Among the furniture of Victor Horta (1861-1947) acquired by the King Baudouin Foundation in 2007, are some remarkable pieces designed for the Turin International Exhibition of Decorative Arts in 1902. They are considered as the highest point in Art Nouveau furniture produced by Horta. The lot included a drawing-room table, a wall clock and a ceiling light that came from the architect’s private house in Rue Américaine in the Saint-Gilles area of Brussels.
Victor Horta was one of the founders of Art Nouveau. Together with Paul Hankar, he was the originator of this new style in which furniture and objects of daily life were in perfect harmony with the architecture.
Harmony of colours
Horta designed this series of furniture especially for the 1902 Turin International Exhibition of Decorative Arts and he sent a dining room set and a set of office furniture. These two ensembles welcomed visitors to the Belgian section of the fair and were situated in the same space. Horta had taken particular care to harmonize the colours of the two sets of furniture: the desk and its accessories were linked by nuances of yellow, white, gold and sea green, whilst the dining room was in tones of brown, red and gold. In parallel with this harmony of colours, the materials used were also selected with care. For the desk, placed on a turquoise carpet, Horta opted for sycamore wood because of its yellowish hews, whilst American maple combined with mahonia for the sideboard (light brown, enhanced with gold) harmonized perfectly with the red silk punctuated with golden highlight that hung on the background wall.
In 1902, the international press could not stop talking about the interiors that Horta had designed and indeed he was awarded a diploma of honour, the highest distinction awarded by the international jury. Following this award, Horta was also decorated with the Order of the Crown of Italy.
When Victor Horta died in 1947, the true worth of Art Nouveau was no longer appreciated. Jean Delhaye (1908-1993), the architect and disciple of Horta, wanted to preserve and honour his master’s work. He purchased the furniture from Horta’s widow and devoted his life to promoting his work. In 2007, the King Baudouin Foundation purchased this furniture from Jean Delhaye’s children.