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Ruhlmann, Giacometti, Frank & more Modern masters lead a private collection of art & design at Sotheby's
The Chaise Longue ‘aux Skis’ by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann. Estimate $1.5/2 million. Courtesy Sotheby’s.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sotheby’s announces Modern Masters: Chefs-d’œuvre d’une Collection Privée, an evening auction on 11 December in New York that will present extraordinary art and design by top European masters. This timeless and unparalleled collection is highlighted by rare and superlative works by such artists as Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Alberto Giacometti, Marcel Coard, Joseph Csaky, Gustav Miklos, Jean Dunand, Jean-Michel Frank, and Pierre Legrain. Individually, these luxurious works represent some of the most significant and taste-making innovations in design of the last century, placing them indelibly within the wider context of the Cubist and Modernist Art movements.

Equally important to the intrinsic artistry of this ensemble, many of these works are further distinguished by their impeccable historic provenances, having resided in the collections of some of the most illustrious collectors and artists of the 20th century, including Jacques Doucet, the Maharaja of Indore, Templeton Crocker, Jane Renouardt, Countess Mona von Bismarck, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Andy Warhol, Robin Symes, Claude and Simone Dray, Félix Marcilhac, and Tina and Michael Chow, among others. Collectively, these masterworks speak to the impeccable eye of the connoisseur who so thoughtfully assembled them in pursuit of the very best in artistry, craftsmanship and provenance.

From a rare “Aigle” Vase by Giacometti and a unique Cubist Armchair by Coard, to an important Chaise Longue “aux Skis” designed by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann for the Maharaja of Indore, this exceptional collection will commence Sotheby’s Design Week auctions and exhibitions, opening to the public in our New York galleries on 7 December.

Highlights across the collection:

Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann
The Chaise Longue ‘aux Skis’ (estimate $1.5/2 million) was originally designed by Ruhlmann in 1929 as part of a “Studio-Chambre” suite commissioned confidentially by the then-heir to the Indore Kingdom of India, Yashwant Rao Holkar II. The suite was presented that same year at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in Paris, without a direct mention of the Maharaja's name. The suite included never-before-seen pieces of furniture, such as the present chaise longue. Based on period photographic evidence, two models are known to exist. The only other known variation to the chaise longue presents with minor variations, namely the absence of lacquer on the armrest and the absence of electric switches controlling the heating system located on the footrest. The whereabouts of this alternate model are unknown, making the present example the only recorded example of the chaise to date.

A testament to its iconic status, the Chaise Longue was classified as a Trésor National, or “National Treasure,” by the French government for many years and could not be transported overseas. In December 2013, a passport was finally issued for the piece by the French authorities, allowing it to be shipped outside of France. More recently, the Chaise Longue was requested by the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris for their ongoing exhibition focusing on the Maharaja Indore, Moderne Maharajah, Un Mécène des Années 30, now on view through 12 January 2020.

The ensemble illustrates a key moment in Ruhlmann’s career in which he sought to reconcile the radically simplified forms of the modern age brought forward by newcomers like Le Corbusier and the more traditional Belle Epoque style that brought him to fame in the early to mid-1920s. This transition is best demonstrated here through the use of new materials like chromium-plated steel and radically dynamic forms. The Chaise Longue itself presents with an adjustable, black-lacquered wood frame; a heated footrest; a side lamp located to the proper right side of the backrest; and the particularly creative use of skis as a base, a device that Ruhlmann used on other pieces from the Studio suite like a bar cabinet and a leather-upholstered armchair. The result is a truly modernist and innovative masterpiece created for an international patron of avant-garde architecture and design.

Alberto Giacometti
The collection features an ensemble of important works by Alberto Giacometti, which are the result of an enduring collaboration with the designer and decorator Jean-Michel Frank that lasted over ten years. The work that Giacometti and Frank produced together starting in 1930 put forward a minimalist vision and challenged the prevailing conventions of design and the decorative arts.

Their collaboration led to the creation of spectacular works such as the “Aigle" Vase (estimate $350/550,000), which provides a particularly exciting opportunity for collectors to acquire a rare and large-scale sculptural piece by the artist.

Other important works from the collection demonstrate Giacometti’s interest in the arts of Africa and Oceania. The “Égyptienne” Lamp (estimate $250/350,000), designed circa 1934, is a stylistic homage to the highly artistic alabaster oil lamps discovered in 1922 in the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. Giacometti’s “Grande Feuille” Floor Lamp (estimate $250/350,000), designed around the same period, possibly owes its organic design to the Polynesian offering-bearers that he likely encountered at the Musée d'Ethnographie in Paris.

Marcel Coard
A Cubist sentiment is clearly visible in the interlocking volumes of this extraordinary Armchair (estimate $400/600,000), designed by Marcel Coard circa 1920 for Jacques Doucet. The piece further builds tension through the juxtaposition of rosewood and vellum, and the addition of mother-of-pearl inlay to the arms. Originally upholstered in a fabric embroidered with silver thread to a design by Gustave Miklos, it is the two designers’ only collaboration known to date, and marked the acceptance of Marcel Coard into the influential group of designers who counted Doucet as their patron. Notably, this important work is one of the last Coard pieces realized for Doucet that is held in private hands today.

Joseph Csaky
Executed by Hungarian-born, Paris-based artist Joseph Csaky at the beginning of the 1920s, Tête de Lionne (estimate $100/150,000) is a superlative work within the sculptor’s esteemed career. This abstract sculpture imbued with Cubist influences counts among the artist’s very first pieces with an abstract animal motif and displays tremendous mastery over granite. It also stands as one of the few surviving testaments to an important yet unrealized project commissioned by the couturier and arts patron Jacques Doucet for a house in the Parisian suburb of Marly. Csaky and Doucet collaborated on other important commissions, which include the design for the staircase of Doucet’s hôtel particulier in Neuilly, designed circa 1927, for which Marcel Coard created the unique Cubist armchair represented in this collection.

Jean Dunand
The impressive and wide-ranging selection of masterworks by Jean Dunand illustrate his mastery in artistry and craftsmanship. The presence of many rare and important pieces in lacquer inlaid with eggshell constitutes one of the most significant offerings by the artist to appear at auction. The ensemble is led by an Important Low Table (estimate $200/300,000), a rare “Ailette” Vase (estimate $250/350,000) and an outstanding collection of lacquer and eggshell vases (estimates ranging from $30/90,000).

Jean-Michel Frank
An extraordinary work of craftsmanship embodying the essence of Jean-Michel Frank’s restrained and luxurious style, this two-piece vellum suite – comprising a Desk (estimate $300/500,000) and Paper Basket (estimate $10/15,000) circa 1931 – has remained together since its time of production, a testament to its stature as a masterful and complete work of design.

The suite inhabited the Château de la Croë, a sumptuous castle built in 1928 by Armand-Albert Rateau in Antibes that was originally built for a British aristocratic couple, the press magnate Sir William Pomeroy Burton and his wife Lady Barbara. A few years following its completion, the couple leased La Croë to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, for a period of over ten years ending in 1949. The distinguished owners were temporary guardians of these masterful and exceptionally rare pieces by Frank, whose presence in the collection is complemented by a Side Chair (estimate $25/35,000) with equally illustrious provenance, having been commissioned for Templeton Crocker’s San Francisco penthouse.

Paul Jouve
In 1922, Paul Jouve left his native France to embark on a journey that would profoundly impact his life and artistic career. The four months that he spent in Angkor between October 1922 and January 1923 resulted in extraordinary artistic achievements best exemplified by Moine Bouddhiste Méditant (estimate $100/150,000) – one of the very few monumental works that Paul Jouve painted during his short stay in Angkor between October 1922 and January 1923. Jouve is best known as one of the most successful animalier and Orientalist artists of his generation, having exhibited alongside established artists like Jacques Nam and Édouard-Marcel Sandoz, and closely worked with such craftsmen as Jean Dunand and Jean Goulden, with whom he regularly exhibited at the Galerie Georges Petit throughout the 1920s. One of Jouve’s famous panthers constitutes the centerpiece of a Coffret by Jean Dunand which is offered in the December auction (estimate $100/150,000) and provides a particularly striking example of a successful collaboration between the two artists.

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