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Eckart Muthesius, 1904 – 1989
Germany

Furniture from the Manik Bagh, Indore, c. 1930

Eric Touchaleaume private collection.


In 1930, a gifted young German architect by the name of Eckart Muthesius was commissioned to design a new palace for an Indian maharaja aged just 25 and hooked on modernity: Yeshwant Rao Holkar. The two had become close friends at school in Europe.

The avant-garde palace, known as the Manik Bagh (‘Garden of rubies’), was located at Indore in what was then the state of Mahratta, the heartland of India that is now part of Madya Pradesh.

The palace was first and foremost a private residence, designed for the family life of Yeshwant, his lovely young wife Sany Ogita Devi, and their future children. There were only a limited number of rooms as well as several state rooms, including a ballroom where the young couple and their friends might dance the fox-trot and listen to jazz.
The official ceremonial palace of the Holkar family was in fact the Lal Bagh, built by the father of Yeshwant in classical English style.

During the construction of the palace and for several years after, the princely couple – advised by their friend Muthesius and by Henry Pierre Roché – combed Parisian salons and artists’ studios to put together an exceptional collection of Modernist masterworks.

Among the most remarkable pieces were the three versions – in black marble, white marble, polished bronze – of Brancusi’s‘Bird in space’, which stood amid other superb works representative of Art Déco, the U.A.M. and the Bauhaus: desk by Ruhlmann; reclining chair by Le Corbusier, Jeanneret, Perriand; ‘Transat’ armchair by Eileen Gray; numerous pieces by Sognot; seats and lamps by Breuer and Luckhardt.

 

The palace was equipped with all the modern comfort, including the first air conditioning unit ever installed in India. Eckart Muthesius also created a specific range of furnishings and light fittings with clean geometrical lines, which won acclaim when shown in Berlin in 1931-32, prior to being shipped to Indore.

The purpose-designed furnishings created for the Manik Bagh included pieces for the two state bedrooms, which were made as either one-offs, pairs, or in several examples.

The existence of the Manik Bagh was recalled from oblivion in 1970, when Robert Descharnes published an article on it in Connaissance des Arts. At the time the palace still had its original furnishings and was in a good state of conservation.

In 1976, what with the abolition of the privileges of the raj, the Holkar family was compelled to sell the “Manik Bagh” to the Indian government. Most of the furniture was sold at auction by Sotheby’s in Monte Carlo in 1980.
Few pieces that had a strong sentimental value, which had been designed for the private living spaces by Muthesius, the architect and family friend, were conserved by the heirs of the maharajah, notably the pair of armchairs from the bedroom of the Maharani.

Pair of club armchairs from the bedroom of the maharani, Manik Bagh, circa 1930.

Lacquered wood base and ivory fabric based on the original model.

Marked on the frame of one of the two armchairs “Schlafzimmer Her Hs” ( bedroom of his Highness)
Elaborate and painstaking craftsmanship went into the making of this very comfortable chair.

Model made in at least two examples and shown in period photos.

The model is distinctive by its low-cut back and compact lines. Also noteworthy is the enveloping line of the backrest, a characteristic of most of the armchairs designed by Muthesius.

28.5 x 28.7 x 24.4 in.

Bibliography :

- «Palace of Raja : 1934 Style», Fortune, février 1934, p.67.
- Robert Descharnes, «En Inde un Palais 1930», Connaissance des arts, septembre 1970, p.55.
- Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, The Maharaja Palace in Indore», 1930, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, pp.60-61.
- Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, India 1930-1939, Architecture- Design-Photography, 1999, Goethe Institute, pp. 67-69.
- «Le Palais du Maharadjah d’Indore», Ed. Galerie Doria, Paris, 2006, pp.95-97.

Pair of club chairs for guest bedroom,  Manik Bagh, circa 1930.

Lacquered wood base and ivory fabric based on the original model.

Model made in at least two examples shown in period photos.
Craftsmanship is elaborate and painstaking. Although the two models of armchairs share some features, they remain distinct.
The back of this model is higher than that preceding one, and its overall lines are less compact.

29.7 x 29.5 x 26 in.

Bibliographie :
- Reto Niggl, Eckart Muthesius, The Maharaja Palace in Indore, 1930, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, pp.60-61.
- «Le Palais du Maharadjah d’Indore», Ed. Galerie Doria, Paris, 2006, pp.95-97.

Armchairs in-situ, Manik Bagh, circa 1933.

© DR © Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

Stool,  Manik Bagh palace, circa 1930.

Glazed pear-wood and ivory fabric based on the original model.

Model made in at least three examples with natural wood or black lacquer finish, as shown in period photos.

16.1 x 17.7 x 14.2 in.

Bibliography:

Reto Niggl, Eckart Muthesius, The Maharaja Palace in Indore, 1930, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, pp.58, 65, 75, 99.
Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, India 1930-1939, Architecture- Design-Photography», 1999, Goethe Institute, pp.68 et 71

Four-door ‘drum’ pedestal table from entrance hallway of the Manik Bagh, circa 1930.

 Glass, laquered walnut and pear-wood and alpaca.

Model made in at least two examples shown in period photos of reception salon and entrance hallway of the Manik Bagh.

20.5 in.x 31.5 in.

Bibliography :
- «Palace of Raja : 1934 Style», Fortune, février 1934, p.66, pour une photographie d’époque.
- Reto Niggl, Eckart Mutheisus, The Maharaja Palace in Indore, 1930, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, p.37.
- Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, India 1930-1939, Architecture- Design-Photography, 1999, Goethe Institute, p.56.
- «Le Palais du Maharadjah d’Indore», Ed. Galerie Doria, Paris, 2006, p.77.

Cubist pedestal table with three plateaux from the music room of the Manik Bagh, circa 1930.

Lacquered walnut and pear wood.

22 in. x31.5 in.

Bibliography :
- Reto Niggl, Eckart Muthesius, The Maharaja Palace in Indore, 1930, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, pp.36, 45.
- Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, India 1930-1939, Architecture- Design-Photography, 1999, Goethe Institute, p.62.
- «Le Palais du Maharadjah d’Indore», Ed. Galerie Doria, Paris, 2006, p.101.

Pedestal table with two plateaux from bedrooms of the Manik Bagh, circa 1930.

Lacquered solid wood. Glass.
Model made in at least two examples, one of which with green lacquer finish shown in period photos.

23.6 in. x 27.5 in.

Bibliography :
- Reto Niggl, “Eckart Muthesius, The Maharaja Palace in Indore”, 1930, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, pp.68-69.
- Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, India 1930-1939, Architecture- Design-Photography, 1999, Goethe Institute, p.75.

 

Folding three-leaf wall mirror from the wardrobe of the maharani of Manik Bagh, circa 1930.

Glass with rosewood mounts and base.
Model made in at least one example and shown in period photos.

73.6 in.x 19.7 in.

Bibliography :
- Reto Niggl, “Eckart Muthesius, The Maharaja Palace in Indore”, 1930, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, pp.64, 65 et 95.
- Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, India 1930-1939, Architecture- Design-Photography», 1999, Goethe Institute, p.68.

 

Diwan from the billiard room of the Manik Bagh, circa 1930.

Glazed wood and padded seat with ivory fabric based on the original model.
Model made in at least one example shown in period photos.

26,8 x 63 x 30,3 in

Bibliographie :
- Reto Niggl, “Eckart Muthesius, The Maharaja Palace in Indore, 1930″, Ed. Arnoldsche, Stuttgart, 1996, p043.
Reto Niggl, «Eckart Muthesius, India 1930-1939, Architecture- Design-Photography», 1999, Goethe Institute, p.60.

Two outdoor lanterns, Manik Bagh, c. 1930. 

Frame with square-shaped silver painted metal brackets with two step-by-step boxes and glass-plate bulb cover on base.
Initial assembly on granite stone pillar later replaced by a black lacquered solid redwood.
This pair of lanterns was in the palace park.

85.4 in x 20.8 x 20.8 in.

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