Saturday, June 15, 2013

Rare Francois-Rupert Carabin Masterwork Returned to France

Detail Francois-Ruper Carabin Piano   Image: Aestheticus Rex
Hello dear readers, I am still wishing I was in Paris and have been sifting through all of my images to prioritize future posts....this one caught my fancy today.  As I was tooling though the Musee des Arts Decoratifs on a particularly rainy Tuesday I rounded the corner of their Art Nouveau gallery to see this wonder that I had only known by reputation.  I present the Francois Rupert Carabin (French, 1862-1932) sculpted walnut piano.
Francois-Rupert Carabin Piano   Image: Aestheticus Rex
Detail, Francois-Rupert Carabin Piano   Image: Aestheticus Rex
Detail, Francois-Rupert Carabin Piano    Image: Aestheticus Rex
Now I know some of you will think that I have lost my mind referring to this piano as a masterwork. Yes, Carabin was not as successful at integrating his sculptural forms into a piece of furniture as say Emile Galle, but nonetheless his works are dramatic and exceedingly rare.
Emile Galle Gueridon "Libellule"    Image via Christie's
Carabin is primarily known for his ceramic and bronze sculptures but it is his rare furniture commissions that garner the most attention.  His last major piece to hit the auction block, to my knowledge, was just over a decade ago and realized $427,500 at Christie's New York.
Two Views, Francois-Rupert Carabin's "Four Elements" Desk and Chair    Image via Christie's
So you get the picture, they are really to be viewed as sculptures that happen to incorporate furniture and are rather expensive.  Now back to the piano...according to an article by Didier Rykner in The Art Tribune the piano was created in 1900 for the French comedic actor Coquelin Cadet by the Herz piano firm and was exhibited at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.
Alexandre Honore Ernest Coquelin aka Coquelin Cadet   Image via Wikimedia
Period image of the Piano from the 1905 Henri Herz Catalogue   Image via
Period image of the Piano circa 1900   Image via Revue Alsacienne Illustree
However, according to Mr. Rykner, Coquelin was unable to pay for the piano and it was later sold to the noted feminist and surrealist film director Germaine Dulac with whom it remained until 1938 when it was donated to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs by her daughter.  Here is where things get interesting...
Germaine Dulac    Image via
Period image of the Ecole Boulle Metalworking Workshop   Image via
Evidently for some reason the Musee had the piano deposited at the Ecole Boulle, the highly regarded design and applied arts school in Paris.  Well, it appears that the piano vanished from the Ecole during World War II and was not even noticed until a proper inventory was conducted in 1974 (almost 40 years later).  From there it was "in the wind", but it probably was lost for the bulk of that time.  Who knows for sure when it left France, but in the end it did surface at Sotheby's New York in 1981.  During the course of their research Sotheby's realized the origins of the Piano and notified their consignor that the work was actually Property of the Musee des Arts Decoratifs.  That is a call an expert never wants to make trust me...but I digress.  According to Rykner, negotiations were made between the Musee and Sotheby's consignor but in the meantime the piano languished at Sotheby's for another 30 years!  Upon its restitution in 2011 the Musee released the following images showing the piano pre-restoration (note all the inventory stickers).
The Piano circa 2011     Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
The Piano circa 2011     Image via Musee des Arts Decoratifs
It may have taken some seventy years, but the piano now has pride of place at the Musee alongside the masterworks of Majorelle, Galle, Serrurier-Bovy et al.  The Musee d'Orsay has a rather wild monumental cabinet by the artist that is definitely worth a look when you are in Paris.  Until next time.--AR
Francois-Rupert Carabin Bibliotheque circa 1890    Image via
P.S.  I just remembered the unusual two sided vitrine Carabin created for the city of Paris in 1895.  It is on view at the Petit Palais.
Francois-Rupert Carabin Vitrine circa 1895   Image via Dalbera

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Eileen Gray at Auction: Follow the Lady Where Does She Go...

Eileen Gray from the Centre Pompidou Exhibition   Photo: Aestheticus Rex
Dear readers, I know I owe you a re-cap of the Eileen Gray exhibition at the Centre Pompidou which closed last month.  I was able to attend and shot a slew of images, rest assured.  Today I was settling into a peaceful Sunday afternoon thumbing through the upcoming Christie's 13 June 2013 Design Sale and was pleased to find lot 142.
Eileen Gray set of ten lacquered plates     Image via Christie's
They are a lustrous set of Eileen Gray aubergine lacquered wood plates with provenance back to the legendary Sotheby's sale of The Collection of Eileen Gray held in Monaco in 1980.  The plates are being offered at an estimate of $5000-8000.
Cover of the seminal Eileen Gray Collection Sale, Sotheby's Monaco, 1980    Image Via 1stDibs
Christie's present offering lists the plates provenance as being from a larger set offered as successive lots in the 1980 sale, lots 245a, b, or c.  But there is a bit more to the story as the tagline of this blog isn't "the incestuous world of design" for nothing.  As I have stated before, things tend to pop-up here, disappear for a while and re-emerge over there...but the internet has made the world a much smaller place.  The set of plates at Christie's quietly sold at Stair Galleries in Hudson, NY in December 2011 for $2000 on an estimate of $800-1200.  I only heard about the sale after the fact much to my chagrin...the winning bidder was a lucky person indeed.
Eileen Gray Lacquered Plates, Stair Galleries, Hudson, NY, 3 December 2011, lot 368      Image via Artfact
The Stair Galleries cataloging acknowledges that the plates indeed were part of lot 245 in the the 1980 Gray sale but goes further noting that the plates were also later sold at Sotheby's New York, 5 June 2001, lot 469.  How they emerged at a small Stair Galleries sale a decade later is anyone's guess.  With the buzz of the Yves Saint Laurent Sale and the recent retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris I expect them to do much better.  We will have to wait until the hammer falls later this month.  As an FYI, another set of twelve plates was offered in the same December 2011 Stair Galleries sale but they have yet to resurface...
Set of Twelve Eilenn Gray Lacquered plates, Stair Galleries, Hudson NY, lot 367, sold $1200      Image via Artfact

UPDATE:  Well the auction took place a few hours ago and the plates sold for a whopping $43,750!  That is an amazing return on a $2000 investment.  I am sure we will see the other set in due course.  Happy hunting...--AR

I have been adding catalogues to my collection and unrelated research led me to additional provenance for these well traveled plates.  They were of course a set of 23 that were broken-up across four lots in the 1980 Sotheby's "Collection Eileen Gray" sale.  Lots 245, 245a, 245b, and 245c to be exact.
Collection Eileen Gray, Sotheby's Monaco25 May 1980, Lots 245 & 245a-c   Image via Sotheby's
Lot text for the above image.        Image via Sotheby's
They next surface in the collection of antiquities dealer Robin Symes in the guise of the "Philip Johnson Townhouse" sale at Sotheby's New York, 6 May 1989, lots 97-99 where they were now reduced to 22 plates split over three lots.
Philip Johnson Townhouse, Sotheby's New York, 6 May 1989, lots 97-99     Image via Sotheby's
Lot text for the above image.    Image via Sotheby's
Take note that the provenance is slightly incorrect as they include lot 244 from the Eileen Gray Collection which was actually a lacquer box.  Anyway, I have always thought it was a disservice to refer to the Symes sale in reference to the townhouse that was its final lot.  The sale was largely comprised of a cache of masterworks by Eileen Gray and Pierre Legrain including a slew of rare archival materials.  If you don not have a copy....find it!  It is a treasure trove of information.  As I stated previously, the plates next resurfaced at Sotheby's New York, 5 June 2001, lot 469.  I am assuming that all 22 plates were in that lot (I am tracking down a copy of this sale as is spotty with sales results beyond a decade).  From here they disappeared into the ether before they emerged in two successive lots at Stair Galleries in Hudson, New York, 3 December 2011.  The 22 being split over two lots (367 & 368).  As we now know they have been split-up, ten being sold at Christie's New York, 13 June 2013, lot 142.  I am waiting to see how long it will take for the other 12 surface.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Le Salon des Antiquaires et Galeristes-Tour Eiffel

Hello Dear Readers.  This is just a quick post as Le Salon des Antiquaires et Galeristes-Tour Eiffel closes tomorrow so if you are in Paris...check it out.  The fair is a bit small which makes it manageable and no one  could fault its location under the tents at the foot of the Eiffel Tower along the Seine.
The fair was under the tents at left    Photo: Aestheticus Rex
There was a broad mix of dealers from Paris and beyond selling Old Master and Contemporary paintings to all sorts of decorative arts and jewelry, definitely something for everyone.  In the booth of tableware and textile dealer Dans Le Beaux Draps I was tempted by every manner of embroidered linen and outmoded textile.  It truly is a lost art as we live our lives ever faster and simpler on a day-to-day basis.  I had a chuckle at seeing my nom-de-plume initials emblazoned on an elaborate 19th century tablecloth.
"Aestheticus Rex" table linen in the booth of Dans Le Beaux Drap    Photo: Aestheticus Rex
The mini period rooms and decorative pastiches always get me.  A good dealer will stop you in your tracks with their presentation as they only have a moment to draw you in.  This was the case with the booths of Galerie Pipat and dealer Patrick Martin.
Booth of Galerie Pipat    Photo: Aestheticus Rex
 I was most captivated by the empire painting of and officer.  While it wasn't the most youthful or dramatic rendering I have seen from this period the technical execution was superb, especially in the details of the gold embroidery on his jacket.
Booth of Patrick Martin taking pride of place at the entrance of the fair   Photo: Aestheticus Rex
Patrick Martin created a continental fantasy and I was most amused by the stag head wall-lights with their bulb embellished points.

At the end of the day, it was the call of modernity that won the focus of my attention.  In the booth of contemporary art and design dealer Ludovic Le Floch I found my prize tucked away on a console table.
Booth of design dealer Ludovic Le Floch   Photo: Aestheticus Rex
"Clockwork Skull" at Ludovic Le Floch   Photo: Aestheticus Rex
"Centimes Skull" at Ludovic Le Floch    Photo: Aestheticus Rex
The skulls are masterfully crafted from the innocuous components of our daily lives yet they are themes that rule our mortal days...time and money.  I am a big fan of a clever memento mori and these were stark in their modernity.  Regrettably, I mislaid the card with the artist's details, but I remember that they were priced at €6500 each.  With a heavy heart I had to leave them with the venerable Mr. La Floch.  They immediately reminded me of the coin furniture by Johnny Swing, delicate and lacy yet durable with an edge.  Until next time--AR
Johnny Swing "Half-Dollar /Butterfly Chair"   Image via