Vanity closet

Eileen Gray (1878-1976)
France, 1926-1929
Oregon pine (pitch pine), plywood, cork, aluminum, glass, traces of turquoise paint
161 x 60 x 165 cm
Gift of Mme Goisot, 1967
Inv. 41349
© Les Arts Décoratifs

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The first example of this vanity closet was created for the master bedroom of the E-1027 house designed by Eileen Gray with the Romanian architect Jean Badovici. The house, on an outcrop overlooking the sea at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera, was an open-plan building raised on stilts with horizontal windows and a flat roof, built according to the rules formulated by Le Corbusier. This vanity closet was designed to separate the toilet space from the bedroom itself. Eileen Gray made the unusual choice of aluminum for the closet as she considered it “a beautiful material whose coolness is very pleasant in warm climates.” The closet, a perfect example of the importance the artist accorded to rationality, shows how she incorporated her furniture pieces into the interior structure. The back and sides are covered with a single sheet of folded aluminum; one of the doors is also of aluminum, with a mirror on its other side, while the second door is made of cork, a material that also covers the drawer fronts and the upper part of the closet. The pitchpine and plywood interior is divided into two sections: a narrow section that is partly covered by the cork door, and a wider section with three swivel drawers, a drop-front drawer and two glass-fronted drawers. As the narrowness of the closet makes it unstable, the artist fitted it with a base unit that could be weighted down and with an aluminum plate on the top that could be connected to a metal tube to attach the closet to the ceiling. Three examples of this piece are known to exist. The painted oak one from the E-1027 house was acquired by the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the sale of the villa’s furniture in 1992. Another version featured in the Paris studio that Eileen Gray furnished for Jean Badovici in 1930-1931 on Rue Châteaubriand near the Champs-Élysées, where she created a dressing-room area with a partition at right angles and the closet placed parallel to the windows. There was a third example, made of oak, in Eileen Gray’s house, the Villa Tempe a Pailla in Castellar (Alpes-Maritimes), which she sold in 1954 to the British painter Graham Sutherland and which appeared at a public auction at Christie’s in London in 1998. The closet in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs was purchased by the donor, Madeleine Goisot, at the sale of the furniture from Jean Badovici’s house in Vézelay in March 1960. It may have come from his studio-apartment, or was perhaps the prototype (as suggested by the materials used and a number of structural alterations missing from the other examples). Madeleine Goisot, who lived with Jean Badovici at the end of his life, provided information that corroborates this theory.

É. P.

Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici, “E 1027. Maison en bord de mer,” L’Architecture vivante, special issue, winter 1929.
Stewart Johnson, Eileen Gray, Designer, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 1979.
Caroline Constant, Eileen Gray, Paris, London, Phaidon, 2003.

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