For more than a hundred years and for over three generations, Atelier Midavaine has been spreading the art of lacquerware throughout the world. Bears, panthers, fish, birds, and Chinese-inspired motifs come to life under the expert hands of a team of talented lacquerers. These stunning designs are the creations of a woman and a passionate heiress: Anne Midavaine. Signatures Singulières Magazine takes you to discover this house of unmatched know-how.
Above: Anne Midavaine in front of her workshop on rue des Acacias in the 17th district of Paris.
Upon his return from the Great War and after being declared disabled, Louis Midavaine, the grandfather, opened his first lacquer workshop in Paris, rue Pergolèse. Using three “broken heads”, he decorated objects sold for the benefit of the Red Cross. Later, in 1930, he moved his workshop to a few hundred meters from the Arc de Triomphe, rue des Acacias, where it is still located. Throughout the century, the workshop has seen the birth of works more spectacular than the others.
One of the most emblematic pieces of the lacquer workshop: is the screens with polar bears. Altogether, twelve examples are listed. In addition, one model is part of the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in the City of Paris. As a precursory, visionary, and artist, Louis Midavaine is the only one in the world of lacquerers to be interested in these mammals. And yet, this theme ensures the success of his workshop. He received orders to decorate the first-class cabins of the mythical liner Normandie, then those of the Pasteur. As well as the residence of the last Vietnamese emperor Bao Daï, on the French Riviera.
Tigers, panthers, fish, exotic birds… Following the bears, other animals enriched the palette of the lacquerer and dressed panels, sideboards, and screens. With his bestiary and his know-how, he seduced the rich clientele of the 30s in love with luxury.
In 1944, at the age of 14, Jacques Midavaine, Louis’ son, joined the workshop to learn the profession before taking over the company in 1969. At that time, the fortunes of the 1930s were giving way to the emergence of a middle class. Like his father, Jacques was able to meet the expectations of the time. During the great era of television furniture, the workshop produced one piece per week. He also opened up to the American market. Dozens of coffee tables, cabinets, and decorative panels were sent across the Atlantic.
Until the 1990s, the workshop was in full swing. But in 1994, in the middle of the crisis, Jacques Midavaine died. His daughter Anne, a dental surgeon at the time, left her job to join the family business. After her father’s death, Anne Midavaine began to relaunch the business and won contracts with exceptional companies. In this workshop, which has been the beating heart of her family for three generations, Anne Midavaine manages – with a masterful hand! – and creates. “I received from my parents the spirit of entrepreneurship” she confides to Signatures Singulières Magazine. Every day, she imagines and renews creative proposals to be copied and never equaled.
A true conductor of the workshop, Anne Midavaine interacts directly with the decorators to define the direction of the work ordered. At the beginning of her career, Christian Gallion opened the doors to Chanel, who was setting up a jewelry boutique on Place Vendôme. Other great decorators such as Alberto Pinto, Pierre-Yves Rochon, and Juan Pablo Molyneux are the new clients of the Anne Midavaine Paris workshop and bring the House’s lacquer decorations into apartments in France and abroad. The majestic animal representations seduce. While some motifs have a contemporary approach, others are part of a renewed Chinese or Japanese style. A French signature that hits the mark with customers in the Middle East, but also in Asia and Russia.
Unique pieces are made for individuals, but also for beautiful houses like Cartier (met at the first edition of the Revelations show) with whom the Anne Midavaine workshop has collaborated for several years. In 2019, the famous jeweler commissioned the Anne Midavaine Paris art studio to create a lacquer, mother-of-pearl, and gold panel for its Copenhagen boutique. Since then, she has designed majestic panthers for the brand’s boutiques all over the world, including Changdu, Tokyo, Sydney, Singapore, New York, and Dubai.
Coming from China and Japan, lacquer arrived in France in the 18th century. Since then, its technique has continued to evolve and improve. The vegetable resin has been replaced by cellulose lacquers – the specificity of the Midavaine Paris workshop -, polyurethane, and water-soluble. A perfectly mastered technique, so well that today Asians call upon Western art craftsmen to make lacquer decorations. Lacquering is a demanding and multi-faceted profession in which one must master drawing to perfection. The lacquerer must also know how to apply the coating – and know the secrets of the rabbit skin glue with which it is made – and make decorations in gold leaf and powder, silver, mother of pearl, and eggshell. In her workshop, Anne Midavaine has chosen to rely on the hands of highly qualified artists trained by the Boulles and Olivier de Serres schools to create her unique pieces. To create a lacquer decoration, you need talent, but also a lot of work. And the work pays off! In 2005, the Anne Midavaine workshop was awarded the Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company) label. A work praised by Signatures Singulières Magazine.
Atelier Midavaine Paris
54 rue des Acacias
Tél.: +33 (0)1 43 80 68 94