Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rare Tiffany Settee at Doyle New York

Image via Doyle New YorkHello Dear Readers. Just a quick post this time but it is of the utmost importance. Thanks to an old colleague I was tipped off to this rare treasure that is slated to sell tomorrow (Feb. 8th) in Doyle New York's Belle Epoch auction. Let me introduce you to the Indian inspired carved wood settee crafted by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the music room of the H. O. Havemeyer house at 1 East 66th Street.

Image via Doyle New York
The modern upholstery may leave much to be desired but you must think it away. The Havemeyer mansion was one of the premier aesthetic movement homes in America when completed in 1892. Tiffany planned every detail of the decor and the music room was no exception.

Period Image of the Music Room
Unfortunately the home was razed in 1930 and its contents were divided by the family...some of which were disbursed. Thankfully for us many pieces have made it into public collections. From time to time they do appear at auction, but usually at Christie's and Sotheby's. Don't get me wrong, Doyle's is a New York institution, but you would expect a lot of this level to command the cover of an important December/June design sale. It is quite puzzling. Perhaps the consigner wants to sell discretely but the motive is unclear at this point.

Image Doyle New YorkThe provenance shows that the settee descended in the Havemeyer family for four generations but there is no direct indication that it was consigned by the family. It is a bit confusing as that would only add cache to the lot. That said, I have absolutely no doubt that it will sell at its estimate of $125,000-175,000. If I were a gambling man I would guess that it will sell in the $250,000-300,000 range. But there is no telling. This work is so exceedingly rare that it could easily fly despite being discretely inserted in a smaller sale venue. Until tomorrow we wait.-AR

Well I was proven to be a bit too conservative in my exhuberence, perish the thought. The lot sold this afternoon for $422,500.00. It is no surprise because lets face it...where can you find another one in private hands? I will let you know if any further details surface.--AR

Update II:
Well that did not take too long. My contact at Doyle's confirmed that there were seven active bidders competing for the settee. The lot was won by the powerhouse art consultancy McClelland + Rachen bidding on behalf of a private client. They represent some of the best 20th century art collectors so I am not surprised by this news. Evidently the underbidder was Margot Johnson who featured prominently in a previous post about Herter Brothers. How exciting. Until next time.--AR

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Art Nouveau Jewelry at Sotheby's

Detail via Sotheby's
Hello dear readers. The winter antiques/auction season is charging forward despite the fact that we have had little proof that winter has actually taken place in the Northeast thus far. As many of you know I am greatly distracted by interesting and historic jewelry. Thankfully Sotheby's Important Jewels sale this month does not disappoint. The specialists were able to cull a few fine Art Nouveau stunners from different collections for an impressive section in the sale. And here they are:

Image via Sotheby's
This rather florid pendant is by the incomparable Rene Lalique and dates to circa 1900. The enamel on gold is exquisite especially when you note the subtle details to the face enhanced by the engraving to the gold surface below. This was produced at the height of the Art Nouveau period and is exactly what a collector would want, which is likely factored into the estimate of $60,000-80,000.

Image via Sotheby's
This sinewy comb is a perfect marriage of Art Nouveau and Egyptian motifs. It dates to just after 1905 and being a part of the pre-plastic era, it is composted predominantly of translucent tortoiseshell embellished with enamel, opals and gold fitments. It is the work of Georges Fouquet, who in my opinion, does not get the credit he deserves as his works are on the same level as the venerable Lalique.

Detail via Sotheby's
It comes in at a more modest $10,000-15,000 and is really more of collector's cabinet piece but exquisitely designed nonetheless.

Image via Sotheby's
This next offering is composed of a brooch and a separate clasp of the same design by Rene Lalique. The pieces date to circa 1900 and are being offered at an estimate of $60,000-80,000. The decoration is comprised of gold with cream enamel and amethyst stones, the brooch further embellished with pink glass raspberries. While visually interesting the lot gives me pause as there appears to be more to the story. The lot description skirts the issue by merely noting that only the clasp is signed and that the brooch has a later pin fitment. It seems clear to me that these pieces started out life as part of a larger work, perhaps a necklace with the "brooch" serving as the centerpiece or pendent. It will likely sell as it is so rare, but I am not sure where it will fall at that estimate.

Image via Sotheby's
If the previous lot seems a bit lacking this next piece is definitely everything you would want and at the same estimate of $60,000-80,000. Like the peacock, the iridescent dragonfly was a creature emblematic of the Art Nouveau movement and sensibility. This pin of opposing dragonflies was crafted by Rene Lalique between 1903-1904 in enameled gold with opals. The wings are rendered in plique-a-jour enamel which makes them akin to little stained glass windows. It is definitely a technique you want to see in a Lalique piece. I have a strong feeling this work will fare well when it is up on the block. It is a microcosm of a larger work on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I present the elaborate collar necklace that Lalique crafted for his second wife around 1900.

Image via Metmuseum.org
Again it relies on opals, enameled gold and the plique-a-jour technique....but obviously on a much larger scale and completely over the top as the artist was not constrained by the dictates of a client commission.

Image via Metmuseum.org
The collar is comprised of nine stylized maidens with wild Mucha-esque whiplash hair with arms flowing into a lobed frame with black swans on a pale blue plique-a-jour ground. Each maiden is flanked by impressive fire opals in gold vine-work mounts. The workmanship of these pieces is even more evident when you view the verso.

Image via Metmuseum.org
Truly exquisite as there is no need to provide this level of finish to the back of the work. It was donated to the Met in 1985 by the venerable Tiffany dealer Lillian Nassau. I once saw a painting of Nassau wearing the necklace and wish I could find an image of it. It shows the dramatic scale of the piece when worn.

Image via Sotheby's
The final lot to cover from the Sotheby's sale is this intricate pin executed by Georges Fouquet around 1910. Like the comb above, it is looking to the motifs of ancient Egypt for its primary inspiration (albeit filtered through the lens of the late Art Nouveau style). Again it is executed in enameled gold set with an array of semi-precious stones framed by a riviere of small rose cut diamonds. This work is priced at the seemingly popular estimate of $60,000-80,000. As a late Art Nouveau work it is beginning to stiffen-up looking ahead to what would become the Art Deco style. Fouquet took over his father's jewelry business in 1895 and his close alliance with Art Nouveau illustrator Alphonse Mucha is beyond apparent...even to the untrained eye. In 1902 he moved the business to 6 rue Royale and made quite the splash with its decor (designed by Mucha).

Period Image of facade via all-art.org

Period Image of interior via all-art.org
As you know, I do love a period image, but thankfully for us the shop was donated in its entirety to the Musee Carnavalet in Paris where it was faithfully reinstalled. Take-in the feast of details below. The next time you are in Paris it is a must see. We shall await the fate of the Art Nouveau gems at Sotheby's...until next time. AR

Image of interior via all-art.org

Detail via MGLM Architects

Detail via thetripplanner.com

Detail via Bit of Seasoning Tumblr

Detail via Bit of Seasoning Tumblr

Facade detail via Melbourne Our Home Blogspot