Loy's Lampshade Shop (1926-1930)

52 Rue du Colisée, Paris, France

With financial backing from Peggy Guggenheim, Mina Loy opened a lampshade shop in Paris in 1926, where she sold her original lamps and other art objects for the home. She closed the shop in 1930. 

Read about the history of the shop and see a slide a slideshow of her lamps in Susan Rosenbaum’s “Mina Loy’s Lampshade Shop.”

Mina Loy and Peggy Guggenheim in Paris lampshade shop c. 1926-1930
Peggy Guggenheim (standing) and Mina Loy (seated) in the lampshade shop, Paris, ca. 1926. Image by © Underwood & Underwood/Corbis.

In the photo of Loy and Guggenheim above, the two friends turned business partners pose for the camera in the lampshade shop. Guggenheim stands stiffly, placing her hand on Loy’s back. Her mouth is stern and her eyes large. In contrast, Loy slouches on the chair, her hands delicately placed in her lap. She gives a meek yet attractive smile to the camera, and tilts her head slightly upwards. These delicate gestures on Loy’s part depict her as the more docile of the two. Guggenheim is the one wearing the pearls, but it is Loy who looks the part of the traditional housewife, crouched in front of her financial backbone. 

Adjacent to the two women is one of Loy’s lamp, placed front and center. Given the modernist preoccupation with physical objects, as well as the context of the lampshade shop itself, this is hardly surprising. The large lamp eclipses the others behind it, just as Guggenheim’s tall frame clouds Loy. Both the lamp and Guggenheim project simultaneously inwards, as their shadows which form larger representations on the wall and paintings behind them. In this way, Guggenheim and the lamp command more space in the picture than Loy herself.   

Scholars well versed in Loy will likely laugh at a reading of her as “docile” and peripheral, but in the context of the lampshade shop and Guggenheim’s role as an unreliable yet interfering financial backer, it seems particularly fitting. In Guggenheim’s own words: “Finally in Paris all her ideas were stolen, and although she had copyrights she had to give up her business. It was impossible for her to conduct it without a businessman and a lot more capital” (Burstein 189). Indeed, even as women like Loy bravely attempted to subvert the traditional gender roles of the time, they found themselves simultaneously dimmed by them. 

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