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Stool (Tabouret)

Decorative Arts and Design

On View: Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
European Art Deco designs borrowed heavily from other cultures, both past and present. Designers from countries that had extensive colonial holdings in Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific frequently appropriated forms and incorporated materials taken from these distant cultures.

The French Art Deco designer Pierre Legrain looked to traditional Asante, or Ashanti, stools for the form of this stool, modifying the African example by employing lavish materials including lacquered wood and sharkskin. The Asante are a people native to the Asante region of present-day Ghana, for whom stools have long been powerful symbols of authority, unity, and lineage. It’s unclear to what extent Legrain was aware of the Asante stool’s cultural significance. Although his design offers an example of masterful craftsmanship and inventive reinterpretation, it also poses problematic questions about cultural appropriation in the context of French imperialism, which justified exploitation of a sophisticated and established culture.
MEDIUM Wood, shagreen (likely ray skin), laquer, gilding
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES ca. 1923
    DIMENSIONS 22 × 21 × 12 in. (55.9 × 53.3 × 30.5 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS no marks
    SIGNATURE no signature
    INSCRIPTIONS no inscriptions
    CREDIT LINE Purchased with funds given by an anonymous donor
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Stool (tabouret), black lacquer and sharkskin over wood. U-shaped seat covered with sharkskin, supported by four polygonal columns lacquered black and a center column covered in sharkskin. Center column is narrow at center and flares toward top and bottom and rests on a flat square base covered with gold leaf. The outer lacquered columns are polygonal each with a flange beneath the seat. Rectangular base, tri-stepped on front and back and slopping at either end. Middle step covered with gold leaf base otherwise covered with black lacquer. CONDITION - Good. All edges of parchment are worn.
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Decorative Art, 20th-Century Decorative Arts, 4th Floor
    CAPTION Pierre Legrain (French, 1889–1929). Stool (Tabouret), ca. 1923. Wood, shagreen (likely ray skin), laquer, gilding, 22 × 21 × 12 in. (55.9 × 53.3 × 30.5 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Purchased with funds given by an anonymous donor, 73.142. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 73.142_bw_SL3.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 73.142_bw_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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