Eileen Gray – Bibendum (1926)
In 1926, at a time when primarily male designers and architects were authenticating their leading positions by introducing modern furniture pieces that later became influential icons, Eileen Gray (1878-1976) designed the curvaceous and inviting Bibendum chair.
Gray named it after a voluptuous male figure: the legendary Bibendum man, the shapely body of this friendly character, created in the late 19th century for the Michelin Company. The Bibendum chair spoke the modern design language fluently: it was a fresh interpretation of the machine aesthetics advocated by Le Corbusier.
The result was a chair, a minimalist piece composed of an upholstered white-leather seat and a back supported by a chrome-finish steel base. Nevertheless, Gray’s piece displayed an original and feminine take on the geometries and proportions prevalent at the time. The three tire-like rolls that made this chair visually bold and enticing were comparable only to the proportions and silhouette of the Michelin man.
Bibendum is one of a kind; Eileen Gray used this chair in a few of her interiors, among these in E-1027,a place that has become mythical.
Author: Anna Marie Fisker
Photo: Anna Marie Fisker