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Grenoble glove factory - Expo Paris 1925

Grenoble glove factory at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1925
The exterior of the Pavilion
Architect(s) : Maurice Dufrène, Pierre Selmersheim
Grenoble glove factory at the Exhibition Expo Paris 1925
The interior of the Pavilion
Architect(s) : Maurice Dufrène, Pierre Selmersheim

Article published in "L'Illustration" in 1925

To the unbelievers who did not want to see and foresee the present Art, to the wicked who fought against it, the glove-makers have come up with the nicest way to "throw the glove". All the ignorant and all the bad receive a spiritual blow, given with a soft and light glove backhand, but all the same given, as it was done in the great century, à la Française.

No one can say at this time that modern Art has not conquered everything, since it is placed at its feet - see the finds of the fine boot makers - and that it is given a hand - see the whimsical and spiritual Art of the glove makers.

We have to go back a long way in history, and even then stop only at the Court's ceremonial clothes, to find a trace of art in the glove. Our generation and many of those that preceded it did not have the imagination or the complete concern for coquetry since they never showed the slightest desire to embellish and decorate their gloves. The glove was a utilitarian protection and offered no interest. Made of plain skin, without any research, even of luxury, it was, aesthetically speaking, non-existent.

If only five years ago someone had predicted that a spacious pavilion would one day be built in honour of the glove at an art exhibition, they would have smiled in disbelief, claiming that the thing could only be very boring.

But in the very heart of the Exhibition, at the central crossroads of the Esplanade, a palace is almost built, and from floor to ceiling, or almost, gloves, always gloves, nothing but gloves, are displayed and shimmering, picturesque, friendly and seductive.

The most optimistic and fervent apostle of modernism would not have dared to foresee such an abundance of audacious formulas for such a thin subject. Flora, figures, fauna, geometry, even cubism play on the musketeer or Crispin lapels, adorn the cuffs, adorn the baguettes or let themselves be guessed, coquettishly, in the lining.

When the time comes when the necessary hindsight allows us to analyse, without bias, the characteristics of modern art, we will find close links between all its manifestations and logical relationships will appear between the line of a torpedo and the facing of a coat, between a piece of furniture and a musketeer lapel, between an aeroplane wing and the silhouette of a little glove finger. Everything is in everything. So is the art.

The art of glove makers is one that knows no law and is not embarrassed by any principles. Ah! why am I not a woman, young, pretty and attractive, to have the joy of adorning small hands with such delicious objects! How long ago was the time when, whether black, white or beige, the glove was a poor, timid and unappreciated accessory! Today, it is part of every party, it finishes every "ensemble"; one mistake on its part and the charm is broken. Also, what ingenuity in the thousand combinations that adorn your hands, ladies, for we poor men remain in an austerity which, it seems, suits our characters.

The materials used, generally skins, are in themselves masterpieces. Their suppleness, like no other, brings pure joy. Here are shimmering colours and soft tones. The Mégisserie dauphinoise and the Etablissements Guillaumet create as artists.

And, on these precious backgrounds, all kinds of embroidery and effects are played out: soutaches, pearls, applications, inlays, perforations. The devices vary endlessly, the techniques are mixed. There is something for every outfit, every range, I was going to say for every mood! There are days when the hands are alert and cheerful, with brief, witty and light gestures; others when the weighed-down fingers remain weary and are dressed only in discretion; there are evenings when the hands are flirtatious, others when they are affectionate and intimate; others when they reach out in search of friendship; some days they become disdainful and haughty, with gestures that push aside.

Gloves, which are a bit of ourselves and prolong our attitudes, gloves which are curious and confidants, which encourage joys and wipe away tears, who will say what can be contained in the schematic palmette, the strange star with clashing branches formed by your few inches of soft antelope or fine kid! Women's hands have been sung, O woman, what poet will sing of your gloves?

Master glove-makers spice up their psychology with humour and grace, so they make vivid images of their gloves. Let us look at them.
Maurice Bergeret, delicate, is a wise man; his ornaments are amiable, with tact. Boudât et Cie has some charming finds; its scale lapels open up like petals, sometimes scalloped, sometimes embroidered, sometimes edged with coloured leather piping.

On simple, bare gloves, Buscarlet places a leather camellia on the wrist, opens a pocket with a small handkerchief, drapes the lining in a bead, or, through the use of straps, belts and passes, evokes the drums of 1793, or the Louis XIV dragoons. Emile Perrin sows flowers, light vases, and turns large motifs into facings. Charles Perrin and Henri Jammet make a reverse side with a bright parrot, border the wrist with feathers, widen the rods with tapestry stitches, and dare good black and white cubism. Landel, more sober, uses the soutache with skill; irises, checkerboards, rosettes are pretexts for well placed ornaments. Jay makes heavy lapels full of decorative science; the embroideries are massive, characteristic, brilliant like sumptuous fabrics. Guigné is light and delicate. Gaston Charlon likes large-scale designs and treats them wonderfully. Chanut curiously buttons his gloves with beautifully worked buttons, decorated with passes, piping and festoons. Hippolyte Bal, with simple perforations, large teeth, obtains effects of correct elegance. What can we say about Capitant et Cie, whose chenille embroideries are contoured in supple meanders; Cartalier, who marks ample cuffs with high initials! Charlon et Cie has arabesques and flowery throws on long theatre gloves. Alpex" washable gloves have small, deliciously complicated designs, in the manner of the Orientals. Reynier has curious combinations of leather in woven strips, the interlacing of which is very new in spirit.

Wheat, the peacock feather - a good luck charm - and perforation are the happy themes that Vallier specialises in. The Fownes glove has graceful finds in light embroidery. Villaret et Cie, with geometrical cut-outs on skin transparencies in opposite tones, achieves good effects.

The torpedo glove, yarn, suede and silk, with pleats, gathers, tassels, chinages, renovates the look of the fabric glove and makes it rich. The Filex glove, also skilfully, throws coloured petals onto a neutral background, seeking out openwork net effects. With Neyret, we are in the enchantment of fabric gloves. What imagination! Hull-like cuffs like large ribbons, flaps, under-flaps, skilful passes, sharp points, round strips, soutaches, weavings, attempts at batik fabrics, reliefs; insects, flowers, geometry, clean lines, bright colours, in short, a whole daring and good-natured modernism. Not even the clasps do not claim to be new. There are some charming ones that come from the Raymond factory or the Sappey house.

The visit is only indicated here, you will continue it. Having learned a lot, you will no longer buy gloves without thinking; you will first tell yourself - national pride - that French hands are only comfortable in French gloves; you will then think - intimate self-esteem - of having both a shoe for your foot and a glove for your hand.

Bearing in mind that a detail is often of great consequence, you will mutter, like me, as you leave, an old local proverb that I have arranged in your own way for the occasion:
Tell me who is gloving you,
I'll tell you who you are.

Article from the magazine "La Construction Moderne" of 4 October 1925

It can be written according to the usual old formula that the use of the glove goes back to the highest antiquity. Only recently, while exhuming All-Ankh-Amon, red leather gloves were found; therefore, gloves already existed at the time of the Pharaohs.

Gloves were used by men-at-arms, clergymen and workers in certain trades and quickly became an important part of the feminine and masculine grooming.

The knight's or lady's glove is mentioned in chansons de geste and medieval novels. In the "Chanson de Rolland", we read:
"Sun destre guant en ad vers Deu tendut... "and in the "Roman de la Rose" the lady says:
" keep her white hands
"Ne halissent, ot uns blans gans. "

There have been so many varieties of gloves since those of the Romans, and since those granted to monks by the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle in 817. We find them represented in illuminations, the mosaics of Ravenna, the Bayeux tapestries, the sculptures and paintings of all periods. So many varieties to finally arrive at the creations inspired by the supreme elegance of French manufacturers. They have succeeded in placing their industry at the forefront of similar industries throughout the world.

This explains why these manufacturers chose Pierre Selmersheim and Maurice Dufrêne to build and decorate the "Pavillon du Gant". The talent of the architect Pierre Selmersheim is well known, and the decorator Maurice Dufrêne has always produced very elegant interiors.

Unfortunately, as with many of the Exhibition pavilions, the authors had only one location with particular difficulties. Their pavilion had to extend lengthwise, along the great avenue of the Esplanade des Invalides, and be set against a long clump of shrubs masking a large ventilation opening in the underground State Railway station beneath the Esplanade. They therefore composed a large rectangular pavilion completely enclosed on its long sides with a main entrance at one end façade and a small door at the corresponding small façade. This pavilion is occupied by a large room lit by two square bays open in the ceiling and lined with a velum.

As with the Sèvres Pavilions, the exterior decoration is simple to emphasise the sober but real elegance of the exhibition gallery: a setting worthy of the perfect creations of a French industry that has ranked first among similar industries throughout the world.

The exterior of the Pavilion

The architecture is of a very special character, the facades have no cornice, no projecting entablature, but a small base of very low projection.

The length of each of the large façades is broken by two very slightly curved projections with slightly sloping sides. These overhangs are crowned by a sort of pediment formed by tiers with very low-profile trays with gilded edges. Each advanced part is pierced by a long, low display case with a highly recessed glass panel, surrounded by a narrow, slightly projecting gilded strip. The upper part crowned by the pediment is plain and decorated with brown painted chamois and plants in a completely cubic note executed by the Ateliers de la Maîtrise des Galeries Lafayette. An inscription "Pavillon du Gant" in extremely modern, prominent letters in brown and gold tones occupies the bottom of the decoration. From the bottom of this inscription, fairly flat gadroons, coffee-coloured like the whole of the advanced part, stand out against golden hollows; the lower part of these gadroons is stone-coloured. The advanced parts thus stand out from the façades; the latter have their facades decorated with engraved modern stone-tone ornaments enhanced with small gold parts; the upper part of these façades is café au lait coloured and is separated from the decorated part by a simple gold band without any projection.

Mr Maurice Dufrêne and Mr Pierre Selmersheim rightly thought that it would be better to give a different appearance to the small end façades of the Pavilion than to leave them with the same lines and the same layout. The facade on the side of the main entrance, shown in the photograph, is rounded, while the one opposite it is made up of straight elements.

The facades of this rear side are decorated firstly at the corners with the same modern engraved ornaments and enhanced with gold parts and then decorated with four panels joined together in pairs by axes. From these axes, a low wall stands out, forming a sort of porch with a flat canopy of the same thickness, in the middle of which is an entrance door with a one-way mirror at the four corners forming solid, gilded triangles. The door is accessed via a threshold and a four-step staircase framed by two octagonal dice.

The rounded facade on the other side of the pavilion, partly visible in the photograph, is interesting, as it allows for two staircases with a landing at the threshold of the main entrance door, which is well protected by the median part of this facade. This completely solid middle section protects the landing from rain and sun, while the openings in the stoops allow very good light onto this landing. This part, which forms an overmantel between the two stoops, is occupied by a small square window with glass, similar in layout to those in the forward parts. This overmantel bears an inscription "Pavillon du Gant" in letters similar to those above and is decorated with long flat café au lait gadroons separated by golden hollows. The shop window and the two stoops are also well protected by a wide and thick horizontal canopy, simple and brown in colour, which is cushioned by the long side façades. The canopy is surmounted by flat decorative elements with rounded parts and café au lait coloured axes separated by wide flat golden recesses.

The entrance vestibule has a stone-coloured ceiling as an extension of the canopy. The facings of the vestibule are of the same colour, decorated with modern engraved ornaments enhanced with gold parts and similar to those of the façades.

The Exhibition Hall is accessed through a two-leaf door with one-way glass panels, framed on each side by a fixed part similar to the panels. The four windows have their corners decorated with solid gilded triangles. The woodwork forms a dark grey frame bordered by a wide golden fillet without any moulding.

The interior of the Pavilion

When one enters the large room of the "Pavillon du Gant", one is seduced by its particularly pleasant effect. This room is of a mouse-grey tone with slightly darker pallies of the same tone and silver fillets which give a touch of elegance to this beautiful ensemble which is further enhanced by four rectangular display cases mounted on smaller pedestals with rounded ends designed by M. Pierre Selmersheim and executed by Messrs Tony Selmersheim and Monteil and furniture with marquetry fillets also composed by Mr. Pierre Selmersheim and executed by Mr. Monin. The brown colour of these display cabinets contrasts with a beautiful cement floor mosaiced with pinkish white marble.

The two square bays illuminating the room are lined with a taut white velum, with modern ornaments, with thin lines of a coarse green tone; these velums are framed by a wide border of the same dark tone. From each corner of the canopy descends a delicately composed silver chandelier suspended from a light silver chain. The velums are framed by a wide mouse-grey scroll decorated with thin interlaced silver circles, the two large frames thus formed limit a wide separating beam of the same tone and constitute the ceiling itself. From this ceiling, a wide band descends onto the walls, ending in a large rounding, which forms a sort of high cornice; this band is decorated with very flat gadroons, of a darker shade of grey and of unequal lengths, separated by vertical silver bands which are also of unequal lengths. From this sort of large cornice, which is very visible in the photograph, there are still some recesses which are cushioned in their lower parts by rounded edges; these recesses are of unequal heights decreasing towards the ground, and are also decorated with the same flat dark grey gadroons separated by the same silver bands. The plinth below these recesses appears to be recessed.

On each side of the room are two display cases which also seem to be set back in these recesses.

These showcases are extremely simple, they are closed by three unframed glass panes without frames sliding in grooves, so their appearance is extremely light. They are lined with a garden-green fleece and are topped by a frame lined with two-way mirrors with modern ornaments representing large engraved and matt flowers that stop most of the tone of the fabric lining the display cases; these two-way mirrors thus have the effect of long panels with pale green ornaments on the intense green background of the display cases. Another similar display case is located on either side of the door opposite the entrance. All of these display cabinets have shelves in their lower sections closed by large panels in mouse grey, framed by a wide band of the same darker colour and enhanced by a wide silver net. These square panels forming doors have no projections or mouldings.

The most varied and sumptuous gloves are displayed in the windows.

A visit to this Pavilion is a revelation. We confess that we did not know how far the imagination of French manufacturers could go in the decoration of gloves. What perfect harmony between the skin or fabric of the glove and the embroidery, what delicious research in the composition of the ornaments and in the choice of materials. Let's not forget that women's grooming requires simple gloves or, depending on the circumstances, decorated gloves with the greatest richness of ornamentation and that the creations of French manufacturers make it possible to satisfy the most difficult and demanding customers.

The desired effect has been achieved: the sober architecture of the pavilion highlights the beautiful and elegant interior decoration, which in turn highlights the beauty of the gloves on display.

We are among the admirers of Mr. Maurice Dufrêne and this is why we can allow ourselves to add that we do not find the decoration painted above the outside windows a happy one; this is our only criticism.