Chairs and Seats
Chronology : 1740-1749 1750-1759 1920 1929 2007
set of four Ming huanghuali armchairs
2015 SOLD for $ 9.7M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2019 before Christie's sale of another set (see below)
Highly appreciated by the Ming, the huanghuali is a hardwood that enables to create furniture with bold shapes. Its color varies from reddish brown to golden yellow while its grains may display seductive pseudo-figurative patterns.
A set of eight Ming seats in huanghuali would be the holy grail for a collector. I do not know if such a wonder remains in private hands and the submultiples, four and two, are much in demand. The consistency of colors and grains ensures the homogeneity of a group. The virtuosity of the craftsman is also considered.
The almost square back with the top rail in the form of a yoke or of an official's hat is the guanmaoyi. A set of four folding armless chairs was sold for £ 5.3M including premium by Bonhams on November 9, 2017 over a lower estimate of £ 150K. A pair with arms was sold by Sotheby's on March 23, 2011 for $ 2.77M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 200K.
The quanyi, designating a chair with a circular back, is also known as the horseshoe-back armchair. The best craftsmen round the circle by reducing the number of elements of the crest rail, obtaining a rigidity which also makes it possible to optimize the stretchers. Despite an apparent lightness, their seats are strong.
On March 17, 2015, Christie's dispersed the Ellsworth collection. The bidders recognized the best qualities of a quanyi in the group of four that constituted the lot 41. Moreover the other two pairs that would make it possible to constitute a set of eight were identified in the catalog. Lot 41 was sold for $ 9.7M including premium over a lower estimate of $ 800K.
Another homogeneous set of four quanyi in huanghuali from the Ming period passed at Christie's on September 13, 2019, lot 878, from a lower estimate of $ 800K.
Qing - The Lacquer Throne
2019 SOLD for £ 6.1M including premium
On May 14 in London, Christie's sells a wide lacquered armchair, lot 60 estimated £ 800K. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This large piece of furniture is very finely chiseled on all its surfaces except of course on the seat proper, with a depth of lacquer that required 100 to 150 layers. In an extreme refinement, three colors were used, a classic cinnabar red for the surface and ochre and green in under-layers revealed by the carving.
With its opulence and dimensions, 111 cm high, 115 cm wide and 86 cm deep, this chair is an imperial throne. Its figures include nine five-clawed imperial dragons who pursue the flaming pearl in the clouds. The back side adds other auspices including bats and a pair of fish.
This type of throne was executed during the Qing dynasty, mainly during the reign of Qianlong. The imperial archives record during the ninth year of the reign, 1744 CE, the commission of a lacquered dragon throne which was attributed to a small palace used as an intimate theater lodge in the imperial city. This information does not allow an identification with the piece to be sold but it shows that these fragile furnitures were not ceremonial thrones.
The catalog of the next sale quotes in reference a similar Qing throne, probably earlier. Its lacquer consisted of red, black and green layers on a brown background and contained gold inclusions. This lot was sold for HK $ 13.8M including premium by Christie's on May 29, 2007.
1750 Queen Anne walnut stool made in Philadelphia
2008 SOLD for $ 5.2M including premium by Sotheby's
1756-1758 Twelve Dining Chairs for Spencer House
2010 SOLD 660 K£ including premium
Nothing was too good to furnish Spencer House in London. The great dining room designed by John Vardy in 1755 included two dozen chairs that were manufactured between 1756 and 1758. These mahogany chairs with high perforated back, 1 meter high overall, were finely carved, probably by Thomas Vardy who was the brother of the architect.
They remained since that time in the ownership of the Spencer family. Twelve of them are sold in one lot by Christie's in London on July 8. The others, which have been reworked during the nineteenth century, are not for sale.
Not signed, they were manufactured by one of the two outstanding workshops of that era: Thomas Chippendale or Mayhew and Ince. A literature review made by the auction house gives preference to the latter. This set is a masterpiece of George II style, estimated £ 600K.
POST SALE COMMENT
The lot was sold 660 K £ including premium, around the estimate. It is a reference price for finely carved George II seats.
In the same sale, a pair of George II armchairs coming also from Spencer House has been sold 800 K £ including premium on an estimate of £ 200K.
Qianlong - The Zitan Throne
2009 SOLD 86 MHK$ including premium
The emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties enjoyed a rare wood, the zitan (tzu-t'an in the old spelling), which allowed a very fine carving. The throne for sale by Sotheby's in Hong Kong on October 8 is a wide seat (1.40 m) with motifs of the usual symbol of the Chinese Empire, the Dragon. It dates from the Qianlong period and is estimated 20 MHK$, lot 1645.
This wooden throne, although rare and prestigious, will not compare with the throne that adorned the Hall of Supreme Harmony in the Forbidden City in Beijing. Also decorated with dragons, it was made of white marble and jade.
POST SALE COMMENT
Imperial Chinese pieces get a huge prestige at auction. There are a score of recent examples. But no furniture is more prestigious than a throne: the result, 86 MHK$ including premium, is remarkable.
Here is this exceptional lot, shared after the sale by Art Market Monitor.
<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 :
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
1976 A Flock of Seats in a Barn
2012 SOLD 5.7 M$ including premium
He designed a small bench in wood and aluminum, covered with wool, with four feet. All furniture manufacturers run their models in multiple copies: Lalanne standardizes the quantity to 24. Thus was born his flock of life size sheep, worthy of the best ideas of surrealism but in an extreme simplicity of interpretation.
The set is funny. Sheep are actually in two models: with head held high, and headless. This is a clear invitation to leave the pieces together : headless animals are considered occupied to graze within the group, protected by the external figures.
The owner of a herd gets a modifiable furniture of wide area and high friendliness where guests can sit, lie, hang their hat.
On November 14 in New York at Christie's, a flock of 24 seats is estimated $ 4M, in the evening sale of post-war and contemporary art. Here is the link to the catalog.
This set had been purchased in 1976 by an American couple to fill a barn. These clients have devised a clever refinement: one sheep, and only one, is in black wool, to anticipate the case where a guest would like to be on his own!
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot is certainly one of the most complete sets of Lalanne sheep: $ 5.7 million including premium.
1988 Furniture Art by Marc Newson
2010 SOLD 2.1 M$ including premium
The auction house is Phillips de Pury, which is currently strengthening its position among the market leaders in contemporary art.
The collector is Halsey Minor. Among the 22 works from his collection for sale on that day, Marc Newson is neighbouring Richard Prince and Ed Ruscha.
Newson is the leader in contemporary furniture, considering the excellent results he gets so regularly at auction. The presence of three major works in aluminum will excite the specialists.
In October 2008, I had discussed the sale by Sotheby's at 420 K £ including premium of one of the two artist's proofs of the Orgone Stretch Lounge. The other artist's copy of this 1993 bench is now estimated $ 400 K by Phillips de Pury.
In that article, I chose for reference price a prototype of the Lockheed Lounge sold $ 970 K by Sotheby's in June 2006. The same copy of this 1988 deck chair is now estimated $ 1 million by Phillips de Pury. On April 30, 2009 in London, this auction house got £ 1.1 million including premium for another copy.
The other major lot is a 1987 prototype of the Pod of drawers, estimated $ 500K. A production model of this cabinet has reached $ 1.05 million including premium at Christie's in May 2007.
POST SALE COMMENT
Buyers are becoming more selective. This ensured the success of the prototype of Lockheed Lounge, sold $ 2.1 million including premium ($ 1.8 million hammer), but the other two top lots remained unsold.
Here are pictures of these three pieces on the catalog shared by LiveAuctioneers:
Prototype Lockheed Lounge
Pod of drawers prototype
Orgone Stretch Lounge
SECOND PART OF THE SALE :
BEFORE SALE :
I stated in my article that a series model of the Pod of Drawers cabinet has reached $ 1.05 million including premium at Christie's in May 2007. This copy is one of the top lots in the second part of the Halsey Minor sale by Phillips de Pury in New York on June 9. It is estimated $ 300K.
We can see that it is different from the prototype unsold on May 13: its feet are black, while the prototype has white feet.
AFTER SALE :
Pods of drawers by Newson are less esteemed than his seats. It was sold $ 290K hammer price, $ 350K including premium.
The catalog had been shared by LiveAuctioneers.
1990 A Social Breakthrough in a Lounge
2015 SOLD for £ 2.43M including premium
Australians love surfing. Newson appreciates that the manufacturing techniques of the surfboards may be used for more complex and modern structures. The shape is achieved by covering the foam with fiberglass. Then comes the finish.
The sculptor Newson wishes a metallic finish. After various tests in his garden in Sydney, he manages to keep the convex and concave curves of the cast by hammering sheets of aluminum joined by many blind rivets. The texture is similar to an aircraft fuselage. The new model in 1988 is named Lockheed lounge without the involvement of that industrial company.
The Lockheed Lounge is abstract art applied to furniture, with unprecedented materials and techniques. In 1990, ten units plus four artist's proofs are edited, bringing their figure to a final fifteen.
We do not sit on a Lockheed lounge but may recline on it for a social activity. The new Madame Récamier is the entertainer Madonna. A Lockheed Lounge appears sporadically in 1993 in the video Rain, a song from her highly successful Erotica album. Newson's chair becomes an icon of contemporary lifestyle.
The 1988 prototype was sold for $ 2.1 million including premium by Phillips on May 13, 2010. The 10/10 unit from the 1990 edition is estimated £ 1.5M, for sale by the same auction house on April 28 in London, lot 226.
2006 Computer Assisted Chairs
2019 SOLD for £ 710K including premium
Computer modeling opens a new path. In 1998 Opel creates a software based on the algorithms of nature to lighten the mount of the engine in its cars. Impressed by Opel's results, Joris Laarmanoperates similar softwares in furniture. In 2003 he realizes a radiator whose shape is based on the optimization of thermal conduction.
To design his chair on the principle of bone growth, he defines the position of backrest and seat and the points of contact to the ground, and then let the computer calculate the details of the structure. The aluminum construction of these complex shapes is solved for small series by one-piece casting in a technique of lost ceramics. Industrialization is still today a challenge that deserves to be studied : Laarman's computer-assisted chairs have a robustness far superior to classical furniture.
After his chair, Laarman creates an armchair and a rocking chair based on the same principle of nature, a bookcase inspired by the branches, a table using the classic calculations of bridge pillars and many other pieces of furniture.
The aluminum Bone Chair is edited in 12 units in 2006. It immediately becomes an icon of contemporary furniture. Four of them are kept in museums, including the Rijksmuseum and the MoMA.
The serial number 4/12 was sold for £ 345K including premium by Phillips on April 27, 2016. The 8/12 is estimated £ 400K for sale by Christie's in London on March 6, lot 115.
2007 Crocodiles in the Lounge
2018 SOLD for € 750K including premium
Over the years Claude Lalanne gradually edits a suite of crocodile seats in gilt bronze and copper with leather cushions. On December 13, 2017 a pair of armchairs made in 1997 is separated by Sotheby's with a lower estimate of $ 300K each. With results at $ 980K and 1,15M including premium, Claude's reptiles can valuably swallow the sheep of her husband.
The bench designed by Claude in 2006 is more spacious, 79 x 140 x 74 cm compared to the 78 x 61 x 64 cm of an armchair. There is now the place for two crocodiles in a similar position. The tight composition has become airy.
This Banquette is edited in 2007 in eight copies plus four artist proofs with the mark of the Figini foundry. The number 4/8 was sold for € 460K including premium by Sotheby's on May 24, 2016 over a lower estimate of € 200K. The number 2/8 is estimated € 600K for sale by Tajan in Paris on April 4, lot 9.
The Bureaux Croco by Claude Lalanne are another design with the bronze skin spreading on the top. One of them dated 2009 was sold for $ 2.17M including premium by Sotheby's over a lower estimate of $ 350K in the same auction as the pair of armchairs mentioned above.