Art Deco, New York and the SS Normandie

Last night I was lucky enough to wrangle an invitation to the Benefactor Preview of the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show in New York.  What a treat!  I saw many friends (and friends with new faces) and had a good ol’ time.  One advantage of entering with the chic and elite is that one can see EVERYTHING before the hoards descend on the space.

While strolling the aisles of the show, my eye caught the shimmer of 3 pairs of fabulous Art Deco panels offered by Maison Gerard, one of the eminent dealers in Art Deco and Modern 20th century art in Manhattan.  The panels are verre eglomise, a technique of painting on the reverse side of glass, and are from a series designed for the lavish First Class lounge of the great ocean liner SS Normandie.  This magnificent ship was used by the French government to display the best artisans of France and to promote the new artistic style known as Art Deco.
The SS Normadie was seized in 1940 by the American government when France fell to the Germans.  In what was later a stroke of good luck, the American government decided to strip the ship and turn her into a troop transport vessel for sending American troops to Europe.  While undergoing this refit, she caught fire.  Fireboats then pumped so much water into her that she capsized off the west side of Manhattan … sounds like an episode of the Three Stooges!
These panels were part of the interiors saved before the fire and thus hold a remarkable place in history.  They recall the glamour and beauty of the 1930s and can hang stunningly in a modern and sophisticated space as pieces of art in their own right.  While the largest grouping of the panels now hang in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I wouldn’t mind owning a pair myself.  And oh the stories they would tell if only they could talk!
image credit: Maison Gerard.  Shown above, one pair of three panels