The greatest of French Art Nouveau architect-designers, Hector Guimard designed buildings, ironwork, ceramics, and furniture with equal brilliance. Along with metalwork of domestic scale such as this gilded copper tray, Guimard designed entrances and railings for the Paris Métro stations, his most notable work, and fitted his buildings with cast-iron ornaments ranging from door fittings to balcony cartouches. These were published in 1907 in a catalogue, the Fontes artistiques..., in which the designs compare closely in style with this tray: a kind of linear sculpture, swift in movement, with swirling curves and wavelike flourishes that suggest natural forms reduced to abstract patterns. He subtitled the catalogue "Style Guimard," which he had earlier defined by stressing analogies with nature while acknowledging practical requirements. In 1902 he wrote, "Nature is a book from which we draw inspiration and it is in that book that we must look for principles, which when found, have to be defined and applied by the human mind according to human needs."
Sometimes Guimard made two versions of the objects he designed: one he would sign, date, and offer for sale; the other, unsigned, he would keep. The gilded-bronze version of this dish, signed and dated "Hector Guimard 1909," was purchased by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (inv. 18101) from the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1911. The unsigned version, retained by the artist, came to the Museum from his widow. In 1949 she wrote to Fiske Kimball, then the Museum's director, "These days, I have begun the distribution of the portable objects created by Mr. Guimard… I would very much like to reserve for your Museum a few choice objects… an important bronze platter- the original is at the Louvre (Pavillon Marsan) bgt. 1911- and, I have the only replica." Kathryn B. Hiesinger and George H. Marcus, from Guides to European Decorative Arts: Design, 1900-1940 (1987), p. 14.