ART DECO FURNITURE: A LELEU MASTERPIECE
This example of a Jules Leleu sideboard encompasses the best of Art Deco inlaid detailing with the forward interpretations of classical forms. Art Deco furniture made toward the end of that period looked at form, which we now see in the classic 1940s furniture design.
Leleu’s recognition as an Art Deco designer was apparent in the early stages of the 1920s. His pieces appeared to have a less graceful form and were not as sophisticated as his later work. The style was heavier and less fluid; however these early designs employed elegant bronze trim with exotic wood veneers. Inlaid motifs were used in a sparing manner; with simple geometric detailing add to give the appearance of the Art Deco form. These elements would be embellished and continued to be a trademark of Leleu’s work, which was important for the firm’s ability to secure commissions that required a refined and chic décor.
This French Art Deco sideboard designed and made by Leleu has all the inherent qualities of a masterpiece by Leleu. The magnificent pearl and ebony inlay against the beautiful palisander wood veneer plays off the stunning Pierre Dunand lacquered top. The inlaid flowers and butterfly designed 2 center doors expands to more delicate and touches of small flowers on the outer 2 doors. With beautiful, delicate bronze trim and sabot feet, the shape of this piece is made to appear simplified, but well defined.
Behind the doors of the cabinet hides a magnificent solid sycamore, fully functioning interior. The detailing of this interior includes a palisander wood veneer to the edge of all the shelves and fully veneered backs to the doors. Also, the original ivory signature plaque is inlaid in the upper corner of the front right door’s interior.
This style was employed by Leleu in may other pieces of furniture for the dining room. Similar inlaid designs can be seen in examples of dining tables and smaller commodes. It could be assumed that this piece was part of a commission for an entire dining room suite.
However, one important aspect of the design of this piece is the extraordinary scale and size of the piece. At a length of 8½’, this makes the sideboard an unusually large and grand dimension. To create such an uncommonly large piece of furniture required special consideration to the proportions of its form. However the design of the room for which the piece was made clearly influenced why this was remarkable size was requisite.
Leleu, as one of the great Art Deco furniture designers was also very successful in the post Art Deco style. As Leleu’s designs evolved in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, he kept with the modernist trends of sleeker forms and use of modern materials such as steel and plastics. However, his designs have always maintained an international aspect of fashion and fashion. The scale and quality of this extraordinary piece of furniture has endowed its singular proportional form as a quintessential example of furniture design in the 20th Century.
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About the Author: Lewis Baer is the Managing Director of Newel, the world's largest antique gallery located in New York City