NEW YORK, NY -- The Duchess of Windsor’s dressing table is a handsome example showcasing the level of care Maison Jansen exhibited for their premier clients. This form of table – tripartite elevation with recessed central bay – was produced for numerous female clients including First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in her White House dressing room. Many such dressing tables produced by Jansen were decorated with trompe-l’oeil painting featuring direct biographical references to the specific client. This example takes that decoration to a higher level, treating the table at which the Duchess applied her makeup as an exquisitely upholstered throne or dais. (An equally theatrical take on the unattainable ‘throne’ was created in the main floor library of the Bois de Bologne residence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor: curtained, Turkish-style banquettes on a raised stage or dais.)
The pale blue moiré finish fabric represents the Duchess’ favored color, which through the decades-long employ of Maison Jansen evolved from a NEAR Royal statement to a faint sky hue; the color softened as the client ‘matured’.
The rather unique feature incorporated in the fabrication of this dressing table is the false front panels with locking mechanisms that secured the drawers and their contents. Such a feature no doubt reflects the Duchess’ great sensitivity for securement of her privacy. Indeed, the mechanism seemingly defines the table as a modern version of the document or despatch box of State, where valuable documents would be kept from the peering eyes of spies or those deemed enemies of a monarch.
In my near four decades of research of the international, Paris-based Jansen, I see this dressing table as one of the great touchstones of the firm’s design lexicon. It represents Jansen’s mastery of the theatrical for the benefit of recording history in the making…
About the Author
James Archer Abbott currently serves as the Executive Director of the Lewes (Delaware) Historical Society. Among his publications are the books JANSEN (Acanthus Press, 2006), JANSEN Furniture (Acanthus Press, 2007), and a soon-to-be-released new edition of Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration (co-authored with Elaine Rice Bachman; The White House Historical Association and Winterthur, July 2021)
English & Continental Furniture & Decorative Arts
Auction Wednesday, May 26, 2021 at 10am
Exhibition May 22-24
Pale Blue Moiré Silk-Lined Dressing Table designed by Maison Jansen for The Duchess of Windsor
The inverted breakfront top above a recessed drawer and cupboard, flanked by false-front panel doors with locking mechanism and opening to drawers and shelves, the brass knobs with entwined intials EW.
Height 30 inches (76.2 cm), width 57 1/4 inches (145.4 cm), depth 23 inches (58.5 cm).
Property of a Private Collector, Greenwich, Connecticut