Just In: Jean Prouvé’s Dactylo Desk

August 6, 2015

An artisan, designer, and engineer, Jean Prouvé (1901–1984) was one of the most innovative and influential figures in 20th-century French building and furniture design. A humanist (he was a resistance fighter in World War II)–he championed great design for all, such as his prefab housing designs for displaced European refugees following the conflict. Prouvé’s life and career trace the evolution of modern design in France. His father, Victor Prouvé, was one of the foremost artists and designers of the Art Nouveau period; in his twenties, Jean Prouvé worked with Robert Mallet-Stevens, the precisionist master architect of the Art Deco era; and in later years he partnered with such greats of Functionalism as Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, and Charlotte Perriand.


Jean Prouvé, Dactylo desk, Estimate: $20,000–30,000

Practicality was paramount to Jean Prouvé–his designs are notable both for their economy of means (not a single structural element is superfluous), and resulting graceful forms. His formal training was as a metalsmith, and he crafted in wrought iron gates for the War Memorial at Verdun in 1918, and various parts for a number of buildings in France. Many of his signature furniture pieces include tapered legs and supports of folded sheet metal, made with a technique that he patented in the 1930s. The Dactylo desk (the word is French for “typist”) is a classic example of the Prouvé style. Fabricated in the 1950s in France, the desk features a folded enameled steel frame, legs finished with stainless steel sabots, and an oak top. The design is at once efficient, elegant, and effortlessly chic.


Prouvé’s simple but bold furniture is now held in such public institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Design Museum, London; and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. His pieces are also in high profile private collections like those of Brad Pitt, Martha Stewart, and art dealer Larry Gagosian.
“Jean Prouvé.” MoMA. Oxford University Press, 2009. Web. 15 June 2015.

Lot Information:

Jean Prouvé
Dactylo desk
Ateliers Jean Prouvé , designed c. 1950
Model no. BD 41
27″ x 41.5″ x 24.5″
Literature: Peter Sulzer, Jean Prouvé: Complete Works, Volume 3: 1944-1954, Basel, 2005, p. 178, fig. 1159.1; Galerie Patrick Seguin and Sonnabend Gallery, Jean Prouvé, Paris, 2007, pp. 330 and 336-337.
Estimate: $20,000 – 30,000
October 11, 2015 Modern Art & Design Auction

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