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INTRODUCTION

P

ATRONIZED BY QUEENS AND MILLIONAIRES, CAPTAINS OF I N D U S T RY,

leaders of international society, and the occasional dictator, Maison Jansen was the most famous and influential interior-decorating firm of the 20th century. Although long associated with an elite block of buildings on rue Royale in Paris, near the Ritz Hotel and the restaurant Maxim’s, the firm had a global reputation almost from its founding in 1880. Jansen initially promoted contemporary design—including the heavily tufted Turkish style and the restrained Japanism of the 1880s—and continued to do so throughout its existence. But in response to political and social influences within France, the firm adopted an 18thcentury revival aesthetic that became its calling card. Later, Jansen added the early-19th-century imperialistic design vocabulary created for Napoleon Bonaparte, a resurrection that appealed to modern “emperors” (kings, shahs, and presidents) who sought the firm’s guidance throughout the 20th century. By the time Jean-Henri Jansen (1854–1928) founded the company in the early years of France’s Third Republic, Jansen and its now largely forgotten contemporaries—among them Jules Allard et Fils, E. Delmas, Mercier Frères, A. Gouverneur, and Duveen Brothers—had redefined the profession of decorator. The best designers operated not as servants but as social equals: dinner partners or weekend guests who maintained a keen eye for architecture, design, and antiques. Jansen never decorated a house for a client, noted one employee; the firm’s staff “instead assisted the individual . . . [This] is why you rarely see a period credit assigned to a Jansen interior . . . We merely aided . . . It was not proper for one to overshadow the client.”1 Embedded in the foundation of Jansen’s reputation were talented artists, designers, and businessmen. Some of them, frustratingly, are known only by their surnames; others have a more visible established history. During its existence, Jansen employed Leon Amar, Roger Bengue, Léon Bénouville, Carlos Ortiz-Cabrera, Michel Camus, Albert Cazes, Francis Chaillou, Delavigne, Pierre Deshays, Dietrich, Harold Eberhard, Oliver Ford, André Gignoux, Paul Heuclin, Michel Ignazi, René Joubert, Arthur Kouwenhoven, Victor Lehmann, Henri Leris, Claude Mandron, Paul Manno, Leo Monte, Poubelle, J. Regnault, Serge Robin, Pierre-Marie

OPPOSITE: STÉPHANE BOUDIN IN PRIVATE STUDY (WATERCOLOR BY ETIENNE DRIAN, C. 1950)

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Jansen: Decoration (excerpt)  

Jansen showcases 30 of the company's most alluring commissions, including rooms for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the Shah and Shahbanou...