Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Possible German Attribution for Tiffany Studios Chair Model

Hello Dear Readers.  It has been far too long since I have last written.  The New York 20th century design sales are happening this week and between Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonham's it will prove to be a stellar showing.  Christie's in particular is offering many exceedingly rare works by my perennial favorite Armand-Albert Rateau.  Besides offering an iconic low table and ashtray they have this exquisite perpetual calendar model that I had never seen in the flesh.
Armand Albert Rateau, Perpetual Calendar, Christie's New York, 17 December 2015, lot 213, Estimate $150,000-$250,000 (Image:AestheticusRex)
But I digress...  When Christie's published their design catalogues just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday lot 336 stopped me in my tracks.
"Tiffany Studios" Armchair, Christie's New York, 18 December 2015, lot 336, Estimate $50,000-70,000
(Image: Christies.com)
In a previous post regarding viking revival furniture I wrote about another example of this chair model that was then a recent acquisition of the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.  At that point the model was attributed to Tiffany Studios due to the fact that very closely related examples were part of the interior decoration of the Rembrandt Room within the Havemeyer Mansion, a celebrated Tiffany Studios commission. (The Havemeyer examples are of slightly grander proportion and have variations in the carving notably to the highly realized orbs on the arm posts).
Rembrandt Room within the Havemeyer Mansion, Fifth Avenue, New York
(Image via Metmuseum.org)
Some time after I published that post a follower contacted me to assert that the chair from Musee d'Orsay had received an updated attribution.  The shift is due to the uncovering of a period Art Journal article reviewing the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.  It would appear that a German leather craftsman and furniture maker Georg Hulbe exhibited chairs of the same design.
The Art Journal, 1901, p. 132
Georg Hulbe Armchair Detail (note the flatter orbs)
The Christie's and Orsay examples visually relate to others offered at auction in the past decade (here, here, here, and here) and appear to be in-line with the period photograph attributing the model to Hulbe.  The Musee d'Orsay has updated their online catalogue to vaguely note Georg Hulbe as the author (designer?) and Tiffany Studios as the maker of their chair.  It is clear that more research needs to be done as countless scenarios are possible.  The Havemeyer examples could be the work of Georg Hulbe sub-contracting for Tiffany Studios or they could merely be Tiffany Studios executing Hulbe's design (or vice-versa).  It is also a reasonable hypothesis that examples of this armchair coming from old European collections may have precious little to do with Tiffany Studios whatsoever.  Until then the jury is out.  At the time of this posting Christie's has withdrawn the lot from their upcoming sale pending research.