Art Déco in France
<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 :
2006 SOLD for € 3.04M by Christie's
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 from a lower estimate of € 400K by Christie's on June 8, 2006, lot 47.
1925 Table aux Faisans
2006 SOLD for € 2.03M by Christie's
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 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 by Christie's on December 17, 2015, lot 105 and for $ 2M by Sotheby's on December 9, 2020, 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 by Christie's on June 8, 2006, lot 48.
1925 Suspension Satellite by Eileen Gray
2009 SOLD for € 3M including premium by Christie's
2011 SOLD for € 2.3M by Christie's
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 June 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.
This bedroom furniture included a writing desk, a bed and a modular bookcase, black, in chromed and lacquered metal.
This large writing desk with a large semi-circular top 2.72 m long and 1.58 m deep, is no longer a simple furniture but a functional piece made of simple shapes and luxury materials, equipped with a leather writing surface, glass mail trays, an adjustable lamp, a pivoting wastebasket, a heated footrest and even a telephone.
The Maharaja visits the exhibition but his advisers Muthesius and Roché do not rush. He did dot purchase the original desk because he opted for ebony instead of black lacquer.
This partial disavowal is to the delight of the president of the Artistes Décorateurs, André Tardieu, who buys several original pieces including the desk whose model will thence be referred as bureau Tardieu. Accompanied by its armchair, it was sold for € 2.3M by Christie's on March 29, 2011. Tardieu was the French président du conseil des ministres from November 1929.
A first replica is made in 1929 for the use of Ruhlmann himself in his personal office. This desk 135 x 270 x 65 cm is made of Makassar ebony, oak, yellow peroba, sipo, chrome plated metal, maillechort and glass. Accompanied by its matching armchair made in 1930-1933, it passed at Christie's on October 3, 2023, lot 27.
The bureau Tardieu ordered by the prince was executed in 1931.
Chaise Longue aux Skis
2011 SOLD for € 2.86M by Christie's
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 located.
That Ruhlmann chaise longue aux skis was sold for € 2.86M by Christie's on March 29, 2011 in the same sale as the Bureau Tardieu. Its ban of shipping outside of France was canceled in 2013. It was sold for $ 2.4M by Sotheby's in New York on December 11, 2019, lot 26.
The young prince of Indore really desired such a chair. He chose Charlotte Perriand's reclining lounge chair, a model first exhibited at the 1929 Salon d'Automne.
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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.
1930-1936 Les Palmiers by Dunand
2021 SOLD for £ 3.3M by Phillips
From 1930 Dunand is very busy with the Art Déco furnishings of the ocean liners Atlantique and Normandie. He nevertheless accepts orders from private customers. The preparation of the fumoir of Colette Aboucaya will last from 1930 to 1936.
The theme of the Aboucaya fumoir is Les Palmiers, a forest of palm trees providing an illusion of exoticism. The size of the room is 390 x 620 cm, for a total perimeter of about 20 m. The set constituting the four walls is composed of 27 panels 344 cm high plus two double doors, a pair of sliding doors and one opening. The wood pieces are lacquered in exquisite low contrasting grays.
Miss Aboucaya was a very private person. Whatever the reason she never used her fumoir. When she died at age 101, nobody in her family had ever entered in that room. Her estate sale by François de Ricqlès in 1997 included in the condition of a time capsule the Dunand boiseries, a matching rug by Da Silva Bruhns, and the furniture conceived by Gérard Mille and lacquered by Katsu Hamanaka. Other rooms had been furnished with works by Leleu, Prou, Baguès and Bernard Dunand.
The full set of boiseries was later sold by Christie's in Paris on March 29, 2011 for € 2.2M, lot 25. Considered in period as a French treasure, it has been authorized to leave France and was sold for £ 3.3M by Phillips on June 30, 2021, lot 33. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The next lot, 34, in the Phillips sale is a 3 m long banquette (daybed) from the same fumoir, was sold for £ 400K. It is signed by Hamanaka in 1932 for the black lacquer and in 1935 for the frame.
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.
1952 Ours Polaire by Royère
2023 SOLD for $ 3.4M by Christie's
Originally designated as Boule, his Ours Polaire suite of seats was conceived in 1947 in a bulkier style, in the quest of an improved simplicity. Its unprecedented comfort appeals to the senses of the sitter, including the position of body and arm and the caressing of a soft upholstery.
A full Ours Polaire set was sold for $ 840K by Phillips on December 16, 2014, lot 26 and for $ 3.4M by Christie's on March 9, 2023, lot 16. It is made of a sofa and two armchairs in their original celery green mohair fabric sourced from Italy in 1952.
A single Ours Polaire canapé from ca 1962 in ash wood that retained its original velvet was sold for € 1.1M by Christie's on June 30, 2020, lot 9.