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  • Habib Diab

Henri Samuel and Philippe Hiquily: a vision of twentieth-century interiors

Henri Samuel (1904-1996), a celebrated French interior designer, left his mark on his era with his eclectic aesthetic vision and his ability to fuse historical and contemporary styles in his interior creations. He is recognized as one of the pioneers in the field of interior design, soliciting contemporary artists to design functional objects for the interiors of his projects, redefining the taste of twentieth-century interiors with his erudition and aestheticism.

Henri Samuel's early career

Henri Samuel was born into a wealthy, cultured family, where art and decoration were omnipresent. His father was a banker, and his grandfather was an antiques dealer. These influences nurtured his passion for decoration, although he initially envisaged a career in finance. However, his vocation for decoration finally took over, and at the age of 21, he began his career as an assistant at Jansen, a prestigious design firm, under the tutelage of Stéphane Boudin, a renowned interior architect.

In 1956, Henri Samuel decided to set up his own decorating company, enabling him to develop his unique approach by skilfully blending historical and contemporary references in his projects. His reputation grew rapidly, and he attracted a sophisticated international clientele, whose illustrious names include the Rothschilds, the Vanderbilts, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, Susan and John Gutfreund, and the famous couturier Valentino.

Hiquily's first "sculpture-furniture" was created during a group show at Galerie Claude Bernard in Paris in 1964. Artist, collector and patron, Viscountess Marie-Laure de Noailles, also exhibited at this event, and commissioned Hiquily to create a work from a piece of porphyry her husband had brought back from Venice. Hiquily made a hammered brass pedestal table with a porphyry top.

Pedestal table, 1965

Hammered brass and porphyry top

80 x 55 cm

Former Marie Laure de Noailles collection

Henri Samuel and Philippe Hiquily: An encounter

This first design, discovered at Marie Laure Noailles, immediately caught Samuel's attention, as he was used to commissioning furniture from César, Arnal, founder of Atelier A, Giacometti and Rougemont.

He quickly recognized the aesthetic potential of the Hiquily style in design.

Samuel commissioned Hiquily to create brass furniture and abstract sculptures for himself and his wealthy clientele. His abstract forms, combined with his impeccable technical mastery of noble materials, help to sublimate exceptional interiors.

Hiquily designed pieces for the Rothschilds, who had already acquired some of his sculptures in the early 60s, following his wife's recommendation after discovering them in the United States.

His creations also found their way into the homes of the Van Zuylen family, the Princesse de Broglie, Jacqueline Delubac and Louise de Vilmorin, who commissioned two tables from him for André Malraux in 1972.

Thus began a period of discovery and exploration for Hiquily in the field of furniture: lamps, tables, quilles...

Philippe Hiquily's art furniture design

This fruitful collaboration with the visionary Henri Samuel ushered in a period of artistic serendipity for Philippe Hiquily through furniture and applied arts. He saw these unique creations as sculptures in their own right, as a continuation of his own work. He creates functional works of art.

Among his most notable creations are the desk for Edmond de Rothschild and a stainless steel living-dining room for collector Robert de Haas's Quai Malaquais apartment. These pieces, now published and offered by Galerie Yves Gastou rue Bonaparte since 2005, bear witness to Philippe Hiquily's significant contribution to the world of contemporary design, transcending the boundaries between interior furniture and sculpture and continuing to inspire lovers of design and contemporary art.


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