Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rare Lalique Masterwork Sells in Paris

Rene Lalique: Winged Woman Balustrade Section, Detail.    Image via Sotheby's
Hello Dear Readers.  Just a quick post today.  In reviewing recent sales during this gloomy snowy Saturday I came across this stunner that sold at Sotheby's Paris some four weeks ago.  In a previous post regarding the sale of Tiffany Masterworks from the Garden Museum at Michaan's Auctions, I noted that the Museum's art nouveau treasures were being offered later at Sotheby's Paris salesroom.  I thought for sure they would be sold at the usual times for this material...the spring season but alas the sale was slated for February 16th.  There were many interesting pieces that I had not seen in some years but the rare Rene Lalique patinated bronze winged woman balustrade panel stole the show achieving the highest price of the sale.
Rene Lalique: Patinated bronze Winged Woman Balustrade Section    Image via Sotheby's
This panel was part of a sculptural balustrade within Rene Lalique's display with Siegfried Bing at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900.
Rene Lalique installation at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle  Image via
Detail of installation showing balustrade.   Image via Sotheby's
Further detail showing balustrade   Image via Sotheby's
The bronze panel offered at Sotheby's was one of five that formed a decorative balustrade that was backed with a sheer gauze simulating wings from which Lalque jewels were hung.  According to Sotheby's description:
Contemporary illustrations of Lalique's display at the 1900 Exposition universelle show five sculpted bronze figures in three different poses. Two have their hands under the chin, one in the collection of the Kunstgwerbemuseum Berlin (acquisition no. 1901-111), the other on exhibition in the Lalique Museum, Hakone, Japan (lent by Shai Bandmann); one with both arms raised above her head with head to her left (private collection) and two with arms raised above her head (the present example and private collection).
As the cataloging shows the panel is one of five produced and only one of two made utilizing the same figure which may explain the result.
Detail of present model at the exhibition Universelle Paris 1900   Image via Sotheby's
The panel was estimated at €200,000-300,000 and achieved a stellar €1,240,750 ($1,658,313).  This was quite an unexpected result and is a testament to the rarity and desirability of the work.  As an investment it was a rather wise one.  It was purchased by the Garden Museum in 1998 at Christies New  York for $134,500 against an estimate of $100,000-150,000.
The present work as illustrated at its previous sale, Christie's New York, 10 December 1998, Lot 111  Image via Christie's
A decorative art item increasing in value by over ten times in fifteen years is not too shabby to say the very least.  At the same sale in 1998, another version from the suite of five was offered, making $101,500 against the same estimate of $100,000-150,000.  This appears to be the example owned by collector Shai Bandmann presently on loan to the Lalique Museum in Hakone, Japan.
The example presently on loan to the Lalique Museum Hakone, Japan, Christie's New York, 10 December 1998, Lot 112   Image via Christie's
The new $1.6M price may motivate the owners of the three other privately held examples to consider selling.  We will have to wait and see.  Until next time.--AR


  1. It's interesting to note the the Galle dining room suite from this sale was not listed in the results. I'm wondering if it was not sold or if France claimed it as a national treasure.

    1. Hmmmmm... It Appears that Galle furniture lots 12, 13 &17 were struck from the results on Sotheby's website, but do appear on Artnet as passed lots. I would venture to guess that they were withdrawn from the sale prior to the auction. Sotheby's is thankfully not in the habit of striking their unsold lots (unlike Christie's) so I would suspect they were removed from the block... Curious.

    2. Mystery solved. It does indeed look like a National heritage disaster that goes back to a botched 1911 bequest. Here is an article. Fascinated to see how it will play out...

  2. Interesting. I did not know that France cannot claim an item as a national treasure if it is not owned by someone from that country. Now we just have to wait for that donor to go public. Neither Sotheby's or the owner would withdraw such inportant lots without cash in hand.

    1. Agreed. It seems that when the original owner died in 1911 all of his art was donated to the Museum in Riems. The family protested that the furniture pieces were not considered art and were able to keep them. They were subsequently auctioned in the 1960s and left the country. It is definitely a legal wrangle but I think that it is right that France could not seize them, but has to come up with funds to "reclaim" them.

  3. Victory?

    1. Yes, in a way. It seems the three withdrawn lots were secured by the museum in Riems. It is a bit like the judgement of solomon...risking breaking up the set to save a few of the pieces. Thankfully the buffet, side table and other chairs did not sell. Hopefully they will be reunited in Riems shortly...I need to call Sotheby's Paris and then do a post.