Sunday, September 21, 2014

Another Jacques Doucet Treasure Surfaces at Auction

Hello Dear readers I have taken far to long to start posting once again but life does tend to get in the way.  In preparation for the unfolding fall auction season I took time to look back at the spring season to take stock.  A reader tipped me off a few months ago that another rarity from Jacques Doucet's Studio St. James residence emerged at Christie's Paris May 20th, 2014 in the form of a rather smart silver and rock crystal desk set.
Rock Crystal and Silver Desk Set, Christie's Paris, 20 May 2014, Lot 4 (€37,500)
The lot comprises an inkwell, pin tray, stamp box and paper clip pot.  The winning bid of €37,500 is rather astonishing given that the set is not attributed to a known designer/maker and was offered on a pre-sale estimate of €10,000-12,000.  The result shows the importance of a Doucet provenance.  If you are not familiar with Jacques Doucet or his fabled collection see my previous posts here.  Christie's placed the date of the set to around 1929, the year Doucet died and when period images of his modernist studio home were published widely.  Looking at a period image of the studio the set indeed can be seen resting on the Pierre Legrain desk just outside of the "Oriental Cabinet".
The set seen in-situ within Jacques Doucet's Studio   Image: L'Illustration, 30 Mai 1930.
Detail of above
I would not date these items so late as they were present in the apartment Doucet acquired in 1912 on the avenue Bois de Boulogne.  The image below from the early 1920s shows the desk set in the Bois de Boulogne residence placed on the same Pierre Legrain desk which itself was designed in 1920 and executed shortly thereafter.  
The desk set present at Jacques Doucet's Bois de Boulogne apartment circa early 1920s   Image via Sotheby's
The desk set was one of a number of pieces that was not disbursed in the subsequent years immediately following Doucet's death.  According to the Christie's catalogue the set was offered as lot 13 in his groundbreaking 1972 sale.  The desk articles sold for a tidy 4500 francs where they were purchased by a Madame M., the present consignor to Christie's, which means they have had only two owners in nearly 100 years which only adds to their allure.
Vente Audap, Ancienne collection Jacques Doucet, 8 novembre 1972   Image: Aestheticusrex
In putting together this post it came to my attention that Architectural Digest September 2014 issue published a short article about Doucet as a collector.  It seems that the venerable Cheska Vallois dedicated her booth to Doucet's collecting genius at the 2014 Paris Biennale which closed today. Reports point out that it is a mix of Doucet items and period works in the spirit of his collection.
Galerie Vallois booth, 2014 Paris Bienalle    Image courtesy Galerie Vallois
I am loving the printed scrim at the end of the installation showing the entry stairs to Doucet's Studio. Connaissance des art Decortatifs produced the following interview which highlights a few of the works presented.
I must get my hands on Vallois' Biennale publication tout de suite.  I will undoubtedly travel to Paris for the fall 2015 Jacques Doucet exhibition at the Fondation Pierre Berge-Yves Saint Laurent. Much to do and see....until next time.  -AR

Friday, January 3, 2014

Duchess of Cambridge Steps out in First Tiara since Wedding

Hello Dear readers.  It has been quite some time since I have posted on this subject, but the Duchess of Cambridge has waited over three years for the privilege of attending another "tiara" event.  On December 3rd the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were guests of the Queen at Buckingham Palace for a diplomatic reception.  Unfortunately, no formal state portraits have surfaced, just this partially obscured press image as she arrived with Prince William.
While this tiara did not make my official list as a contender for her wedding, it was mentioned as an outlier because of its associations with Princess Margaret and recent use in another royal wedding.
The tiara is known as the Papyrus Tiara and was fashioned from a necklace that was given to The Queen Mother on the occasion of her wedding to Prince Albert (George VI) in 1923.
The Queen Mother (while Duchess of York)  Image via A Tiara A Day
Image of the tiara and the wedding necklace from which it was created Image via
Evidently the queen mother presented the Papyrus Tiara to Princess Margaret prior to her wedding to Anthony Armstrong-Jones in 1960.  It became a mainstay for Princess Margaret over the years.
Princess Margaret wearing the Papyrus Tiara Image via
Princess Margaret in-turn loaned it to her future daugher-in-law Serena Stanhope for her wedding to Viscount David Linley in 1993.
Viscount David Linley and Lady Serena Stanhope on their wedding day  Image via
The Duchess of Cambridge now wearing this tiara has settled an ongoing debate.  It is now clear that the tiara must have been a lifetime loan to Princess Margaret and was returned to the royal vaults upon her death in 2002.  I hope to see the Duchess adorned in many more family gems in the future.  One last look before we go....until next time.--AR
Papyrus Tiara circa 1923   Image via Pinterest

Tiffany Wisteria Lamp sets Record at Sotheby's

Just a quick note in the new year dear readers.  The design auctions concluded just before the holidays and Sotheby's set a new world record for the Wisteria lamp model by Tiffany Studios.  For an in-depth discussion of this design and its market, see my previous post here.  Sotheby's distinctive example reached a staggering $1,565,000 against an estimate of  $600,000-800,000.
Tiffany Studios Wisteria Lamp, Sotheby's New York 18 December 2013, lot 330
The lamp had many things going for it.  It was slightly deeper in tone in person and had a range of mottled turquoise glass along the lower border which gave an added sense of depth.  The lamp also had the added benefit of an impeccable provenance.  The lamp descended in the family of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza of Madrid who acquired the work around 1975.  I have known dealers to ask this price range for the Wisteria model in a retail setting so it seems clear to me that lamp was very likely purchased by a private buyer, pushing the bidding into the retail realm.  No details have surfaced yet, but I have a few ideas.

The previous record was also set by Sotheby's for a Wisteria from the collection of John M. Fowler.
Tiffany Studios Wisteria Lamp, Sotheby's New York 14 December 2007, lot 208
This example was similarly saturated in tones and also had a range of deeply mottled glass.  At the height of the pre-crash market it reached $881,000 against and estimate of $450,000-600,000.  While the Wisteria is not the rarest of examples it is infinitely desirable to collectors and nuanced, saturated examples have always been the largest movers in the market.  Throughout the 1970s auction records for the Wisteria climbed steadily from $16,250 for an example at Sotheby's London in 1971 to an example at Christie's in the fall of 1978 that moved the record to $52,800.  However, before the close of the decade the example would be one of the very first tiffany lamps ever to exceed $100,000 at auction.
Tiffany Studios Wisteria Lamp, Christie's New York 17 February 1979, lot 53 ($132,000)
The Wisteria in question came from the collection of Florida real estate magnates Eugene and Eleanor Gluck offered at Christie's in February of 1979.  For insight on the Gluck sale see my previous post here.  The period press described the Gluck's Wisteria as the best that had been seen at market achieving $132,000.  The catalogue image above seem's a bit dark but it appears to be a mottled example with greenish turquoise glass used in the lower register to articulate the blooms.  If this example were to hit the market today it would very likely exceed the newly established world record.  We shall wait and see what the future auction seasons bring us.  Until next time--AR.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Felix Marcilhac Collection to be sold at Sotheby's Paris

Hello dear readers.  I read in the French press over the summer that renown French art historian and 20th century design dealer Felix Marcilhac would be selling his personal collection via Sotheby's.  Recently Sotheby's Paris put forth a press release with additional details but scant few images to sate my overtly visual nature.  Fortunately, I was able to take-in a preview exhibition at Sotheby's New York headquarters open now through Friday, November 8th.  Do see it be for it closes.  Here is a run down of everything on view.
Jean Michel Frank, Pair of Armchairs, circa 1938, Shagreen and Oak, €250,000-300,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Marcel Coard, Occasional Table, circa 1925, Ebony and Green tinted Shagreen, €60,000-80,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Andre Groult, Occasional Table, circa 1926, Shagreen, €100,000-120,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Paul Iribe, "Nautile" Armchair, circa 1913, Carved walnut, €150,000-200,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Detail of above  Photo: Aestheticus Rex
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Pierre Chareau, "SN1" Stool, circa 1925, Walnut, €15,000-20,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Glass vessels by Maurice Marinot
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Glass vessels by Maurice Marinot
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Glass vessels by Maurice Marinot
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Glass vessels by Maurice Marinot
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Raphael Delorme, "Repetition", circa 1925, oil on canvas,  €15,000-20,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Bernard Boutet de Monvel, "Woman", oil on canvas, €40,000-60,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Raphael Delorme, "Composition", circa 1925, oil on board, €15,000-20,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Jean Dupas, "Femme en Buste", oil on panel, €20,000-25,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Jean Dupas, "Woman in Fur", circa 1929, oil on panel, €25,000-30,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Jacques Majorelle, "Les Deux Amies", 1941, Tempera with gold and silver on paper,  €250,000-300,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Joseph Csaky, "Tete de Femme", 1924, gilt and silvered bronze on palmwood base, €60,000-80,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
Gustave Miklos, "L'Homme et Son Destin", 1929, patinated bronze on black marble base, €250,000-300,000
Image: Aestheticus Rex
The works are exquisite, and the press release reveals that the sale will have some 300 lots by top makers many with stellar provenances...including Jacques Doucet.  This point brings me to press images that were also displayed including one of the gilt bronze statue below...
Woman with Bird, gilt bronze    Image via Sotheby's
Unfortunately this image was not labeled but the model is familiar to me.  The same model was part of the collection of Jacques Doucet seen at the entrance of his "Oriental Cabinet"within his Studio at Neuilly-sur-Seine.
Jacques Doucet's "Oriental Cabinet"  Image: L'Illustration, 3 May 1930 
Detail showing sculpture   Image: L'Illustration 3 May 1930
The 3 May 1930 issue of L'Illustration attributes the sculpture to Constantin Brancusi but I always had my doubts.  A boldface name like Brancusi would have been featured in the press release....and it is not.  However, the press release does mention Ossip Zadkine and a little research led me to discover that this is indeed a Zadkine model known as "Jeune Fille a al Colombe".  I am very much hoping that it is from Doucet's collection.  The sale is not until 11 March 2014 so we will have to wait until the catalogue is issued in February.  Until next time--AR

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Elements of Jacques Doucet's "Oriental Cabinet" at the MFA Boston

Hello at long last dear readers.  I seem to be stuck on the subject of Jacques Doucet's collection within his studio at Neuilley-sur-Siene, but pieces from this famed interior seem to be finding themselves in the path of my various research projects.  The other day, I was searching on the greatly updated website for the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. When I concluded I opted to search "Jacques Doucet" on a lark....I am very glad I took the time.  You see, mixed within the holdings of his various fashion designs were these two lovelies that I never seen reproduced in the modern literature regarding Doucet.
Jacques Lipchitz, Carved limestone mantelpiece, ca. 1928     Image: MFA Boston
Jacques Lipchitz, Gilt bronze and iron chenets, ca. 1928    Image: MFA Boston
You see, these anthropomorphic sculptural gems were a focal point within Jacques Doucet's "Oriental Cabinet".
View of Jacques Doucet's "Oriental Cabinet" with the chenets seen just beyond Eileen Gray's "Lotus Table"  Image: L'Illustration, 30 Mai 1930
Detail of above
I never knew, until I saw them glittering on my screen, that the cubist mantelpiece and chenets had survived as they were not featured in Doucet's 1972 sale.  According to the MFA's website the works were acquired by the museum from the Parisian gallery Brame et Laurenceau in 1986.  According to Brame et Laurenceau the works were inherited by Doucet's widow, Jeanne Roger Doucet and eventually made their way into a private collection from whence the gallery acquired them.  They are presently not on view.

On a side note, it appears that another pair of chenets from Doucet's studio surfaced at the Art Deco exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decortifs Bordeaux.  This time they were sculpted by Hungarian avant garde sculptor Gustave Miklos in 1925, cast in bronze, gilded and detailed with enamel.
Gustave Miklos, one of two chenets       Image: © Mairie de Bordeaux, photo Lysiane Gauthier
These chenets were loaned to the exhibition from a private collection and I have reached out to the Museum to confirm the Doucet provenance.  Due to some of the surface wear I believe that they are indeed lot 16 from the Doucet Collection sale in 1972.
Gustave Miklos enameled and gilt bronze chenets, Collection Jacques Doucet, Hotel Drouot, 8 November 1972 lot 16 ($8500)
I await to hear the museum's input.  Until next time--AR.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pierre Legrain Stool with Jacques Doucet Provenance at the Brooklyn Museum?

Hello Dear Readers.  Just another quick post.  The other week I found myself attending an event at the Brooklyn Museum for the first time in many years I hate to admit.  Just beyond the lobby is a grand installation entitled "Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn".  The concept is part of a sweeping trend among Museums to get more artworks out of the storerooms and display them en mass not only to show off their holdings but also to make cross cultural connections.  It was a display case of African and African inspired furniture that stopped me in my tracks.
"Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn" installation    Image: Brooklyn Museum
As I rounded the case I knew at once I was seeing an art deco masterwork by the French designer Pierre Legrain.
Pierre Legrain Stool, Ca. 1923   Image: Brooklyn Museum
The form is African in origin but is rendered in the materials of art deco luxury, namely lacquer and galuchat.  Legrain works are exceeding rare as he died in 1929.  It was for this reason I was keen to read the gallery text to find its provenance.  Unfortunately there was no listed provenance beyond the credit line "Purchased with funds given by an anonymous donor".  Fortunately the accession number "73.142" may provide some insight.  You see, accession numbers are typically a combination of the year that the object is acquired and the number of the bequest/object donated in that year.  The stool's number would suggest that it was acquired in 1973 which was was in close proximity to a major event in the nascent art deco market...that would be the groundbreaking sale of the collection of Jacques Doucet.  For background on Doucet and his awe inspiring collection see my previous post here.
Collection Jacques Doucet, Hotel Drouot, Paris 8 November 1972    Image via
The couturier Jacques Doucet died in 1929 and eventually the contents of his studio in Neuilly Sur Seine were placed in storage only to be rediscovered by his descendants decades later when the storage facility was closing down.  The subsequent sale in November of 1972 is a subject of legend in the decorative arts community and pieces ended up in the best collections and museums across the globe.  Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the sale catalogue at my fingertips or else I would settle this mystery in mere moments...therefore, we are left to consult the period images of the studio.
View of Doucet's Studio at Neuilly-sur-Seine, circa 1930     Image: L'Illustration, No.  4845
In the image above a very similar stool to the one at the Brooklyn museum can be seen just to the left of the monumental Lalique door.
Detail of stool in Doucet's Studio    Image: L'Illustration, No. 4845
The seat is of the same shape and proportion as is the rectangular stepped base, but the legs appear to be comprised of four posts and not faceted columns.  Its also hard to tell if there is a cream central support.  This lack of detail may be due to the period method of tinting these images or it may in-fact not be the same Legrain stool.  Thankfully, the Centre Pompidou's catalogue for their recent Eileen Gray exhibition published another view of the Studio that I had never seen before.
Studio Jacques Doucet Neuilly-sur-Seine    Image: Institut national d'histoire de l'art
Detail of Legrain Stool in Doucet's Studio     Image: Institut national d'histoire de l'art
If the Brooklyn Museum's stool is from Doucet's fabled studio, this appears to be an image of it in-situ.  It is of the same overall shape, possesses the central cream support, and you can make out the collars on the four faceted legs as they catch the light.  I need to consult a copy of Doucet's sale to be sure, but if I were a gambling man I would suspect that this is indeed the example now in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum....I will provide updates as the truth emerges.

On a side note, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has an African inspired Legrain stool that was purchased from the 1972 Doucet sale.  It was on view a few years back, but alas is now safely in storage.

Pierre Legrain carved rosewood stool for Jacques Doucet, ca. 1925   Image:
This stool borrows its form from an African headrest but is of the proportion of a low stool.  The sister to this stool was sold from the outstanding Dray Collection presented at Christie's Paris in 2006.  It achieved the tidy sum of $660,066.
Pierre Legrain carved hardwood stool for Jeanne Tachard, Circa 1925.   Image: Christie's
The Christie's catalogue notes that while Legrain's works for his top clients were generally unique pieces it is believed that since Jacques Doucet and Jeanne Tachard were close friends some exceptions could be made.  The Yves Saint Laurent sale at Christie's in 2009 yielded yet another rare stool by Legrain.  This stool can be traced directly to Jacques Doucet as it was lot 43 in the 1972 sale of his collection.
Legrain carved hardwood stool for Jacques Doucet, ca. 1925   Image: Christie's
I have always loved this particular example.  It is overtly African in inspiration but the supports to me also skew into the arena of the machine age becoming stylized gears.  Christie's sold this work for $589,130.

As a final aside, I am pleased that more period images of Doucet's collection are coming to light.  As reader's of this blog know I love seeing works as they were presented in their original context.  This recently published image is no exception as it clearly shows two "old friends" that I have marveled at for years.
Studio Jacques Doucet Neuilly-sur-Seine    Image: Institut national d'histoire de l'art
At the immediate left you can see two figures from Eileen Gray's screen "Le Destin".  The work dates to 1914 and was one of the first Gray pieces that Doucet acquired.  It resurfaced in his 1972 sale where it achieved $36,000.  It presently resides in a private collection.
Doucet's Studio detail showing Gray's "Le Destin"   Image: Institut national d'histoire de l'art
Eileen Gray's "Le Destin" lacquered wood screen, ca. 1914    Image via
Another work visible in the image of the studio is a bit hard to make-out but is well know today as it resides in the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris.
Detail of Doucet's Studio showing the Legrain side cabinet at the Musee des Arts Decoratifs  
Image: Institut national d'histoire de l'art
It is a bit hazy but if you know the work it becomes clear.  I shot a few images of this piece when I was last in Paris.
Pierre Legrain & Gustave Miklos side cabinet, ca. 1923   Image: Aestheticus Rex
Detail of the Gustav Miklos silvered and enameled panel.  Image: Aestheticus Rex
In the period photo you can just pick out the graphic nature of the stylized African panel by Gustave Miklos.  It is all very exciting.  I am trying to get my hands of a copy of the 1972 Doucet sale as we speak.  Updates to follow.  Until next time...--AR.

Well in the days since penning this post I have discovered that a stool of the same exact model as the one at the Brooklyn Museum is in the possession of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Pierre Legrain Stool, ca. 1923       Image: © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
It is part of the Sidney and Frances Lewis bequest and the listed provenance is none other than Jacques Doucet.  I am very curious to know if there was a pair made for Doucet, or if the example at the Brooklyn Museum was made for another client.  I should have my hands on a copy of the Doucet sale in a few days...details to follow.

Well the mystery has been solved on two fronts.  I was able to find a copy of the Doucet auction and there was only one stool of this design offered, lot 33.  This would mean that Doucet's Legrain stool is definitely the example in the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.
Jacques Doucet's Legrain stool, Hotel Drouot, Paris, 8 November 1972, lot 33 ($4300)
The Brooklyn Museum also confirmed that theirs was indeed not from the Doucet sale but was actually acquired from an Italian collection and it was originally made for the de Crespi family with whom Legrain designed textiles.  Examples of this collaboration were evidently shown at the 1925 Exposition in Paris and recall his work in luxury bookbinding.
Pierre Legrain textile designs for Benigno Crespi, ca. 1925   Image via Flickr
Until next time.--AR