Furniture and Furnishings
Chronology : 1640-1649 1660-1679 18th Century 1720-1729 1740-1749 1760-1769 1770-1779 1780-1789 1790-1799 1920 1952 1968 1970
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.
1643 Mazarin's Treasure
2013 SOLD 7.3 M€ including premium
At that time in Europe, the commode has not been invented, and the usual saving furniture is the coffre, without drawers. A wonderful chest kept in the Victoria and Albert Museum is part of a group of four shipped to Batavia on 1 October 1643. Its attested belonging to the Mazarin - La Meilleraye family suggests that it was acquired by the cardinal-minister. It is identified as the Mazarin chest.
The very detailed website of the museum devotes a full page to another chest from the same series, lamenting that its fate is unknown since 1941. Black and white photos show a panel and the top..
The lost piece was just found in a family that had no idea of its importance. It is listed in the annual prestige sale at the château de Cheverny by Rouillac on June 9. The auction house considers that it had been acquired circa 1658 in Amsterdam by an agent of Mazarin. The cardinal, a great lover of art, was considered as the richest man in the world.
This is a large piece, 64 x 145 x 73 cm. The total surface of black and gold lacquer is extraordinary: nearly 9 square meters including the inside of the lid. Despite its decades of incognito survival, it is in very good condition.
Above all, it represents by itself a synthesis of the decorative arts of Japan, with all the technical applications of lacquer including inlays of mother of pearl. The many figures of people, animals and palaces are exquisite.
The position of these chests in the history of furniture is great. It was to wait for more than half a century to get the fashion of commodes and desks decorated with lacquered panels.
POST SALE COMMENT
Purchased for the benefit of the Rijksmuseum, the chest will come back to Amsterdam three and a half centuries after being bought in this city by an agent of Mazarin. Its price, € 7.3 million including premium, confirms that Rouillac made a perfect analysis by considering it as a masterpiece.
1665-1675 The Italian Influence at the Gobelins
2009 SOLD 4.5 M£ including premium
The minister of Louis XIV was Mazarin, the Italian, a great lover of art. The Superintendent of Finance was Fouquet, patron of artists including Le Brun. In 1661, Mazarin dies. His close associate, the very active Colbert, excites the rage of the king against the luxurious château de Vaux, Fouquet's personal property.
Now, Colbert's hands are free. In 1662 he creates the Manufacture des Meubles de la Couronne in the then suburbs of the Gobelins. The idea is to provide the king with luxurious furniture by protecting the best cabinetmakers and tapestry makers so that their art is reserved for royal commissions. The management of the Manufacture is entrusted to Le Brun.
Having come from Italy, Domenico Cucci made several luxury furniture at the Gobelins, including a pair of large cabinets for Versailles in 1664. The similarity of design allows Christie's to date between 1665 and 1675 another cabinet, for sale in London on December 10, which was probably done on an order of the Queen of Sweden.
This high furniture of Flemish style is perched on a stand of stone caryatids, and adorned with gilded bronze and with Pietre Dure from Florence. The caryatids may be the work of another Italian, Philippe Caffieri, husband of the sister of Le Brun and cousin of Cucci. A family business that would have pleased Mazarin!
Christie's estimates the piece of furniture around 4 million pounds.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result meets the expectations and expertise of the auction house: £ 4.5 million including premium.
Here is the image of this lot shared post sale by AuctionPublicity.
1726-1732 The Badminton cabinet
2004 SOLD 19 M£ including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
In 1726 the 3rd Duke of Beaufort, aged 19, makes his tour of Italy. He is extremely rich and desires to build an art collection. His stay in Florence was very short. It seems likely that a pre-existing project for a monumental piece of furniture was offered to him. He orders this piece, of which he has followed the make by his agents.
The piece of furniture is delivered to him in 1732. It will be known as the Badminton cabinet from the residence where the 3rd Duke installed it and where it stayed until 1990.
It was sold twice by Christie's : on July 5, 1990 for £ 8.6M including premium and on December 9, 2004 for £ 19M including premium, lot 260 (not illustrated online). It was acquired at this latter sale by Prince Hans Adam II von und zu Liechtenstein to become the central piece in the collection of pietra dura works in his private museum.
The Badminton cabinet is a piece of furniture with four superimposed ebony segments over eight pilasters, for a total height of 386 cm including the Beaufort coat of arms in finial. It is 232 cm wide and 94 cm deep.
The assembly of this piece is a tour de force of joinery. It is sumptuously decorated on front and lateral sides in pietra dura and semi-precious stones with floral themes including birds. The upper segment consists of a clock whose dial is later. The allegories of the four seasons in gilt bronze surround the clock.
#ThrowbackThursday The Badminton Cabinet was sold in July 1990 in London. Commissioned in 1726 by Henry Somerset, 3rd Duke of Beaufort, it took 6 years to make & was regarded as the greatest Florentine cabinet of its time. It is on display at the Liechtenstein Museum in Vienna. pic.twitter.com/fTdEaJAm4e— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 16, 2020
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.
1745 Secretary Bookcase made in Newport by Christopher Townsend
1999 SOLD for $ 8.25M before fees by Sotheby's
1760-1770 block and shell bookcase desk attributed to John Goddard in Newport
1989 SOLD 12.1 M$ by Christie's
1763 Bureau plat by Joseph with Sèvres porcelain plaques
2005 SOLD 6.9 M€ including premium by Artcurial
Qianlong - A Masterpiece of Chinese Furniture
2013 SOLD 93 M RMB yuan including premium
On June 4 in Beijing, Poly International Auction sells an exceptional pair of zitan cabinets of Qianlong period whose achievement was a real technical feat.
3.25 m high, these cabinets are among the tallest known zitan furniture, although another one 4.40 m high is preserved in Beijing. Its depth of 74 cm is also exceptional. The conception of these cabinets included slits in the boards of doors and sides to relieve the pressure.
There is no evidence that the origin of this pair of furniture is imperial, but they are finely carved in high relief with patterns of dragons and lotus.
The estimate is not announced, but this lot is undoubtedly a masterpiece of Chinese furniture.
POST SALE COMMENT
There was no doubt that this pair of cabinets of large size and plenty carving is a masterpiece of Chinese furniture, and even of international furniture. It was sold for RMB yuan 93M including premium, corresponding to U.S. $ 15M.
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.
1778 Royal commode by Jean-Henri Riesener for Louis XVI
1999 SOLD 7 M£ including premium by Christie's
1786 Pietra-dura Commode stamped by (widow) Carlin and Weisweiler
1999 SOLD for FF 46M including premium by Christie's
1795 A Triumph for Louis XVI ... in 1882 !
2011 SOLD 6.9 M$ including premium
The 12th Duke of Hamilton was not an art lover, and he had a urgent need for money. The sale of his collection in 2213 lots at Christie's in London was an event that experts still quote.
The portrait of Philip IV by Velazquez, acquired by the British government for 6000 guineas, was however not the highest result of the sale.
Indeed, a Louis XVI commode and secretaire had been sold separately, and to two different clients, for a price quoted as "enormous, never before given for a piece of furniture" in the article, of 9450 pounds each. Mounted in gilt bronze by Gouthière, these two ebony furniture lacquered in black and gold are bearing the monogram of Marie-Antoinette.
The sale of the Safra collection will last four days, from October 18 to 21, at Sotheby's in New York. A pair of furniture is for sale in one lot estimated $ 5M.
This commode and its secrétaire en suite had been included in the Hamilton sale. Like the two royal furniture discussed above, they are from Louis XVI time, mounted in bronze and lacquered. They are attributed to Adam Weisweiler.
Here is the link to the lot in the catalogue.
POST SALE COMMENT
French furniture has become difficult to sell, except, of course, those of the highest quality. This set of two pieces was sold $ 6.9 million including premium.
The estimated date given in the catalog is circa 1795, after the death of Louis XVI. It is possible that this set was intended to Tsar Paul I, but it has not been been delivered to him.
<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 :
1952 The Primordial Chandelier
2018 SOLD for £ 7.6M including premium
For their friends the Giacometti brothers also remain the pre-war decorators who created models of furnishing for Frank. Diego continues in this specialty and Alberto still accepts some private orders. A plaster chandelier with geometric figures made by Alberto in 1954 for the Tériade apartment was sold for £ 2.05M including premium by Phillips on April 26, 2017.
Louis Broder was a Swiss publisher. For his Paris apartment he commissioned in 1948 to Alberto a chandelier adorned with his new characters. The original plaster, 60 cm high and 136 cm in diameter, was supplied in 1949 or 1950 to Broder and donated in 1983 by Berggruen to the Centre Pompidou.
This private work is an interesting synthesis of Giacometti's metaphysics. The central position is a gloriette in which the Femme debout opens her arms, holding two side columns as if she was ready to go out for discovering the world. She has the main role, superseding the ephemeral Homme au doigt.
The Homme qui marche starts away from the cage in a centrifugal force that ignores the existence of the woman. Smaller than her, he does not have the importance he would like to have. The trinity is completed on the other side by a bird. The four lights are installed in crocus flowers.
In 1952 Alberto made three bronzes of this chandelier, also for Broder. One of them is estimated £ 6M for sale by Sotheby's in London on February 28, lot 4.
1966-1969 Bibliothèque by Diego Giacometti
2017 SOLD for $ 6.3M including premium by Sotheby's
1970 Bar aux Autruches by François-Xavier Lalanne
2017 SOLD for € 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Georges Pompidou was a great sponsor of contemporary art. His accession to the presidency of the French Republic in 1969 encouraged new projects.
In 1970 Lalanne edits two very prestigious bars using the new ultra-white porcelain. The Grasshopper Bar, 175 cm long, is produced in two copies only. One was offered by President Pompidou to Queen Elizabeth II in 1972. The other was sold for $ 1.64M including premium by Sotheby's on May 24, 2018.
The Bar aux Autruches, 194 cm long overall, is much original in its design. The tray is held on each side in the beak of an ostrich. The standing birds turn their backs each other for the balance. The folding wings open laterally on a bottle rack. The tray is centered with a removable ice bucket in the shape of an egg. The ostriches are dated 1967 and bear the mark of the Manufacture de Sèvres.
The Ostrich bar was assembled in six units. One of them is exhibited in the permanent collections of the Musée de Sèvres and another one was deposited at the Palais de l'Elysée at the request of Pompidou. Another copy was sold for € 6.2M including premium by Sotheby's on November 21, 2017 over a lower estimate of € 700K, lot 40.
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.
1991 Rhino and Chou
2019 SOLD for € 5.4M including premium
Their conceptions and their product lines are complementary. François-Xavier maintains the functionality of his models of furniture even when they are zoomorphic. Claude creates decorative objects for the living room or the garden with an unlimited imagination. They will sign their works jointly from 1966 : Les Lalanne.
In that seminal exhibition, the two flagship pieces were François-Xavier's Rhinocrétaire and Claude's Choupatte. Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint-Laurent were enthusiastic about the Rhinocrétaire.
Throughout their long career, les Lalanne accumulate new subjects without interrupting the old themes. On 23 and 24 October in Paris, Sotheby's sells the works that they were keeping in their home and studio near Fontainebleau.
The lot 13 estimated € 700K is a Rhinocrétaire 2.55 m long in welded metal. Opening a fall front of the beast unfolds the desk. This unique piece made in 1991 was certainly assembled for the personal use of the artist. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's in the tweet.
The lot 33 estimated € 150K is a Choupatte (Très Grand) 117 x 135 cm from an edition of 8 made in 2012 in patinated bronze. A unique piece of only 37 cm dated 1988 was sold for € 610K including premium by Sotheby's on May 28, 2019 over a lower estimate of € 70K.
RESULTS including premium :
Rhinocrétaire SOLD for € 5.4M
Choupatte SOLD for € 2.17M