'Radio Nurse' baby monitor by Isamu Noguchi, 1937

'Radio Nurse' Baby Monitor, Isamu Noguchi for Zenith Plastics Co., USA, 1937. Museum no. W.16-2007

'Radio Nurse' Baby Monitor, Isamu Noguchi for Zenith Plastics Co., USA, 1937. Museum no. W.16-2007

This baby monitor, called the 'Radio Nurse', is one of the earliest examples of the speaker or receiver end of a baby monitor.  It was designed by Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988), a Japanese-American sculptor.  He produced the design in 1937 for the Zenith Radio Corporation, a major American radio manufacturer.  It was originally commissioned by the firm's president in order to monitor his daughter on his yacht.  It is thought that the kidnapping of the two-year-old son of aviator Charles Lindbergh in 1932 may have influenced his decision to commission the piece.

Noguchi designed the Radio Nurse at a time when he was incorporating industrial materials into his sculptures.  Its shape suggests both traditional Japanese Kendo masks and American 'machine age' sculpture of the 1930s.  In 1939 it was displayed at the Whitney Museum of American Art's annual sculpture exhibition, where Time magazine called it the 'most exotic' exhibit in the show, 'prettier as a radio than as a nurse'.

The Radio Nurse is an excellent example of industrial design in bakelite, an early form of plastic, by a major twentieth-century artist.  Noguchi continued to design objects for domestic use and over the course of thirty years he produced a number of successful pieces including lighting, tables, stools and a chair.

Interactive Map

Discover the many treasures in the beautiful V&A galleries, find out where events are happening in the Museum or just check the location of the café, shops, lifts or toilets. Simple to use, the V&A interactive map works on all screen sizes, from your tablet or smartphone to your desktop at home.

Launch the Interactive Map

Shop online

Sophie The Giraffe Toy

Sophie The Giraffe Toy

Part of babies’ lives for over 50 years, the famous giraffe ‘Sophie’, available in a classic gift box. Sophie La Girafe …

Buy now