Side Gallery

Side Gallery


Coffee table with five woods
Manufactured by Tenreiro Moveis e Decoraçoes
Brasil, 1950
Five different types of hard wood (jacaranda, imbuir, roxinho, Pau marfim and cobréuva), bonded laminated frame with solid lathed joints

120 cm x 58 cm x 36h cm
47,24 in x 22,83 in x 14,17h in

Unique piece

Flavio Dumortout de Mendoça, close friend, patron and lawyer of Joaquim Tenreiro

Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity by Flavio Dumortout´s inheritor

Soraia Cals, Tenreiro, Rio de Janeiro, 2000

Forty years before the widespread use of AutoCAD and other computer-aided design programs, Joaquim Tenreiro built his multi-wood series: the “Three-Legged Chair”, the Five Woods low chair” or the “Five Woods cofee table”, a paragon of fluidity and dynamic expression in wood. Stripped of appendages, horizontal rails, and right angles—impediments to the eye—Tenreiro’s cupped seat opens like a parabolic curve in space, suggesting infinite motion. The table´s complex construction transcended conventional methods of joinery and anticipated by a half century the stack-laminated chairs of Julia Krantz and the bonded plywood furniture of contemporary designers like Jeroen Verhoeven. The woodworking son of a woodworker, Tenreiro championed the use of native Brazilian hardwoods, which he combined to expressive effect. In the present lot, his alternation of light and dark specimens further speeds the eye. Comprising solid stacked sections, not veneers applied to a frame, “Five Woods coffee table” triumphantly realizes the modernist maxim that decoration must be intrinsic to form. But Tenreiro’s fluent seat sweeps away the rigid profiles of those icons preceding it: Le Corbusier’s crimped chaise and Alvar Aalto’s molded seat sections. Why summon those spirits? Tenreiro modulated the austere rationalism of European modernism with vernacular Brazilian woodworking traditions and so revitalized his country’s regressive furniture industry. “I have always been restless. What I did was reformulate the dimensions of Brazilian furniture, because it was really uncomfortable. I have defended craftsmanship with all my heart, against the kind of industrialization that debased furniture” (Soraia Cals, Tenreiro, Rio de Janeiro, 1998, p. 32).

Joaquim Tenreiro (1906-1992) was among leading furniture designers and visual artists in modernist Brazilian furniture making in the mid-20th century.
A forerunner in the use of rediscovered raw materials as well as the creator of a new formal language in 20th century Brazilian furniture design, he drew on the lessons of past furniture making as a vital source, not only in the mastery of technical and constructive solutions, but also in the aesthetic experience, craftsmanship, and the cultural meaning of his production. His exquisitely crafted pieces evoke a refined coexistence of traditional values and modern aesthetics, strongly bound to the Brazilian cultural milieu.
Born in Portugal to a family with a great tradition in furniture making, he moved to Brazil at the age of 22 and embraced a career as a designer by working at various furniture manufacturers such as Leandro Martins, Francisco Gomes and Laubisch & Hirth. Tenreiro proposed a contemporary language and advocated the idea that Brazilian furniture should be “formally light…A lightness which has nothing to do with weight itself, but with graciousness, and the functionality of spaces.