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  • Place of origin:

    Paris (made)

  • Date:

    1923 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Gray, Eileen, born 1878 - died 1976 (designer)
    Gray, Eileen, born 1878 - died 1976 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Lacquered wood, with steel rods

  • Credit Line:

    Given in memory of Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read, by their family

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Furniture, Room 135, The Dr Susan Weber Gallery, case BY3, box EXP

This design by Eileen Gray was a radical reworking of the traditional folding screen. It is constructed from 28 separate panels. These panels pivot on steel rods and can be adjusted to form a semi-transparent partition that is both decorative and functional. Eileen Gray probably based it on her design for the interior of an apartment in Paris, commissioned by the milliner Suzanne Talbot. There a similar ‘screen’ of 450 panels lined the walls and extended part-way into the room.
On this screen each panel is lacquered black, some have a raised square in the centre. This detail gently enhances the surface and softens the overall severity of the geometric design.

Physical description

The screen is formed by 28 rectangles of black lacquer arranged in seven rows horizontally and four vertically. Each horizontal row is formed of three long horizontal rectangles, each with a square in slight relief on each side in its centre, and one smaller, vertical rectangle, the latter placed alternately at different ends of the horizontal rows, with the result that the two end vertical rows are formed of alternating long and short rectangles in opposite proportion at each end. The vertical rows are held together by seven steel rods with a brass hexagonal nut with a domed top, screwed on the top. Round flat steel plates form feet to these rods.

Place of Origin

Paris (made)


1923 (made)


Gray, Eileen, born 1878 - died 1976 (designer)
Gray, Eileen, born 1878 - died 1976 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Lacquered wood, with steel rods


Height: 189 cm, Width: 136 cm, Depth: 2 cm, Height: 26.5 cm panel, Width: 40 cm panel (long), Width: 160 cm panel (short), Depth: 20 cm panel

Object history note

This screen is one of three black examples designed and probably made by Eileen Gray. Another one is in the Robert Walker Collection. A version of the screen in white was shown at the Artistes Decorateurs in 1923.

Descriptive line

Screen in black lacquer by Eileen Gray, 1924-27

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Wilk, Christopher, ed. . Western Furniture 1350 to the Present Day. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996. 230p., ill. ISBN 085667463X.
Charles Hemming and Mark Aldbrook, The Folding Screen, Rizzoli 1999
Royal Academy of Arts (Great Britain). 1972. Victorian and Edwardian decorative art, the Handley-Read Collection, [catalogue of an exhibition held at the Royal Academy] 4 March to 30 April 1972. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1972.
‘The Dispersal of the Handley-Read Collection’ by Simon Swynfen Jervis, in ‘The Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read Collection’, Decorative Arts Society Journal no. 40 2016. p. 54 plate 4

Labels and date

Lacquered wood with brass rods.
Paris: 1924
Given by their family in memory of Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read.
Eileen Gray was born in Ireland in 1879 and, after trainintg at the Slade School, has lived in Paris since 1907. She has lately been recognised as one of the outstanding pioneers of modern furniture. [1973]
[Gallery 74]

By Eileen Gray (Irish, 1877-1976)
Designed and made Paris, France, about 1924
Lacquered wood with brass rods
Given in memory of Charles and Lavinia Handley-Read, by their family

The eastern technique of lacquering enjoyed a particular vogue in early 20th century Paris. Eileen Gray learned the craft of lacquerwork from a young but experienced Japanese lacquer master, Sugawara, who was working in Paris. This example shows Gray's origins as an 'artist-decorator' moving towards Modernism.

Production Note

The screen was made for sale through Gray's shop, Jean Désert, which she established in 1922. The shop was in the Faubourg St Honoré district of Paris.


Wood; Brass; Lacquer




Furniture; Lacquerware


Furniture and Woodwork Collection

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