JANSEN: THE PAST REIMAGINED
BY JAMES ARCHER ABBOTT
Today, the work of the Paris-based but internationally recognized design firm Maison Jansen (1880-1989) is assigned iconic status, in many cases rivaling that of some of its prestigious and at one time better recognized clientele. Encouraging this connoisseurship have been auctions over the last decade that secured greater appreciation for the exclusive and unsurpassed Jansen aesthetic, including one of the possessions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor - Jansen's most celebrated patrons, bar none. Jansen, noted client Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy soon after leaving the White House in 1963, is "the only firm with a library of historical documents & the artisans to execute" magnificent things. (1) For over a century, they were the firm that the world's social and political elite turned to in search of the definitive stage for both public and private living.
On the following pages, one can easily appreciate the riches and breadth of Jansen's select design vocabulary. Included are exceptional pieces displaying exquisite lacquers, finely chased ormolu mounts, and skillfully painted eglomisé. There are stunning representations of Jansen's glamorous take on Hollywood backdrops of the 1930s (i.e.: an elegant mirror-veneered bureau-plat), as well as museum-worthy examples of their methodical takes on 18th century Bourbon cabinetry (i.e.: the magnificent ormolu-mounted coromandel lacquer armoire and the pair of fruitwood and polychrome lacquer side cabinets). And then there are masterworks - the pieces that uniquely represent both the talents of Jansen and the larger-than-life personae of specific monarchs, politicians, and members of society's elite. These include a dazzling ormolu and crushed-resin coffee table featured in the 20th century's greatest fête - the Shah and Shabanous's 1971 2,500th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Persian Empire at Persepolis, Iran, and a uniquely personal pair of trompe-l'oeil commodes made for the Duchess of Windsor's private domain at La Croë, Antibes, France - the first residence shared with her husband, the former Edward VIII of England. Of these magnificent commodes, there are no finer examples of Maison Jansen artistry.
Having closed its Paris doors in 1989, Jansen now exists as a standard of luxury and quality that shall never be equaled again. Fortunately for us, the unrivaled beauty of their work, survives in the pieces included in this catalogue.
James Archer Abbott currently serves as curator of the Johns Hopkins University's Evergreen Museum & Library. Formerly the curator of the Decorative Arts for the Baltimore Museum of Art, Mr. Abbott is the author of Jansen (2006, Acanthus Press) and Jansen Furniture (2007, Acanthus Press).
(1) Carl Sferrazza Anthony, "Love Jackie," Forbes American Heritage, Vol. 45, No. 5 (September 1994): 98.