This intricate panel is a fine example of the innovative marquetry technique created and patented by the Duvinage family. There are two other nearly identical panels known: one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the other in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Maison Giroux (founded in Paris in the 1790’s) was taken over by Ferdinand Duvinage (1813-1874/77) in 1867, eventually becoming its sole owner in 1874. After his death, his wife, Rosalie (b. 1820), continued to run the firm until 1882. The Duvinage’s ran the firm under the name of Giroux and consequently marked most of their wares accordingly. They exhibited at the International Exposition of 1867, winning a silver medal, and at the Vienna Exposition of 1873, where they received two medals of Merit.
Madame Rosalie filed for the patent of this special marquetry technique in June of 1877, which was listed as une mosaique combinee avec cloisonnement metallique pour objets artistiques et d’ameublement. Giroux exhibited objects in this technique for the first time at the Exposition Universell of 1878, although the types of objects exhibited and who the craftsmen were who executed them are unknown at this time.
As Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide remarks, in her discussion of the Metropolitan example, the panel depicts a bird of paradise perched on a maple branch in a marshy setting composed of different exotic woods and engraved strips of brass simulating twigs or reeds and waves of water.1 Both have traces of coloured pigments which indicate that they were formerly stained in various colours, which now are faded. The style of the subject depicted is a clear reflection of the interest among European designers in far eastern decorative arts just making their debut at the international exhibitions in the second half of the 19th century, particularly that of Japan. First opened up to the west in 1854, Japan had a tremendous influence on art and design and their influential display at the Exposition Universelle in Paris of 1867 made an indelible impression on the industrial arts which would last well up until the first world war.
1 Daniëlle Kisluk-Grosheide, Maison Giroux and Its ‘Oriental’ Marquetry Technique, Article in Furniture History, Vol. XXXV, 1999, p. 154.