Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici at Vezelay

Benton, Tim (2023). Eileen Gray and Jean Badovici at Vezelay. Journal of Design History (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epad029

Abstract

The study of collaborative work by architects and designers can present difficulties. The principal biographers of Eileen Gray asserted that she played the key role in the design of the houses that her friend Jean Badovici (1893–1956) acquired and transformed in Vézelay between 1926 and 1934 and that this work contributed to the design of her other buildings. This claim is worth investigating because the Vézelay houses present innovative and distinctive features, and because Jean Badovici’s qualities as architect have been insufficiently studied. A method is presented here for distinguishing between different hands based on the forensic analysis of individual words and letters. This approach could be of use in many contexts but particularly in the case of close collaboration between architects and designers. Applied initially to drawings for Badovici’s houses at Vézelay, the method can be applied to the many other drawings in the archives of the V&A, the Pompidou Centre, the Eileen Gray archive in the National Museum of Ireland, and the Badovici archive in the Getty Research Institute. The evidence from this analysis is set alongside other arguments for evaluating Gray’s involvement in the design of the Badovici houses at Vézelay. The aim of this essay is not to challenge Gray’s collaboration in the design process but to test claims of her sole or principal role in the design of these houses.

Plain Language Summary

A technique of forensic analysis of handwriting is used to attribute architectural drawings associated with three building projects at Vezelay. The article demonstrates that the attribution of three drawings to Eileen Gray is mistaken and that she played an advisory, rather than dominant role in the design of three properties with which the architect Jean Badovici was associated.

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