Louis-Jean-Sylvestre Majorelle (1859-1926)

French decorator and furniture designer Louis-Jean-Sylvester Majorelle. He was one of the greatest designers of Art Nouveau furniture. The products he created are considered works of art.

Photo of Louis Majorelle, 1908

Image source: http://artnouveaujugendstil.blogspot.it


About his life

Majorelle was a decorator, cabinetmaker, and manufacturer. He was born in Toul in 1859 in a family of furniture designers and manufacturers, Auguste Majorelle (1825 – 1879). Louis studied in Nancy, and in 1877 he was enrolled in the Paris School of Fine Arts. Two years later, his father died and he was forced to return to Nancy, where, together with his brother, he headed the family faience and furniture factories. In 1894, Louis Majorelle, inspired by naturalism and symbolism, created a completely new collection of furniture. His designs were notable for the use of inlay. He was best known as a cabinetmaker. He produced two main types of furniture: a collection of luxury furniture and a cheaper one. He launched the metal processing technology for the production of bronze. It was originally used to decorate furniture, and in 1896, in collaboration with Daum, lamps were launched. Louis Majorelle opened some retail stores. And in 1901 he was appointed vice-president of the famous school of Nancy.  After 1918, in the collections of Majorelle products, geometric shapes came to replace the floral ones, which symbolizes the arrival of the Art Deco style. Louis Majorelle died in 1926.

Statue of Louis Majorelle, Ecole de Nancy Museum, Nancy

Image source: https://fr.wikipedia.org


What kind of furniture did he produce?

The French designer inherited his father’s furniture workshop, specialized in luxurious Neo-Classical and Neo-Rococo pieces. From the 1890s, under Emile Gallé’s influence, Louis Majorelle turns himself towards a modern Art Nouveau style with elegant proportions and refined marquetries. He was a master in the design of furniture using carving, inlay, and ormolu, or other metal decorative elements; the curving themes were generally based on floral patterns. He, however, privileged an architectural balance and finds in nature a key inspiration.

ORCHIDÉES BUREAU AND FAUTEUIL, 1905 carved mahogany with gilt-bronze mounts, the bureau with rosewood veneered drawer fronts original cuir de chèvre writing surface, two central locking frieze drawers and three locking gallery drawers, the fauteuil upholstered

Image source: https://www.christies.com

The work at Nancy is amazing in its variety, originality, and beauty, although there is a tendency toward an excess decorative richness. Majorelle’s style incorporated a modified flowing line with polished woods, highlighted by Art Nouveau bronze mounts in the 18th-century tradition. Majorelle’s catalogs between 1900 and 1914 show a tremendous output: suites of furniture for individual rooms, furniture using botanical motifs or other stylistic themes, and specific pieces whose prices ranged according to custom-ordered materials.

Armchair, 1899-1900. Carved walnut, stained; back and seat covered with embroidered and painted satin with a fringe (reproduction of the original upholstery)

Image source: https://collections.vam.ac.uk


Info sources: A History of Interior Design https://theredlist.com https://www.britannica.com http://www.senses-artnouveau.com