Art Déco in France
Chronology : 1920-1929 1920 1923 1926 1929 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 :
1922-1925 The Folding Screens of Eileen Gray
2012 SOLD 1.87 M$ including premium
Moving to Paris in 1907, Eileen Gray is open to the influences of the world. Interior designer, she very early appreciates the value of a piece of furnishing rarely used in Europe but essential in Japan, the folding screen or paravent, which serves to divide the inhabited room differently as needed.
Alongside with Dunand, she is a pioneer in the Art Déco and in the clever use of luxurious materials including lacquers. She develops her art at the same time when painting explores the abstraction.
On December 12 in New York, Christie's sells a screen made towards 1922-1925 by Eileen Gray. Estimated $ 1.5 million, it is made of six panels 200 x 43 x 1,3 cm in lacquered, incised and painted wood. The decoration consists in thin irregular horizontal lines improved by a few commas. Here is the link to the catalog.
Her "Brick" screen is still remarkable now for its abstract modernism. The regular perforated arrangement of plates generates a piece that invites to communication between both sides of the divided room. Eileen Gray had somehow invented the minimal art with an intention of utility.
A Brick screen in black lacquered wood made in 1923-1925 was sold € 1.35 million at Christie's on March 29, 2011. Another copy is on sale on December 12 at Christie's. Estimated $ 400K, this is a reissue of 1973 carried out with the approval of the artist then 94 years old. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
Both screens were sold, $ 1.87 million including premium for the example of the 1920s and $ 340K including premium for the later Brick screen.
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 and 1921-1925 Rateau reminds about Pompeii
2013 SOLD 1.66 M€ including premium
Around 1920, Armand-Albert Rateau gets three important orders of apartment furnishings, almost simultaneously. Jeanne Lanvin's is the best known, but his work for the palace of the Duchess of Alba in Madrid is based on the same models.
Inspired by Pompeii, Rateau's bronzes in 'antique green' patina are highly original. The bird as his preferred figurative theme is an opportunity for stunning curves in table legs and around the cups of the floor lamps. Some of them hold a sinuous snake in their beak.
The Alba family had retained some pieces from the bathroom. This set will be sold in eight lots at Christie's in Paris on May 23.
The coffee table dated 1924 is estimated € 1.5 M This model is very close to the piece of the Dray collection, sold € 2M including premium on 8 June 2006, which had a lovely attitude of the four pheasants.
1.85 m high, the two floor lamps 'aux oiseaux' are rarer, and perhaps even more spectacular. They are dated between 1921 and 1925 in the catalogue. They will be sold separately, each one with an estimate of € 1.5 M.
In 1925 in Paris, the Exposition internationale des Arts décoratifs et industriels exhibits all the new trends. These developments financed by wealthy customers for their personal needs are presented to the public and generate new orders.
POST SALE COMMENT
The three lots discussed above were sold at the same price, each one at € 1.66M Including premium.
1924 Caryatid Birds by Rateau
2015 SOLD for $ 1.2M including premium
The early 1920s was the period of highest creativity for Armand Albert Rateau, inspired altogether by his appreciation of Pompeii and by his unprecedented vision on the use of birds in furniture.
Slightly different variants of his bronze tables with birds are existing, some of them only made in a single cast copy. These low tables are designed to be used as coffee tables.
The table aux oiseaux for sale, 34 cm high in dark green patinated bronze, is dated circa 1920-1922 by Camard and 1924 by Christie's.
The black marble of its top is adorned with a rim in white marble. It rests on four identical caryatid birds facing one another in pairs. The legs of each bird are placed on a sphere while the tail following the body bends to reach the ground. The overall size, overflowing from the perimeter of the marble, is 102 x 50 cm.
A very similar table, also dated 1924, was sold for € 1.66M by Christie's on 23 May, 2013.
These tables are also close and contemporary with the slightly smaller pheasant model from the Dray collection, sold for € 2M including premium at Christie's on June 8, 2006. The shape of the birds was different, with heads bent down.
1926-1928 Mahogany and Shagreen
2016 SOLD for $ 1.45M including premium
This ambitious exposition is open from April to October 1925 on the model of the World Exhibitions. Its success with the public is considerable. France appears as the promoter of a new luxury. Architecture and furniture are inspired from the artistic avant-gardes. The shapes are simplified, the proportions are balanced and the use of rare woods and leathers is encouraged.
One of the pavilions simulates a French Embassy under the patronage of the Ministry of Fine Arts. Each room is entrusted to another decorator, selected among the best in their specialty : Mallet-Stevens, Jourdain, Chevalier, Groult, Chareau, with the active participation of Ruhlmann.
André Groult conceives the Chambre de Madame of this imaginary ambassade. His anthropomorphic cabinet frees this type of furniture from the constraints of straight lines. The commode is in mahogany entirely covered with white shagreen. Mahogany was chosen because this wood is strong enough to withstand the shrinkage of the ray skin.
An American woman living in Paris is seduced by this achievement and orders to Groult a similar set that will be realized between 1926 and 1928. The commode 90 x 131 x 47 cm realized by Chanaux and Pelletier is covered with large grain green shagreen arranged on each piece of wood in a pattern of radiant triangles which is a sumptuous example of pointillist abstract art.
This green chest of drawers was sold for € 1,25M including premium by Christie's in the sale of the prestigious Dray collection on June 8, 2006, over a lower estimate of € 250K. It is estimated $ 700K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 14, lot 259.
1929 Waiting for the Maharaja
2011 SOLD for € 2.86M including premium by Christie's
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 Moineaux by Lalique
2011 SOLD for € 2.02M including premium by Sotheby's
1929 An Interior furnished by Ruhlmann
2010 SOLD 1.5 M$ including premium
The beauty and simplicity of shapes and the luxurious materials identify Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann as the top master of Art Déco style.
An American family did no mistake: in 1929 and 1930, they ordered to the Parisian atelier the furniture for the dining room and the master bedroom. The correspondence related to this transaction has been preserved, and shows the care taken by the client to express his needs. Each delivered piece remained close to the model, but with little details that customize them.
This consistent set is essentially made of oak with Macassar ebony or walnut veneer and inlaid with ivory. It will be dispersed into nine lots on December 16 in New York by Sotheby's.
The lower estimates range from $ 100K to $ 300K. The highest price is expected on a very elegant secretary 1.37 m high with a drop front over two drawers and a synthetic finish that imitates the tortoise shell.
The press release shared (with an incorrect date of sale) by AuctionPublicity is illustrated with a photograph of a chest which gives a good idea of the quality of the whole.
POST SALE COMMENT
There are still treasures, and this interior was one. The sale of the 9 lots totaled $ 6.6 million, and some of them deserve to be remembered.
The two sideboards (1929), whose images were almost identical and could form a pair, were sold separately $ 1.5 M and 1.17 M.
The set of 12 cannelée chairs was sold for $ 990K.
The dining table was sold for $ 860K.
The walnut veneer chiffonier was sold for $ 840K.
The drop-front secretary was sold for $ 620K.
The above prices include fees.
It must be noted that the secretary, which had the highest estimate, is in sixth position in the results.This piece was atypical. Instead, the two sideboards, one of them being visible through the link included in the above article, are typical of what is best and most renowned in the work of Ruhlmann.They are veneered in macassar ebony and ivory inlaid.
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.