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MARIE CUTTOLI (France, 1879–1973)

The name Marie Cuttoli brings to mind the revival of the Aubusson tapestry and Modernism in the 1930's in France but she became a footnote in history.

Nonetheless she is undeniably known for bringing Modern art to the textile industry.

She was responsible for reviving the art of tapestry weaving and carpet making in the modern era, particularly through her commissions to modern, and especially, Cubist painters in particular Fernand Léger, Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.

Phillips - the auction house - is selling this summer a console table (below) that belonged to her and was installed in her apartment on 55 rue de Babylone - which is famous for being the former address of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent.

Console table @Phillips 1930s Glass, brass, painted wood sold via Phillips

The table has unknown origins as to who designed it, but nonetheless reflects the avant-garde sensibilities of the 1930's in France.

It was acquired later on by former French Minister of Culture in France - Michel Guy.

Marie Cuttoli standing in front of a Fernand Léger tapestry, 1926. © Thérèse Bonney/BHVP/The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

Whilst Cuttoli had no formal education, the French-born visionary - Born in Tulle (a textile centre) - moved to Paris at the age of 16 and in 1920, married the Algerian-born art collector and politician Paul Cuttoli (who was her divorce lawyer from her first marriage) after a 6-year marriage with Jean-Baptiste Plantie - former prefect of the Constantine province in Algeria.

Her ties to Algeria and exposure to the industry naturally lead her to open a workshop later on in the 1920's to teach the trade of tapestry weaving in Algeria to local women which she then sold to production houses in Paris and displayed them at Maison Myrbor.

Le Corbusier in his Paris workshop in front of Fernand Léger’s tapestry, Composition aux trois figures, Retour de Grèce. © Fondation Le Corbusier/ADAGP, Paris/Artists Rights Society, New York 2020

In a Lord & Taylor press release, Cuttoli was lauded as “a staunch advocate [for] . . . the cause of equality and liberty for the Arab woman.” Certainly a debatable topic amongst critics.

Her plans to start in a career in high fashion in Algeria might have appeared a natural continuum.

Cuttoli's idea was to hire European artists to design clothing in the Modernist styles while being made in Algeria.

She worked amongst others with Natalia Goncharova who designed her appliqué dresses but with the advent of the Depression, she turned her business around and started courting Cubist artists to apply their works to tapestries and moved her workshop to Aubusson, not far from her birthplace.

The businesswoman hit on the brilliant idea of commissioning tapestries to reproduce paintings.

Le Corbusier, Marie Cuttoli, woven in Aubusson, 1936. © Fondation Le Corbusier/ADAGP, Paris/Artists Rights Society, New York 2020

Success ensued and Cutolli in 1927 started commissioning carpet cartoons (full-scale preparatory drawings) from modern painters.

It was a great opportunity to revive the industry as tapestries were the most prized form of textile art.

American collector Helena Rubinstein in front of Pablo Picasso’s tapestry, Secrets, commissioned by Marie Cuttoli, ca. 1955. © Erwin Blumenfeld/The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

She commissioned designs from Georges Rouault and Jean Lurcat but when the economy in France started to falter, she tapped into the US market and met Dr. Albert Barnes, founder of the Barnes Foundation who purchased several tapestries including an extraordinary work by aerial view of Paris by Dufy.

After WW2, Marie Cuttoli lived with her friend, the philanthropist Henri Laugier and together built a collection of Cubist art which nowadays can be seen in the Pompidou Centre.

In 1949, Cuttoli was awarded the Legion of Honour by the French government following the defeat of Nazi Germany.

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