Maria Pergay fled Moldavia, where she was born, in 1937, and made her way to Paris. In 1947 she attended the IDHEC [Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques], at the same time as she went regularly to Zadkine’s studio. In the mid-1950s, after marrying Marc Pergay, one of her women friends offered her the job of creating decorative objects for the shop windows of the shoemaker Durer. In the windows she put large wrought iron birds. That commission was a huge success, public and professional alike, and marked the start of her career. More commissions flowed in, coming from Dior, Hugonet and Hermès, this latter asking her to fill their windows with wrought iron pieces inlaid with semi-precious stones and shells.
In 1950, encouraged by her success, she opened a shop on the Place des Vosges, in the heart of the Marais neighborhood, where she sold her creations alongside valuable antiques and subtle pieces of Asian art. She started a unique collection of silver objects. It was at this point that she met Dali, with whom she worked on The Myth of the Butterfly and Fire, offering ample proof of her talent which, instead of grappling with the past, gave rise to an alliance between ancient and modern. She challenged ancient myths while at the same time remaining formally grounded in her own present.
Keen to stay abreast of the latest innovations, it was in the mid-1960s or thereabouts that she started using stainless steel. This thoroughly new material became her source of inspiration, which she described as being “as precious as the most precious wood”. Her first steel collection included ring chairs and wave benches. In 1968 she had a show at the Maison Jardin gallery, run by none other than the interior decorator Jean Dive.
Stainless steel would remain her favorite material, and she continued using it throughout the 1970s, a period during which Pierre Cardin became her patron. From that moment on she started to export her works to the United States, Morocco, Russia and Saudi Arabia. She designed the palace of the Saudi royal family, along with many villas.
Throughout her career Maria Pergay created furniture, objects, and interiors, with a keen eye for mixing refinement and luxury with a dreamlike quality. Stainless steel helped her to soften the shapes of a piece of furniture, which she otherwise found too rigid, by giving them an undulating aspect with sensual curves.