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Works of Art & Other Collectibles Works of Art & Other Collectibles ETIENNE DRIAN(1890 - 1965)
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An Eight-Panel Verre Eglomis é Mirrored and Painted Metal Screen c. 1928
Signed Drian at bottom of one panel
Originally acquired by Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II of Indore, from an exhibition in France in 1931, this screen was inherited by his daughter, the present Maharani of Indore, Usha Devi, who presented it to the current owner in 1977
Maharaja Yeshwant Rao Holkar II & Manik Bagh Palace , Indore 146
The Palace of Manik Bagh (Jewel Gardens) was the result of one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable collaborations between a talented architect and his inspired, wealthy patron. Eckart Muthesius (1904 – 1961), the German architect, and Prince Yeshwant Rao Holkar Bahadur (1908 – 1961), the future Maharajah of Indore, first met at Oxford in 1928. By commissioning him to design his palace in Indore, the Prince gave Muthesius the opportunity to create what would result in Muthesius’s most iconic work and probably a masterpiece of 20th century design.
The first modern palace in India called upon Muthesius’s skills not only as an architect but also as a furniture, lighting, interior and landscape designer. The finished work was a Modernist masterpiece in the International Style, which boasted a simple and elegant atmosphere in the private rooms, with minimal ornamentation, all made with the highest quality materials against a restrained colour palette, confirming its primary purpose as a living environment for a young couple, in sharp contrast to a palace for state occasions. The furniture was conceived by Muthesius and by a selective group of the avant garde European designers as an extension of the architecture.
Manik Bagh Palace became the jewel not only of Indore but also the rest of the country. The palace boasted avant garde furnishings that were acquired in Berlin, London and Paris, including an amazing number of series production pieces: tabular steel chairs by the architects and brothers Wassili and Hans Luckhardt, as well as by Marcel Breuer in Berlin, the chaise longue by Le Corbusier/Charlotte Perrind, the ebony, a chrome and leather armchair Transat by Eileen Gray in Paris and tubular steel furniture by the PEL company in London. In addition, luxury furniture of glass was acquired, besides which metal and wood furniture was also designed and made especially for the palace by such Parisian furniture artists Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Louis Sognot and Charlotte Alix.
The elaborate art deco work illustrated here, in the following pages, was personally acquired by the Maharaja, from an exhibition in France at some point in 1931, for the music room of his famed palace and was created by the renowned French visual artist Etienne Drian.
Etienne Drian 1890-1965
Etienne Adrien, a French visual artist was born in 1890 in Bugneville, France. Also known as Adrien Drian, he was a painter, draughtsman, master etcher and illustrator. He emerged as one of the leading fashion illustrators of the dress reform era. The stylized elongated forms of his elegant female figures perfectly exemplified the refined and sophisticated fashions of the times, especially in Paris, and could be found in magazines such as La Gazette du Bon Temps, Fe’mina, L’Ilustration and Flirt amongst others. Harper’s Bazaar was also proud to present him to its readers as a frequent illustrator of short stories, presenting intimate glimpses of Parisian life. In the 1920s and 30s he expanded his repertoire to include portraiture, murals and decorative arts that brought him further acclaim.
Drian painted this eight-panel verre eglomisé (reverse gilded glass to mirror finish) metal screen commemorating, or in a way celebrating the arrival of the first black Jazz band to perform in Paris. Jazz was then distinctly identified as novel and exclusively American music. The band’s arrival in Paris heralded the spread and popularity of Jazz in Europe, resulting in an increasing number of Jazz aficionados. Drian’s reverse painted eight-panel folding screen shows five black musicians playing in great gusto and demonstrates the popularity of Jazz at the time. What is very interesting is that Drian depicts real-life musicians and perhaps the original band members who initiated Parisians to Jazz on their home grounds.
It is evident that Drian referred to photographic portraits of the Jazz musicians for this screen. Berenice Abbott (1898 -1991), a student of the famed photographer Man Ray made a name for herself photographing leadings artists, painters, sculptors and musicians. It appears that Drian collected and then composited the Jazz musicians from available portraits for this screen. The drummer Buddy Gilmore swinging at the drums is identified from Abbott’s portrait of the musician. Buddy Gilmore had sailed on the SS Pocahontas, touching France at the coastal town of Brest. Two probable members of his band were Frank De Bronte and Ward “Trombone” Andrews.
Over the years the screen has attracted much attention from ardent jazz aficionados and admirers and numerous photographs of the architect, palace and the young Maharaja’s family were published in the international press and also in journals such as The Fortune, The Illustrated Times of India and many others.
Interestingly, a highly restored version of the screen painted similarly (the pianos and finer details are different in both versions) by Drian has changed many hands in the past and is currently in a private New York collection. However, it notably lacks the zest, vigour and finesse of the screen, originally belonging to the Maharaja, that we are privileged to present here.