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Drawing, Perspective and Plan View of a Spiral Staircase that Turns to the Left

This is a Drawing. It was model maker: Adolph Bordeaux. It is dated January 2, 1883. Its medium is graphite, pen and black ink, brush and grey watercolor on cream laid paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw’s generous gift of their collection of architectural models for staircases will be the subject of a forthcoming Cooper-Hewitt exhibition.
This is one of 10 meticulous staircase schematic drawings from the Thaw collection, presented as a gift to accompany the staircase models. The drawings are by Adolph Bordeaux, a journeyman of the compagnonnage movement doing his master tour in the 1880s.
Bordeaux’s rigorous training is evidenced by the accuracy and precision of these scale drawings. Initially, the journeyman candidate worked for five to seven years perfecting all aspects of the craft—in this case, the joinery associated with constructing spiral staircases—from the planning and drafting to the construction of the models. He would then continue his education with travel to various cities in France to study specific details from master craftsmen. This cycle of travel from city to city was known as Le Tour de France. In each city, the candidate would design and construct an elaborate model of the type specifically associated with the master craftsman of that city. The last step for the student, when he would be considered compagnon fini, was the production of a finished construction of such elaborate design and excellence that he would be granted the title Compagnon du Tour de France.
Each Bordeaux drawing is annotated with the name of the city that hosted him and the date of the execution of the design. It is thereby possible to trace the duration and scope of Bordeaux’s Tour de France. The Compagnonnage Guild still exists and, periodically, the group publishes books and catalogs detailing the construction of fine joinery and woodworking projects. Their specific goal is to resurrect fine craftsmanship and to continue a tradition of excellence that is in danger of disappearing.
L’art du menuisier, the multivolume work by André-Jacob Roubo—cited by Sarah Coffin in the label text that will accompany the Thaw collection exhibition as germane to the tradition of compagnonnage—is part of our Decloux collection of ornament and architectural prints. The museum’s collection is noted for its extensive collection of drawings for architectural projects; these highly-accomplished, detailed drawings will be a wonderful complement to the museum’s existing holdings.

This object was donated by Eugene V. Thaw and Clare E. Thaw. It is credited Gift of Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw.

  • Chair (USA)
  • bronze-plated steel, nylon upholstery.
  • Gift of Knoll Associates, Inc..
  • 1971-16-1

Our curators have highlighted 7 objects that are related to this one. Here are three of them, selected at random:

  • Tile (Spain)
  • glazed earthenware (high fired decoration).
  • Gift of Eleanor and Sarah Hewitt.
  • 1920-15-7
  • Melusine Brooch
  • gold, gold wire, diamonds, emeralds.
  • Gift of Jacques Jugeat.
  • 1969-143-13

Its dimensions are

56.5 x 46 cm (22 1/4 x 18 1/8 in.)

It is signed

Signed in ink, lower right: ABordeaux

It is inscribed

In graphite, upper right: Fait par a Marsielle / le 2 janvier

Cite this object as

Drawing, Perspective and Plan View of a Spiral Staircase that Turns to the Left; Model maker: Adolph Bordeaux (French, active 1880–1890); France; graphite, pen and black ink, brush and grey watercolor on cream laid paper; 56.5 x 46 cm (22 1/4 x 18 1/8 in.); Gift of Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw; 2007-53-1

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Made to Scale: Staircase Masterpieces—The Eugene & Clare Thaw Gift.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Drawing, Perspective and Plan View of a Spiral Staircase that Turns to the Left |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=23 March 2023 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>