including the use of a sprayed-on finish of newly invented cellulous nitrate lacquer as a shiny, protective top coat, demonstrate American ingenuity. This text was adapted from Ward, et al., MFA Highlights: American Decorative Arts & Sculpture (Boston, 2006) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.
Early history unknown; apparently offered at auction by Dixon Galleries, Inc., 251 Park Avenue South, New York, New York, 10010 in 1994; purchased by Bernard Pare, 222 West 23rd Street, New York, New York 10011 (212-647-0649) and acquired from that firm by the donor.
Gift of Priscilla Cunningham in honor of Charles C. Cunningham Jr. and Thomas L. Cunningham
- Company of Master Craftsmen for W. and J. Sloane, active 1925–1942