Les sept princesses: A Vienna discovery renews interest in the art and collaborative interiors of margaret macdonald

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OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to analyze the importance of the collaborative interiors that Margaret Macdonald designed with her husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Special emphasis is placed on the Waerndorfer music room installation (1906–1907) and Macdonald's gesso panels Les Sept Princesses designed specifically for this space. RESEARCH DESIGN: Using photographs and a comprehensive review of primary and secondary sources descriptive of the Waerndorfer music room, a likely original placement of the panels in the space is suggested and the panels are analyzed for selected design attributes that are similar to the interior architecture. ANALYSIS: Elements to be formally analyzed include the dominant use of neutral colors enhanced by typical motifs; the asymmetrical placement of rectilinear form; the balancing of decorative detailing and highly finished paint employed on plain surfaces; the relevance of symbols used within the Mackintosh interiors; and a description of the symbols used by Macdonald in the Waerndorfer panels, many of which were influenced by Maurice Maeterlinck's play Les Sept Princesses. KEY FINDINGS: The collaborative relationship between Macdonald and Mackintosh was important to the stylistic development of their interiors. Macdonald successfully integrated the decorative theme of the panels with the interior architecture through the shared use of design elements and symbolic motifs. Although Macdonald's visual composition embodies the poetic and evocative values of Maeterlinck's play, the panels still are consciously ornamental and designed specifically to complement the interior. CONCLUSIONS: The use of symbolic ornamentation in the Waerndorfer music room interior should be viewed as an organizational methodology. Within the microcosm of the interior, the designers used symbolism and ionic meaning as a parti to control form, furnishings, decorative features, and panels designed in concert with Maeterlinck's literary theme.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-60
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Interior Design
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 1997


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