TSA__Fig_META_TORD_BOONTJE)closed  TSA__Fig_META_TORD_BOONTJE_open Unveiled in Milan in 2008, the Meta collection raised the bar in contemporary design by combining 18th century knowledge with 21st century aesthetic – the project exposing contemporary practitioners to traditional craft, rebirthing practices honed over centuries of the decorative arts, fusing tradition with present day industrial design.

Founded by antique house MALLETT (est 1850), the source for exemplarary works of art and design procurred by world famous museums such as the Victoria & Albert Museum London, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York – the rare works that join museum permenant collections.

When FIG LEAF WARDROBE by London-based Tord Boontje debuted in the Tortona region of Milan Design Week in 2008 – design pundits oggled at the complexity of the fabrication, noting that contemporary design had clearly been elevated to an artform.

The design world overwhelmed by the assemblage of META’s 11 museum quality pieces, and still yet to be slapped back to commercial reality by the impending global financial crisis. Money at that point still flowing freely ….and price points not entering any discussion. Here craft met design and the outcomes were clearly spectacular.TSA__Fig_META_TORD_BOONTJE_leaves

Fusing Boontje’s poetic aesthetic with the 18th Century tradition of Fantasy Furniture where during the 1700’s European nobility commissioned leading artisans to make extraordinary pieces to demonstrate their prestige and wealth to visiting Royalty. So whilst the resulting works of that time were essentially ego pieces – they afforded ateliers the opportunity to outdo each other in a bid to earn commissioned works.

When I went to Paris to look at the tree that the sculptor Patrick Blanchard had made from my drawing, it was fantastic to see it was so much better than what I’d done.

That’s never happened in Industrial Design – usually it’s the opposite.


The overscale wardrobe is embellised with 616 hand-painted glass fig leaves, poking fun at Adam & Eve’s ‘attire’ in the Garden on Eden, requiring no less than 11 ateliers across England and France to realise the work in exquisite detail.

10 fig leaf shapes each painstakingly hand-painted in enamel on both sides by specialist British masters in Birmingham, who signed every piece of their work, typical of atisinal practice. To date – FIG LEAF WARDROBE  remains the largest enamel paint project in history – not only for quantity but for the complexity, with enamel being one of the most specialist and delicate miniaturist art practices.

TSA__Fig_META_TORD_BOONTJE_detailSupporting vines attach the leaves on hand forged bronze hinges created by Atelier de Forge – a traditional iron foundary in rural France, the process developed by Patrick Blanchard, head of sculpture at the Ecole Boulle, Paris.

The interior of the wardrobe reads as a life-like bronze tree, supporting eight purpose-designed bronze hangers, the patination of the bronze developed by Chevillard, a specialist in metals founded in 1850, renowned for embuing a deep patina akin to a Rodin sculpture.

TSA__Fig_META_TORD_BOONTJE_detail_2The interior is lined with bespoke hand-dyed jacquard silk made by Gainsborough Silk Weaving Company, Britains pre-eminent silk dyers.

This conemporary masterpiece launched at the peak of the last boom, and FIG LEAF was conceived as an unlimited edition, to date only one has been made.

Considered to be a celebrated work of 21st Century design – FIG LEAF WARDROBE was the centre piece of the Boonje retrospective ORIGINALS held by Sothebys in London last January.

*Read more on MADE BY META by Alice Rawsthorne (March 23, 2008) here, International Herald Tribune



Photography Meta, Portrait via NaniMaquina