Armoire

1926–42


Object Place: Flushing, Queens, New York

Dimensions

Overall: 134.6 x 92.7 x 52.1 cm (53 x 36 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

2004.2200

Medium or Technique

Mahogany, lumber-core plywood, cherry, tulipwood, maple, rosewood, brass

Not On View

Collections

Americas

Classifications

Case furniture and boxes

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.

Markings

Rear of case: stamped on PL side “G 1051 C”; on PR side “D16003” (with an errant punch on the first zero).
PR top corner of the rear is stamped with the logo of the Company of Master Craftsmen: An eagle within an oval with the words “The Company of / Master Craftsmen” in capital block print
(See Notes section for further drawer marks)

Provenance

1994, offered at auction by Dixon Galleries, Inc., 251 Park Avenue South, New York, New York, 10010 (October 19, 1994, sale 941019, lot 169); 1994, purchased by S. Bernard Pare, 222 West 23rd Street, New York, New York 10011; after 1994, acquired from Pare by Priscilla Cunningham, Hampton Bays, New York; 2004, given by Ms. Cunningham to the MFA (Accession Date February 23, 2005).

Credit Line

Gift of Priscilla Cunningham in honor of Charles C. Cunningham Jr. and Thomas L. Cunningham