Lady's dressing table and chair from the Turin Exhibition
Vellum over wood with hand decoration and gilding, copper, brass, glass
30"w x 21"d x 59"h
Patriarch of the famous Bugatti family, Carlo was an innovative designer in turn-of-the-century Italy. From furniture to painting to jewelry, Bugatti envisioned no definitive line between fine and applied art, resulting in refined designs with distinctively artistic characteristics. Allusions to various cultures and time periods make his pieces both historically referential and groundbreaking. He is widely recognized for a unique combination of modern form with decorative Moorish details. Readily identified as Bugatti, these combinations differentiated his work from that of his contemporaries. A testament to his reputation and style came in 1893 when the firm of Merroni and Fossati displayed pieces called "Bugotto" at the Chicago World's Fair.
The earliest surviving example of Bugatti's work is a bedroom set he gave as a wedding gift to his sister dated around 1887. The following year proved to be an important one for Bugatti, the year he was included in both the Industrial Arts Exhibition in Milan and the Italian Exhibition at Earl's Court in London. His furniture from 1888-1900 utilized ebonized wood heavily decorated with metal inlays. A success from the start, Bugatti was given a diploma, honoring his designs in the London exhibition. By 1898 Bugatti opened his own workshop in Milan.
This dressing table and chair represent the pinnacle of Bugatti's designs as they evolved from the late 1800s to the twentieth century. The first example of this new, mature style dates from 1900 with a commission Bugatti received from the mother of the Khedive of Egypt in Constable. The 1902 Exposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna in Turin marked the public presentation of this final phase of Bugatti's furniture. The designs were covered almost entirely in parchment, hiding joints and details, giving the furniture an appearance of solid, unified forms. The arched forms of his earlier style were replaced with almost full circles, while detailed metal plaques remained integral components to the collection.
Following his move from Milan to Paris in 1904, Bugatti's professional direction changed. The Turin exposition marked his last phase of furniture design. In Milan it had been his primary focus, but in Paris he began exploring other objects. By 1905 he was viewed more often as a sculptor. This vanity and chair are representative of Bugatti's highly innovative designs that in their day were radical for borrowing styles and symbols from around the world. The furniture is emblematic of a defining time in modern design when functional considerations were displaced by expressions of style and personality.
1902 Exposizione Internazionale d'Arte Decorativa Moderna, Turin
Carlo Bugatti au Musee d'Orsay, Masse, pg. 63 illustrates a photograph of the dressing table and chair in a display room at the 1902 Turin Exposition, ppg. 73, 88, 101 for period photos of the set
Bugatti, Hawley, ppg. 1-37 for discussion on Bugatti's oeuvre
Private collection, Milan