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Joseph Urban (1872-1933), Untitled Sketch, circa 1928. Joseph Urban Archive, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University

Joseph Urban (1872-1933), Untitled Sketch, circa 1928. Joseph Urban Archive, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University.



Hello, my name is Emily Holtrop. I am the director of learning and interpretation at the museum. I will be reading The Commission section of Unlocking an Art Deco Bedroom by Joseph Urban.

The precise details of how and why the Wormsers hired the New York–based Joseph Urban to create Elaine’s bedroom remain a mystery. Years later, Elaine speculated that her father met Urban through the artist’s redesign of the Central

Park Casino. Whatever the circumstances, the Wormsers were surely attracted to Urban’s celebrity. They knew him, as did nearly the rest of America, for his work in a diversity of fields: architecture, interior design, opera, theater, film,

and consumer goods. "We all knew him, of course. . . . He visited to look at all of his settings," Elaine said, referencing Urban’s sets for the Ziegfeld Follies, which traveled to Chicago.

The Wormsers approached Joseph Urban about designing Elaine’s bedroom in the spring of 1929. Soon after, Urban presented the proposal sketch A Young Lady’s Room, alongside photographs of the 1928 boudoir titled Repose that he created for the American Designers’ Gallery in New York. Urban’s estimate for the Wormser Bedroom included three line items totaling $7,850 (about $117,500 in today’s money): the bedroom itself for $6,350; a painted reproduction of Gustav Klimt’s artwork The Dancer for $1,000; and a large armchair for $500. Leo Wormser approved all but The Dancer, noting that "first, the painting wasn’t appropriate, and second, it was too expensive."

Work on the Wormser Bedroom commenced in the early summer of 1929, and it was completed a year later. Elaine’s finished room, as photographed in 1930, did not strictly adhere to Urban’s design sketch: parts of the room are nearly

direct quotations of Repose, the designer incorporated aspects of Elaine’s personal interests, and he utilized design elements from his previous and concurrent projects.

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