Art Déco in France
Chronology : 1920 1923 1925 1930 1936
<1920 Yves Saint-Laurent in an Armchair ... made by Eileen Gray
2009 SOLD 21.9 M€ including premium
It is a seat only 61 cm high. The sitting height is normal, but the back is small. It is large (91 cm), making it a comfortable chair. The press release from Christie's describes it as a Dragon armchair, certainly for the sculptures of its armrests. For this seat dating from about 1920-1922, prepare 2.5 million €.
In the work of Eileen Gray, other seats have generated one of the most remarkable results of auctions in recent years. On June 1, 2005 in Paris, Camard sold a set of six armchairs à la Sirène, for a total of nearly 9 million € charges included. Sold separately, these six lots were eventually divided between two buyers. They had belonged to Damia, the music hall singer woman with whom Eileen had a love affair. From a very different model from the chair of the Saint-Laurent collection, their sculpture of the women fish was enhanced by an open back.
Eileen Gray was renowned for the luxurious finish of her lacquered furniture.
The sale will be held at the Grand Palais in Paris from 23 to 25 February. It is jointly organized by Christie's and Pierre Bergé et Associés.
POST SALE COMMENT
This seat had it all. We imagine it perfectly in the middle of the living room of Yves Saint-Laurent, a famous person. It may equally be regarded as a work of art or as a piece of furniture.
Christie's has presented it as one of the top lots in the sale, from the first press release last September. The estimate probably took into account the results obtained at Drouot on the armchairs à la Sirène, remembered in my article above. Cautiously, the estimate had been made a little lower (2 M €) in the catalog than in the first releases.
As I have already written, the current crisis of confidence affects the sellers, not the buyers.
The chair of Yves Saint-Laurent by Eileen Gray was sold € 21.9 million including premium.
The low resolution image below is shared by Wikimedia for fair use :
1922 Guéridon by Rateau
2006 SOLD for € 3.04M including premium by Christie's
1923-1924 The Modern Religieuse
2018 SOLD for $ 2.17M including premium
Pierre Chareau is an architect, furniture designer and art lover. He is little known at that time because he preferred to work for a circle of friends. He seeks to combine simplicity of form and functionality, without fearing the technical difficulties. In 1923 he designed two resolutely innovative models of furniture, the Table Eventail equipped with rotating trays and the Lampe Religieuse.
The Religieuse is a floor lamp 1.80 m high. The tall tapered base made of a single sheet of folded metal is a technical feat of the blacksmith Louis Dalbet. The alabaster shade looks like a complex shape although it is composed of only four identical triangles oriented in staggered rows.
This model was probably inspired by the cubist sculptures of Lipchitz. The resemblance of the lampshade with a nun's cornet may be unintentional but it has given an easy identification and a lasting fame to this unprecedented model.
The metal base is made in very small quantities in 1923 and 1924. The exact figure is not known. One of these lamps is estimated $ 800K for sale by Christie's in New York on June 20, lot 11.
The later production is in wood. The Chwast collection included a pair in mahogany dissociated by Sotheby's on November 21, 2016 for € 1.08M and 850K including premium over lower estimates of € 300K each.
The Exposition Internationale takes place in 1925. Its influence is considerable with in parallel the craze for the Art Déco style and the path to modernism. Chareau participates reluctantly, regretting that luxury dominates over mass production. He is thus a predecessor of Jean Prouvé.
The theories of Le Corbusier appear at that exhibition. For stating the inseparable character of architecture and furniture, he defines them jointly as a machine to live in. Chareau, Le Corbusier, Eileen Gray, Francis Jourdain and Auguste Perret invented the modern furniture around 1925 in Paris.
1924 A Paravent at Jean Désert
2020 SOLD for $ 2.14M including premium
There is also no limit in the variety of the furnishings. The panels which in 1913 attracted the attention of Jacques Doucet are followed by folding screens in Japanese fashion. The figurative motifs are soon replaced by increasingly minimalist abstractions, according to the trends in painting at that time including Mondrian and the De Stijl group.
The culmination of this phase is the openwork screen Briques, designed in 1922 or 1923, which will be a lasting success. Among the earliest examples in black lacquered wood, an eleven column Briques 2.15 m high was sold for £ 1.5M including premium by Phillips on April 27, 2016 and a seven column Briques 1.96 m high for € 1.35M including premium by Christie's on March 29, 2011.
In 1922 Eileen Gray feels the need to increase her commercial visibility. She opens a shop rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré as Galerie Jean Désert. She did not explain how she coined that name.
A photo published in 1924 shows a screen at Jean Désert. This piece is composed of six panels 2 m x 43 cm x 1.5 cm in dark brown lacquered wood with a minimalist decoration of irregular horizontal lines and commas made with silver foils and by incisions. This model, probably designed shortly before the Briques, was not successful : only one replica is known, with a geometry in the manner of De Stijl.
The screen remained at Jean Désert until the gallery closed in 1930. It was sold for $ 1.87M including premium by Christie's on December 12, 2012, lot 32, and is estimated $ 1.5M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 9, lot 20.
1924 Pheasants for Jeanne Lanvin
2020 SOLD for $ 2M including premium
Trained at the Ecole Boulle, Rateau is both a decorator and a sculptor, he creates a bronze bestiary with simple shapes and smooth lines in the style of François Pompon, not following the modernist style of Rembrandt Bugatti.
Rateau features several birds in Lanvin's apartment. The legs of the guéridon are the very long tails of small birds. The copy which he had kept for his personal use, made circa 1922, was sold for € 3.04M including premium by Christie's on June 8, 2006.
The floor lamp is mounted on a base of four pheasants with their heads raised. Each pheasant is mounted on a ball. For the low table that can serve as a coffee table, the pheasants with their heads bowed, perched on the same balls, are at the four corners in a caryatid position, facing one another. The balls and tails are placed on the floor.
Rateau reuses for the Duchess of Alba the models of the floor lamp and of the low table. Her table, made in 1924, is similar to the Lanvin variant, with a hollow top and separate heads. It is 33 cm high with a floor area of 102 x 50 cm between the tails. It was sold for € 1.66M including premium by Christie's on May 23, 2013. In the same sale, the two floor lamps of the same provenance were sold for the same price, € 1.66M each.
A table made in 1924 in the Lanvin-Alba type was sold for $ 1.2M including premium by Christie's on December 17, 2015, lot 105. It is estimated $ 1M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 9, lot 8.
The table exhibited in 1925 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs is a variant with a flat top. The bird's heads are closer to each other and joined by a daisy. An example was sold for € 2.03M including premium by Christie's on June 8, 2006.
#AuctionUpdate This masterful “Oiseaux” Low Table by Armand-Albert Rateau achieves $2 million to kick off #SothebysDesign Week auctions in #NYC. Only 2 other examples of this specific table are known to exist, created for famed couturier Jeanne Lanvin & the Duchess of Alba. pic.twitter.com/qWyKzCDIih— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) December 9, 2020
1925 Suspension Satellite by Eileen Gray
2009 SOLD for € 3M including premium by Christie's
1925 Table aux Oiseaux by Rateau
2006 SOLD for € 2.03M including premium by Christie's
Link to catalogue.
1929 Waiting for the Maharaja
2011 SOLD for € 2.86M including premium by Christie's
2019 SOLD for $ 2.4M including premium
The Exposition des Arts décoratifs in Paris in 1925 opens new paths for luxury. The creators amend traditional furniture with new forms, search the world for the most splendid materials and desire to confront the legendary wealth of India.
In the following year, one of the richest Hindu rulers, the Maharaja of Indore, resigns after a scandal. His son and successor, aged 18, is assisted by a regency council. While waiting to exercise his responsibilities, he travels Europe. His name is His Highness Maharajadhira Raj Rajeshwar Sawai Shri Yeshwantra II Holkar XIV Bahadur.
The young man is passionate about modernism and wants to furnish an avant-garde residence of which he entrusts the design to Eckart Muthesius. All the Parisian designers expect to be his suppliers.
At the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1929, Ruhlmann exhibits an important suite of furniture under the title of Studio-Chambre du Prince Héritier d'un Vice-roi des Indes, which leaves no doubt about the identity of the targeted client. His innovations are the use of black lacquer and chrome-plated bronze, and the replacement of the base of several pieces of furniture by curved end metal bars similar to a pair of skis.
The Maharaja visits the exhibition but his advisers, Roché and Muthesius, do not rush. Among the Ruhlmann furniture in this Salon, he orders only a copy of the desk with its armchair and some bookshelves. This partial disavowal is to the delight of the president of the Artistes Décorateurs, Prime Minister André Tardieu, who buys several original pieces. The Bureau Tardieu accompanied by its armchair was sold for € 2.3M including premium by Christie's on March 29, 2011.
This furniture has been the subject of ingenious designs in terms of functionality. The chaise longue aux skis offers four possible backrest inclinations and an electric heating of the footrest. The lounge chair of the Studio-Chambre is the only complete copy of this model, so being one of Ruhlmann's rarest productions. The only other known example, incomplete, is not localized.
Ruhlmann was well informed : the young prince really needed such a chair. He chose Charlotte Perriand's model.
The Ruhlmann chaise longue aux skis was sold for € 2.86M including premium by Christie's in 2011 in the same sale as the Bureau Tardieu. Its ban of shipping outside of France was canceled in 2013. It will be sold by Sotheby's in New York on December 11, lot 26. Targeted at $ 2M in the article published by the auction house on September 26, its lower estimate is announced at $ 1.5M in the catalog.
We are honored to announce ‘Modern Masters: Chefs-D’œuvre D’une Collection Privée‘, an auction this December in #NYC that will present a superlative collection of art and design by top European masters. Learn more about two exceptional highlights: https://t.co/Ek5nDdr37h pic.twitter.com/YuIV8zT4xe— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) September 26, 2019
1929 Functionality of the Tardieu Desk
2011 SOLD 2.3 M€ including premium
This bedroom furniture consisted of a desk, a bed and a modular bookcase, black, in chromed and lacquered metal.
This large writing desk, 2.72 m long and 1.58 deep, is designed to be functional with the addition of various equipment useful for professional work: an adjustable lamp, a wastepaper basket, drawers, a footrests, and even a bell push. It is pictured third on the article shared by Bloomberg.
This desk seduced the Prime Minister, who bought it, and it was now known as Bureau Tardieu. Other copies were made including one for the office of Ruhlmann himself. The Maharaja of Indore did make a similar desk in Macassar ebony.
Tardieu's desk was sold for $ 1.9 million including premium at Christie's on December 8, 2000. It comes again at Christie's, estimated € 2M in the sales of the collections of the Château de Gourdon which will run from March 29 to 31 in Paris.
POST SALE COMMENT
Here are three results (including premium) for Ruhlmann:
Because of its prestige, the price of the Tardieu desk, € 2.3 million, is not a surprise.
The lounge chair on skis, eagerly awaited, was sold for € 2.86 million, within its estimated range.
A "Lassalle" commode was sold for € 1.8 million, from a lower estimate of € 500K.
1929 Porte aux Moineaux by Lalique
2011 SOLD for € 2.02M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
In terms of the monumental application of glass, his masterpiece is the double door in the gate of his own townhouse in Paris. The decoration of pine branches and cones is spread over nine rows of eight glass panels, with even an extension on the wall of the building. The Hôtel Lalique and its door are still in existence.
His competence in luxury decoration is recognized. In 1925 he creates the glass fountain for the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs, and he decorates the Côte d'Azur Pullman Express train in 1929 and the Normandie liner in 1935.
On November 22, 2011, Sotheby's sold for € 2.02M including premium over a lower estimate of € 400K a double door made in glass by Lalique in 1929, lot 131.
This 270 x 180 x 13 cm piece is composed of two elements, each one made of four vertical compartments in white glass delimited by glass rods. The mounting frame is in nickel plated steel. The decoration is not on the windows but on the rods, with figures of sparrows in the round, distributed upside down within the full height.
The glass sparrow was regularly offered by Lalique, notably as paperweight and, from 1933, for a decorative bar with six life size birds. Its application in the round on an architectural structure anticipates by two decades the small animals perched within Diego Giacometti's furniture.
1930 Art Déco Wood Panelling
2011 SOLD 2.2 M€ including premium
The finest lot comes back on sale at Christie's in Paris on March 29. Estimated € 2M, it is a set of wood panels signed by Jean Dunand forming the four walls and the doors of the smoking room.
The height of these panels, 3.44 m including a lighting cornice, is worthy of a castle. The set is complete, totalling a perimeter of nearly 20 m.
By his frequent use of lacquer decoration, Dunand was one of the best innovators of the Art Déco style. The highly stylized palm tree pattern with low contrasting grays attests of the exquisite attraction of Dunand toward cubism and abstraction.
Coming back to the sale of 1997 to find a little more of the luxurious comfort of this apartment of the 1930s: in the smoking room, a rug by Ivan Da Silva Bruhns repeated the motifs of the woodwork walls. Adjoining rooms were furnished with works by Leleu, Prou, Baguès and Bernard Dunand.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot was a favorite of the connoisseurs, but it was perhaps one of the hardest to sell because of its dimensions.
Although the result, € 2.2 million including premium, has not exceeded the estimate, we consider this result as excellent.
1936 The Luxury of Nothingness
2014 SOLD 3.7 M€ including premium
Frank is an aesthete, inspired by Proust and friend of Crevel and Cocteau. For his customers and for his own use, he creates a minimalist theme, strictly geometric. He uses any material provided that it is close to white. His inlay blends the luxury of galuchat or parchment with rougher materials such as straw or burlap.
The main role is given to the light that illuminates the matt surfaces unsoiled by the usual accessories such as handles or hinges, carefully hidden. The goal is an atmosphere of asceticism. The style of Frank has been named the Luxe du rien.
On March 11 in Paris, Sotheby's sells a cabinet with gypsum panels 109 x 75 x 22 cm estimated € 400K, lot 63 in the catalog. Probably made for his personal use, this small piece of furniture was exhibited in 1936 and now comes from the Félix Marcilhac collection. This is apparently the only identified use of gypsum in a cabinet by Jean-Michel Frank.
The art of Frank was adapted to the demands of the aesthetes of the time of his youth. Times change and he fails to follow. He committed suicide in 1941 at age 46. One of his former collaborators was to become one of the most famous artists : Alberto Giacometti.
His work was forgotten until 1963 and his minimalism could not have inspired Klein or Fontana. It must be looked beyond : the atmosphere of the creations of Jean-Michel Frank anticipates the quests by Judd on the use of light.
POST SALE COMMENT
The gypsum cabinet is an amazing example of the original features in the art of Jean-Michel Frank. It was sold for € 3.7 million including premium.
Here are some results for shagreen furniture by the same designer: € 750K including premium on a pair of armchairs circa 1928, 375K including premium for a coiffeuse circa 1925.
1937 Enfilade by Printz and Dunand
2019 SOLD for $ 5.5M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
Their skills are complementary and their fruitful collaboration lasts from 1928 until the death of Dunand in 1942. Their joint production consists mainly of sideboards : buffets, enfilades, bahuts. The style meets the canons of Art Déco : geometric simplicity of forms, beauty of surfaces.
A cabinet 125 x 160 x 30 cm made in 1930-1931 by Printz and Dunand was sold for € 1,26M including premium by Christie's on November 27, 2007, lot 331.
A cabinet in enfilade 93 x 200 x 44 cm made circa 1937 was sold on June 4, 2019 for $ 5.5M including premium by Christie's, lot 43. This enfilade had been kept by Printz for his own collection. It is indeed a superb example of the later period of the French Art Déco.
Its rectangular cabinet in palmwood is perfectly balanced, altogether low and shallow to provide a sense of lightness. Its suite of ten doors cover the whole height of the façade, with no visible structure or handle.
It is also exceptional by the full covering of all the door panels in a dinanderie of various patterns on angled metal leaves, suggesting the folds of a Japanese screen. These fragile elements have been kept in an excellent condition.