Margaret Jourdain

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Margaret Jourdain (c. 1876–1951) was a prominent writer on English furniture and decoration. She began her career ghost-writing as Francis Lenygon for the firm of Lenygon & Morant, dealers in furnishings with a royal appointment, who were also the fabricators of carefully crafted reproductions, especially of Kentian furnishings, some of which have been displayed in public collections for decades.

The finely-honed writing that distinguishes Jourdain's work must be partly credited to careful pre-editing by her lifelong friend and domestic partner, the novelist Ivy Compton-Burnett. Ivy and Margaret Jourdain lived together from 1918 until Margaret's death in 1951. Members of their circle might speculate on whether they were lovers: Ivy referred to herself and Margaret as "neutrals" [1]. Margaret Jourdain's papers are archived at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, but some of her unpublished translations of poems by Jose Maria de Heredia, Pontus de Tyard and Gérard de Nerval are among Ivy Compton-Burnett's papers at King's College, Cambridge [2].

Margaret Jourdain teamed with Ralph Edwards, keeper of Furniture & Woodwork, the Victoria and Albert Museum, to produce Georgian Cabinet-Makers (1944, 1951), a series of biographies of the major London furniture-makers from the Restoration of Charles II to 1800, supported by archival work, which had not been a strong feature of previous connoisseurship. As revised by Edwards, it remained the essential standard in the field for several decades until superseded by work by Peter Ward-Jackson, Christopher Gilbert, Helena Hayward, and members of the Furniture History Society.

Her Regency Furniture (1931) covered new ground in extending the classic period of English furniture design forward to 1830.

Major works[edit]

Most of Margaret Jourdain's works went through several printings.

  • English Interior Decoration and Furniture of the Later XVIIIth century 1760-1820 : An Account of Its Development and Characteristic Forms 1922; 1924. (B.T. Batsford)
  • English Decorative Plasterwork of the Renaissance 1926; 1933 (B.T. Batsford)
  • Regency Furniture, 1795–1820 1931 (1934?) etc. (Revisded and extended to 1830 by Ralph Fastnedge
  • (with Ralph Edwards) Georgian Cabinet-Makers 1944; 1946; revised 1951 (3rd edition 1955)
  • The Work of William Kent. Artist, Painter, Designer and Landscape Gardener 1948. (Country Life). The first modern reassessment of William Kent, with an introduction by Christopher Hussey.
  • Jourdain, Margaret; Jenyns, Soame (1967), Chinese export art in the eighteenth century (2 ed.), Spring Books  (First edition appeared in 1950)
  • English Interior Decoration, 1500 to 1830 : A Study in the Development of Design 1950 (B.T. Batsford) A brief illustrated survey.
  • English Furniture 1950. (Country Life). Another brief popular illustrated survey, several times reprinted.