For the third edition of Hidden Treasures, we highlight three works by Maria Pergay in our collection—with a twist: the narratives and distinctive characteristics of these works will be described through Pergay’s own words.
Everybody is scared of stainless steel, but we have a link — there is something deep inside between me and stainless steel. This material which looks so strong, hard and cold is sweet and not sharp, and it matches with everything. It is a good contrast for colors and other materials.
Maria Pergay: It’s my desire that people have at home next to them something which asks them questions, you see. To make them understand that behind each thing can be hidden some other things. This cube — it’s a plain cube, looks like any kind of cube — but it has a treasure.
Rima Suqi: You mean the snake wood you see through the blown-out front?
MP: Yes. It is lively, colored and soft.
RS: So, you’re peeling the steel off, like a layer, to reveal something else.
MP: Yes, it’s very French.
RS: Is that what you’re like as a person — to other people, you might seem hard on the outside or just very independent, but inside you’re delicate and fragile?
MP: I don’t know. In general, everybody has a pinch of poetry inside. Not everybody gets to see that, and that is the challenge: to light the light inside.
But they can discover something about themselves by looking at the pieces. If they pass by and they stop, that means there’s a connection between the piece and themselves.*
This new work not only signifies the pinnacle of Pergay’s extraordinary design career but also points to a complex realm of her creative vision. When we first saw her initial sketch, we were stunned to discover that she was employing 16th century references and in such a fresh way. It is certainly not the first time Pergay’s new work has surprised us, but this piece is truly fantastical and a masterwork. It is exciting and challenging to discover such a multi-layered design.
Pergay‘s Cabinet Borgia is a cabinet of curiosities, meant to hold precious objects, books and works of art. The cabinet represents two ‘malles du voyage,’ one seemingly floating above the other with a mirrored reflection in between. The top case is adorned with hand forged iron latches, embellished with polished bone and with intricately carved ebony and bone handles on the side. The bottom piece stands on ebony sculpted claw feet and decorated with steel and brass fittings.
RS: Strength seems to be a theme in your work.
MP: It is very important. You can show, in fact, that, yes, these pieces start to become accommodating and soft and familiar in your home. It’s a mirage of my furniture. But I don’t like the word furniture. People do not need my pieces to be furniture, to use as a place to put plates or blankets or whatever.
RS: If your work isn’t furniture, what is it?
MP: An expression of—what can I say, maybe like it came from Mars or the moon?*
Secret Cube is a perfect example of harmonizing masculine and feminine characteristics in Pergay’s work— strong steel box and a garden inside.
Each leaf was treated individually: hand-cut from brass and copper sheets; hammered, sculpted, and filed to replicate Pergay's sketches; patinated using a secret formula to achieve the deep red tones; and finally positioned one by one on the branches to heighten light reflection.
Pergay drew inspiration from a variety of botanical sources, and the final product is deceptively naturalistic. She has commingled parts of different plant species—exotic flowers, oak leaves, and fern-like fronds—to make a tree unlike anything found in nature.
*Pergay, Maria. “Her Poetry Takes the Form of Stainless Steel”. The New York Times, Interview by Rima Suqi, May 20, 2010, Section D, Page 2. New York Edition.