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.
Wood, shagreen (likely ray skin), laquer, gilding
22 × 21 × 12 in. (55.9 × 53.3 × 30.5 cm) (show scale)
Purchased with funds given by an anonymous donor
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.
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)
overall, 73.142_bw_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Why were these four chairs placed together?
They show a style of seating that was used in various places, during various times and how the idea of a stool evolved. There was also a direct cross-cultural influence of traditional African craft on European modernism in the early 20th century.That display is actually a wonderful example of what "Connecting Cultures" as a whole attempts to convey.
What's the difference between a stool and a tabouret?
A stool and tabouret are essentially the same thing: a low seat without a back or arms, meant for one person.