Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Secretary

Artist:
Carlo Bugatti (Italian, Milan 1855–1940 Molsheim)
Date:
ca. 1895
Medium:
Walnut, tin, copper, vellum, and mirror glass
Dimensions:
H. 88, W. 39-1/2, D. 12-1/4 inches (223.5 x 100.3 x 31.1 cm.)
Classification:
Furniture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Edward C. Moore Jr. Gift, 1969
Accession Number:
69.69
Not on view
Trained as an architect, Bugatti is best known for his highly original furniture designs incorporating various exotic elements. Moorish arches and pseudocalligraphy in pewter have been combined in this secretary.

The design elements of this secretary, such as columns and arches, as well as the use of vellum, copper, and tin, demonstrate Carlo Bugatti's admiration for the arts and architecture of North Africa. Bugatti's use of contrasting colors and materials creates an exotic and dramatic effect. The round center section opens to reveal the writing surface.

Considered a part of the international Art Nouveau movement, Bugatti looked to North African and Middle Eastern design for inspiration. He was particularly influenced by "keyhole" and "horseshoe" arches found in North African architecture, which he experienced firsthand during his travels in the 1880s. His use of traditional materials such as vellum, copper and tin, and in some instances knotted silk tassels, which refer to fringe on Persian rugs, further enhance the exotic affect. Here, Bugatti's use of inlaid tin imitates Islamic and Japanese calligraphy, which was a favored motif.
Henry Geldzahler in "Reports of the Departments." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 28 (October 1969), pp. 63–64, ill., calls it "Writing desk" and dates it ca. 1901.

Olga Raggio. "Rethinking the Collections." Apollo 139, no. 383 (January 1994), pp. 10–11, fig. 8.



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