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  • Detail of pressed diamond point aluminum doors.

    While Jean Prouvé called himself “a factory man,” Le Corbusier called him an “architect-engineer,” and still others have categorized him as a constructeur, which translate to builder, but also references the turn-of-the-century debate between constructeurs and coloristes. Constructeurs were known for their craftsmanship and ability to create well-made pieces of furniture whereas coloristes were decorators who put together colorful interior ensembles.

     

    Prouvé led a factory-based practice and his works were always underscored by his early experiences as a blacksmith. In fact, many of Prouvé’s early handmade designs have the same look and feel as the works in bent and pressed steel and aluminum which were fabricated by machines later in his career. It is not so much the artist’s design perspective that changed over the years but rather his methods of production, argued design historian Christopher Wilk: “Prouvé, like Michael Thonet in the nineteenth century, designed his furniture, created the means to make it himself, and then produced and sold the end product in very large quantities. He knew intimately the processes of cutting, folding, and welding sheets of steel and of aluminum—reflected in the appearance of his designs—and was deeply immersed in the craftsmanship of factory production.” The present cabinet exemplifies the ways in which Prouvé created factory-produced objects whereby each piece maintained the spirit of the handmade.

     

    Galerie Steph Simon prospectus illustrating the present model cabinet. 

    This cabinet is an outstanding example of one of Prouvé’s most iconic designs. Created in the 1950s, its antecedents stretch back to the early 1940s, when he first produced cabinets in collaboration with Charlotte Perriand and Pierre Jeanneret. He went on to create various permutations of the form which differed primarily in the materials used for each component piece. Beginning in 1948 and into the early 1950s, Prouvé produced cabinets in standardized models that most closely relate to the present example. In 1948, he produced the BA 12 model, which was shorter in height than the present example by twenty centimeters. This early iteration also featured sliding doors in plywood rather than aluminum. In the early 1950s, the workshop produced models nos. 150, 151, and 152. Models 150 and 151 were the same size but differed in their materials: no. 150 featured oak doors with varnished sheet metal sides and legs whereas no. 151 featured doors made from varnished aluminum. Model 152 had the same general form as these cabinets but was shorter in width by forty centimeters and was also produced entirely in aluminum. Variations also existed within the models, such as paint color, the treatment of the metal elements, and the form of the legs. On rare occasions, as in the present example, he incorporated diamond-aluminum, making this work particularly important and visually striking. 

    • Condition Report

    • Description

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    • Provenance

      David Gill Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner, circa 1996

    • Literature

      Peter Sulzer, Jean Prouvé: Œuvre Complète / Complete Works, Volume 3: 1944-1954, Basel, 2005, pp. 171, 173
      Galerie Patrick Seguin, Jean Prouvé, Volume 1, Paris, 2017, pp. 392, 397, 414

    • Artist Biography

      Jean Prouvé

      French • 1901 - 1984

      Jean Prouvé believed in design as a vehicle for improvement. His manufactory Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, located in Nancy, France, produced furniture for schools, factories and municipal projects, both within France and in locations as far flung as the Congo. Though he designed for the masses, pieces such as his "Potence" lamps and "Standard" chairs are among the most iconic fixtures in sophisticated, high-design interiors today. Collectors connect with his utilitarian, austere designs that strip materials down to the bare minimum without compromising on proportion or style.

      Prouvé grew up in Nancy, France, the son of Victor Prouvé, an artist and co-founder of the École de Nancy, and Marie Duhamel, a pianist. He apprenticed to master blacksmiths in Paris and opened a small wrought iron forge in Nancy. However it was sheet steel that ultimately captured Prouvé's imagination, and he ingeniously adapted it to furniture, lighting and even pre-fabricated houses, often collaborating with other design luminaries of the period, such as Robert Mallet-Stevens, Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand.

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Property from a Private Collection

27

Important cabinet, model no. 150

1950s
Painted steel, pressed diamond point aluminum, oak, oak-veneered wood, brass.
39 1/4 x 78 5/8 x 17 3/4 in. (99.7 x 199.7 x 45.1 cm)
Produced by Les Ateliers Jean Prouvé, France.

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Estimate
$150,000 - 200,000 

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Design

New York Auction 7 December 2021