American Art Collection Curatorial

From the Collection—Step into my Parlor (Cabinet)

Attributed to Alexandre Roux (American, born France, 1816-1886).  Parlor Cabinet.   1860-70.  Wood with inlays, porcelain, gilding and gilt metal.  Milwaukee Art Museum, Bequest of Mary Jane Rayniak in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph G. Rayniak  M1985.58

One of my favorite decorative art objects in the Museum’s permanent collection is actually a rather bewildering piece.

It’s an enormous Parlor Cabinet, designed and produced sometime between 1860-1870 by Alexandre Roux (1813-1866), a French-born cabinetmaker who moved to New York to open a successful furniture business.

At first glance, this is a monumental and pretty confusing object.

It has columns and pilasters, just like a building.  Its top is a stepped pagoda, which gives it the effect of an Asian temple.  And it’s big:  five feet tall, over six feet wide and nearly two feet deep.  The cabinet part, in the central portion is actually pretty small in comparison to the rest of the piece (look for the key hole in the door to find it).

So is it architecture or furniture?  The answer is:  both.