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JA N S E N

JEAN-HENRI JANSEN, THE COMPANY’S FOUNDER, c. 1920

well ensconced in France, and Jean-Henri Jansen was dedicated to its satisfaction. Little is known about Jean-Henri Jansen (1854–1928), reportedly a native of the Netherlands. (It is possible that he was born Jan-Hendrik or Johannes Hendrickus.) Only 25 or 26 when he founded his firm in 1880, he probably had worked for a decorating or architecture firm, one that offered the kind of expert training and rarified client contacts that led to his quick professional ascent. During or soon after the 1883 International Colonial Exposition in Amsterdam, for example, Maison Jansen began its long history as a decorator to royalty with commissions for William III of the Netherlands and Alfonso XII of Spain. Alfonso XII and his posthumous son and heir, Alfonso XIII, were among Maison Jansen’s important patrons, and

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the crest of the Spanish royal house was emblazoned on the firm’s letterhead even after the latter king was sent into exile in 1931. Maison Jansen’s success warranted a move in 1885 to larger, more prestigious quarters at 9 rue Royale, between the fashionable rue de Rivoli and the Place de la Madeleine.2 Behind a Louis XV facade designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel (1698–1782), the architect of the Petit Trianon, the five-story, four-bay building had been constructed in 1758 by architect Louis Le Tellier. Using the large expanses of two later street-level windows, Jean-Henri became adept at promoting the highly fashionable historical styles of 18th-century France in changing vignettes; his “skill and attention to detail . . . were new to Paris.”3 Some of these displays consisted of simple arrangements of Sèvres vases and ormolu clocks, and others were more ambitious room settings. Illuminated by the glow of gas streetlamps, these elegant displays became destinations for strolling couples and potential clients. Within its first decade, Maison Jansen became one of Europe’s leading design houses, in no small measure because of Jean-Henri Jansen’s masterful promotional skills, which included participation in the important exhibition venues. One of the firm’s earliest acknowledgments was a silver medal at the 1883 Amsterdam exposition, which emphasized the political and military importance of colonial empires. Along with re-creations of Dutch East Indies villages were displays by other empire-building nations. France was given the largest space, and Jansen, only three years in existence, was among the chosen exhibitors. Jansen’s interpretation of 18th-century royal taste reinforced France’s unrivaled domination of the aesthetic world. Similar recognition came at Paris’ Exposition Universelle in 1889, where Jansen received another

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...

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