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Émile Gallé "Chardons des Sables" Chest of Drawers


This "Chardons des Sables," or "Sand Thistle," multi-wood chest of drawers, by Émile Gallé, is a moving meditation on the artist's own mortality. The blackened sand thistle flowers, figured on the marquetry front and top of the piece, seemingly blow in an ocean breeze, while a seamless transition occurs between the sky and the undulating ripples of the sea. Gallé has taken advantage of the natural striations in various types wood to enhance this effect—including fruitwood, Bubinga, red coconut palm, and sugar maple—as well as the coloration of the natural veneer, through which the storied rays of the hardwoods to serve as a secondary pattern to the dominant dark veining. The walnut carcass of the piece stands on four short legs with five long, lockable drawers, with designs of umbelliferae, sand thistles, and sea flora and fauna, such as brittle stars and bladderwrack sea weed. At the point in which the marine becomes flora, and flora becomes marine, the conceptual unity of this exceptional piece reaches its culmination.


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  • Curator's Notes

Item #: F-18720
Artist: Émile Gallé
Circa: 1903
Dimensions: 35.5" height, 49" width, 26.5" depth
Materials: French walnut, Fruitwood, Bubinga wood, Red coconut palm wood, Sugar maple wood, Gilt brass hardware and original keys
Signed: "Gallé"
Literature: Chest of drawers pictured in The Paris Salons 1895-1914, Volume III: Furniture, by Alastair Duncan, Antique Collectors Club, 1996, p. 235

Émile Gallé created this piece in 1903, after he was diagnosed with leukemia, dying the following year. The work stands out not only in its masterful artistic technique, but also hearkens back to his scientific career, serving a lifetime as a botanist, giving him a lifelong penchant for morphological accuracy, such as those on display here in this chest of drawers, with the various vegetal form executed in remarkable and beautiful detail.