Auction at Drouot offers a glimpse into the world of one of France's greatest composers

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Auction at Drouot offers a glimpse into the world of one of France's greatest composers
Around 130 Lots spanning drawings, paintings, books, manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia will be offered.



PARIS.- On December 12th at Hôtel Drouot, Giquello will offer at auction a unique array which belonged to Darius Milhaud and his wife Madeleine.

The sale will be held concurrently with the Paris de la modernité, 1905-1925 exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris which includes a gallery dedicated to the composer featuring sketches and mock-ups for his ballet, La Création du Monde, 1923.

This private collection, consigned by his grandchildren, is an opportunity for art and music lovers to glimpse into the world of one of France’s greatest composers. Around 130 lots of drawings and paintings by great 20th-century artists, photographs, scores, books, manuscripts, prints, and souvenirs are all testimonials to the friendships and work of the composer and his wife.

These memorabilia were assembled at Darius and Madeleine Milhaud’s Parisian apartment – 10 boulevard de Clichy –, reflecting the profound friendships and other relationships that the couple enjoyed with other 20th-century artists. They worked with a great number of these, such as Paul Claudel, who collaborated with Milhaud on the ballet L’Homme et son désir; and Fernand Léger, whom he commissioned for the scenery of La Création du Monde.

When he returned to New York City in 1923, he was commissioned by Rolf de Maré of the Ballets Suédois for a piece in which Blaise Cendrars and Fernand Léger also collaborated. Inspired by Anthologie nègre (1921), Cendrars wrote a booklet about La Création du Monde structured around three primitive African deities which represent the three aspects of the origins of the world: animals, plants, and the gods. In Mon XXe siècle, Madeleine Milhaud writes: “It is rather amusing to think that their work consisted of so- cializing in the shady dance halls around the Bastille […] I should think that Milhaud was scared to death! But he had great fun with it… That is how La Création du Monde came into the world. I’ll admit that never in my life have I seen such lavish scenery as that of Fernand Léger.”

Though La Création du Monde was met with a warm success when it first showed, it does provide us with one of the most faithful portraits of the musical research of the early 1920s, mingling modernity with a return to primitive roots and classical music with jazz. The success of the stage production was such that Rolf de Maré wanted to see Fernand Léger featured in the future Musée d’Art Moderne.

Fernand Léger was also commissioned for the opera Bolivar that Darius Milhaud composed in 1943. Léger painted a backdrop featuring a monumental portrait of Bolivar that rose to fill the entire height of the Paris Opéra stage. Such is the genius of this painter, whose power is matched only by his grandeur.

Fernand Léger loved to give his drawings to those in his close circle, and the auction includes a watercolor called Femme aux oiseaux, with a dedication to Madeleine Milhaud.

“…He also demonstrated his generosity towards his friends by giving them drawings with humorous dedications… He gave one to my wife, whom he referred to as ‘my cousin’ to suggest that I had married my cousin...” - Darius Milhaud.

Darius Milhaud worked with the greatest contemporary artists, including André Masson, who sketched a drawing for the scenery project of the opera Médée, commissioned by the French government. Composed by Darius Mil- haud in 1938 based on one of his wife’s libret- tos, it was interrupted by the German inva- sion in 1940.

“I have often reflected on the final gift that the Paris Opéra gave me before the disaster… The première was as elegant as any pre-war gala, but against the deafening sound of the anti-aircraft defense system.” - Darius Milhaud, Ma vie Heureuse.

The sale also features an array of drawings and paintings by André Marchand, a fellow native of Aix-en-Provence and a friend with whom he often worked. The auction includes costumes by Jean Hugo estimated from €800, and a drawing by Raoul Dufy dated 1932 in which the painter expresses his admiration for the composer upon the première of Maximilien.

Picasso also gave the composer a gift: a vase with two high handles forming a womanly figure, a model he created in Madoura in 1953.

Darius Milhaud worked with the greatest contemporary artists, including André Masson, who sketched a drawing for the scenery project of the opera Médée, commissioned by the French government. Composed by Darius Mil- haud in 1938 based on one of his wife’s libret- tos, it was interrupted by the German inva- sion in 1940.

“I have often reflected on the final gift that the Paris Opéra gave me before the disaster… The première was as elegant as any pre-war gala, but against the deafening sound of the anti-aircraft defense system.” - Darius Milhaud, Ma vie Heureuse.

The sale also features an array of drawings and paintings by André Marchand, a fellow native of Aix-en-Provence and a friend with whom he often worked. The auction includes costumes by Jean Hugo estimated from €800, and a drawing by Raoul Dufy dated 1932 in which the painter expresses his admiration for the composer upon the première of Maximilien.

Picasso also gave the composer a gift: a vase with two high handles forming a womanly figure, a model he created in Madoura in 1953.

A part of the sale is dedicated to books by Blaise Cendrars, Paul Claudel, Jean Cocteau, Paul Eluard, André Gide, Francis Jammes, Paul Morand, Raymond Radiguet, Claude Roy, Saint-John Perse, and others. Many of the editions are unremarkable, but they feature friendly or affectionate authors’ dedications. There are manuscript scores of music, such as by Henri Sauguet and Georges Auric, and other printed scores featuring dedications such as a fabulous set by Stravinsky.

Among the potentially most iconic lots are the autographed manuscript by Robert Desnos, Cantate pour l’inauguration du musée de l’Homme, 1937; and a book emblematic of the collaboration between Paul Claudel and Darius Milhaud for the ballet L’Homme et son désir.

The first edition of the book-object L’Homme et son désir by Paul Claudel, Darius Milhaud, and Audrey Parr (estimate: €8,000 -10,000), was hand-crafted in 1917 in a limited edition of 50, and features collages by Audrey Parr and text copied by Claudel himself in Brazil. Claudel, who was a “minister of France” at the time, took on Darius Milhaud as a secretary: “Few works have ever been so fun to build... While I wrote my score, Claudel planned out the slightest details of his choreography at the home of our friend Mrs Audrey Parr, who created the decoration on Claudel’s instructions.”

Another significant book is an autographed manuscript by Robert Desnos, Cantate pour l’inauguration du musée de l’Homme, 1937, a magnificent text for which Darius Milhaud composed the music.

“The Musée de l’Homme implemented every modern technique to showcase the ethnographic collections which had, until then, been so poorly presented at the dilapidated Musée du Trocadéro. The Viscount of Noailles and Henri Monnet commissioned me for a cantata to inaugurate the museum. Robert Desnos, who was just as likely to write a profoundly poetic text as a piece intended for a specific occasion, wrote the lyrics of La Cantate for the inauguration of the Musée de l’Homme. It was performed in front of a tight crowd that the museum’s conference room could hardly contain,” - Darius Milhaud, Ma vie heureuse.

The sale also includes some photo portraits of great 19th- and 20th-century artists such as that of Erik Satie by Brancusi and Berlioz by Nadar, as well as personal objects such as the orchestra conductor’s baton given to Darius Milhaud in New York City in 1952 for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the West Point military academy. For the occasion, Darius Milhaud composed the West Point Suite for harmony orchestra in 1952.

A fine set of works by Erik Satie testifies to Darius Milhaud’s friendship with him. It includes a portrait painted by Ignacio Zuloaga and red ink drawings in the composer’s hand portraying gothic figures (estimate: €300 -500) that Darius Milhaud purchased at the auction of Erik Satie’s estate: “I came home with all kinds of souvenirs: canes; red ink drawings, probably of the characters in the ballet Upsud; graphic representations, plain-song-style, colorfully painted and framed; and a large piece that – I noticed as I was cleaning it – turns out to be the portrait of our friend by Zuloaga…” - Darius Milhaud, Ma vie heureuse.










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