Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rateau's Commission For the Duchess de Alba to be Sold at Christie's Paris: Part II

Duchess de Alba's Bathroom, Liria Palace, Madrid circa 1922  Image via Musee Des Arts Decoratifs, Paris
Hello dear readers.  Well I hope you enjoyed my first post on this subject.  The Christie's catalogue is out and many questions have been answered regarding this elusive Rateau commission for the Liria Palace in Madrid.  According to the catalogue, upon the marriage of the XVII Duke of Alba to the future Duchess (doña María del Rosario de Silva y Gurtubay)in 1920 an entire enfilade of rooms were commissioned for her use including a boudoir, bedroom and bathroom.
Liria Place, Madrid: Plan of first floor with the Duchess' suite highlighted in white.  Image via Christie's (Fonds Rateau)
We now know that this fabled suite of rooms had a rather short shelf-life.  The Duchess died 11 January 1934 of tuberculosis and the Liria Palace itself was greatly destroyed during the tumultuous Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).  According to the catalogue essay, in advance of the looming revolution, many of the palace treasures and furnishings were safeguarded at either the British Embassy or the Banco de Espana.  So now the mystery is solved,  The Rateau interiors enjoyed a mere decade of completeness before the tides of war sealed their fate.  Now, onto the surviving artworks themselves.
Alba commission Rateau torcheres    Image via Christie's
We know the floor lamps "aux oiseau" as this image was included with the press release for this sale issued in February.  The lamps are being offered individually each at an estimate of €1,500,000-2,000,000.  They are two from the four that were originally installed in the bathroom.
Alba commission low table "aux oiseau"   Image via Christie's
As I stated previously this iconic low table is a Rateau collector's must-have item and seems to be in very good order.  I am completely unfazed by the estimate of €1,500,000-2,000,000.  It will do far better than that.
Alba commission Rateau low table "aux oiseau" shown in situ   Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
Now onto the adjustable daybed.  The previous literature on the subject suggested that this was a unique work.  It has now come to light that it is one of two recorded.  The other example with cream upholstery shown in my previous post was exhibited at Delorenzo Gallery, New York in 1990.  It can be deduced that it was subsequently sold, its whereabouts are currently unknown.
Alba commission Rateau adjustable daybed      Image via Christie's
The Alba daybed has never left their possession and looks to be in good condition.  It has been recovered in an animal print fabric in keeping with the original ocelot upholstery.  While it is no longer classified as a "unique" work it is only one of two known and with this stellar provenance the estimate of €400,000-600,000 still seems conservative.
Alba commission Rateau adjustable daybed shown in-situ      Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
Detail of daybed   Image via Christie's
I really enjoy the shell and drapery carved frieze on the seatrail.  The bronze pendent's are functional as well as beautiful as they hold the pins that secure the adjustable sides in various positions.

Now onto the dressing table.  It appears that over the years of movement and storage that the original top and bronze-mounted mirror superstructure have been lost.
Alba commission Rateau dressing table  Image via Christie's
Alba commission Rateau dressing table in its original configuration shown in-situ  Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
Detail of dressing table showing original bronze mounted mirror   Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
As you can see from the period images the mirror and its sculptural mount are now lacking.  I would surmise that the the top has been replaced as well.  It either took a spill in the past ninety years or was modified to make it a more versatile piece.  I will be attending the exhibition so I will be able to check for sure because if the top is original it will have plugged holes to the surface where the bronze mount was affixed.  From the images it looks like the present top is thicker and in the period photos the upper edges appear to be rounded (however it may just be glare).  Rateau made versions to this table with and without mirrors so the present condition is not a deal-breaker and explains the €600,000-800,000 estimate.  It will perform quite well with this conservative approach.
Alba commission Rateau Canape aux Cols Cygnes    Image via Christie's
Now to the sofa, it looks very smart in it brown satin upholstery.  The catalogue confirms that it was originally covered in dark pony skin.  It also notes that all four legs have been replaced to the original specifications.  It is also noted that the patinated seatrail has been restored to its original color.  However, if you look at the period image, the seatrail had additional stenciling, carving or appliques when it was originally installed.
Alba commission Rateau Canape aux Cols Cygnes shown in-situ with original seatrail decoration    Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
The rosettes at either end of the seatrail appear to be in low-relief in the period photo as well.  I will be intriguing to read the condition report for this lot to see what was needed to make it presentable for the auction.  That said, the estimate seems right at €200,000-300,000.  Not conservative given the condition, but that will likely not matter given the provenance.
Alba commission Rateau marble bathtub   Image via Christie's
Last but not least we come to the marble tub.  I was curious as to how it was configured.  It was in-fact carved out of a solid square block of white marble.  As you can see from the period image the mass was sunken into the floor with only the edge molding exposed.
Alba commission Rateau bathtub shown in-situ   Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
Unfortunately, it is now lacking its cast bronze fixtures.  As you can see from the detail below the holes have been patched.
Detail of carved marble tub showing the infilled holes from the bronze taps   Image via Christie's
Detail showing original bronze taps from the Alba commission   Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
The arrangement of birds and floral motifs are in keeping with the rest of the room's decorative scheme.  The same arrangement of bird faucets and stopper were utilized in the bathroom of Jeanne Lanvin as well.
Rateau bronze bath fixtures from Jeanne Lanvin's Bathroom   Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
The catalogue also notes that the tub will not be displayed at Christie's Paris office but rather at the Monin warehouse located on the northern border of the city.  I can only guess it has to do with the massive weight of the work causing logistical and safety concerns.  On a side note, I heard that the tub spent part of the past sixty years as a water feature in the gardens of the Liria Palace.  The mind reels, but I digress.  The tub is indeed a great object but as I stated before it will need the right buyer who is willing to take on a project.  Lacking its bronze hardware and being relegated to an off-site display location, I do hope that it meets its €150,000-200,000 estimate.  Fingers crossed.

Stay tuned for updates from the design sales in paris later this month!--AR.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! Final pricing will be so interesting...wish you could find out where these end up.