by Louis Bofferding
PAIR OF 18TH-CENTURY ITALIAN CONSOLE TABLES
Pair of Italian console tables, circa 1780. Painted-and-gilded wood, Carrara marble. H: 36 3/4″ L: 57 1/2″ D: 26″ Provenance: Loyd-Paxton, Dallas. $50,000
This pair of Italian Neo-Classical console tables were carved, painted battleship-grey, gilded, and topped with slabs of Carrara marble. Each has a carved cartouche — one with a pair of billy goats and the other with a lion and lioness — flanked by birds and morning glories. Engraved brass plaques mounted on the back rails identify the tables as having once been in the inventory of Loyd Paton, an important Dallas dealership that was established by Loyd Taylor and Paxton Gremillion in the 1960s, and flourished until the 1990s.
SAMUEL MARX TABLE
Samuel Marx (American, 1885-1964). Double-sided display table or desk, 1933. Leather, burled-elm veneer, nickel-plated metal. H: 29″ L: 75″ D: 33″. Provenance: Mr. & Mrs. Edward Sonnenschein, Glencoe, Illinois; Art Institute of Chicago. Sold.
This Samuel Marx display table also functions as a desk. It was made to go with a smaller one we just sold, and a pair of matching stools (see below), for the “jade room” in the house of Edward and Louise Sonnenschein outside Chicago. Unlike the stools, the tables aren’t a true pair, since this one is larger. It has six drawers on both sides, a black leather-wrapped top, burled-elm-veneered legs, and drawer pulls of silver metal inset with leather. Mr. Sonnenschein was a founder of the leading Chicago corporate law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal that represented Sears Roebuck, among other notable clients. His jade collection, the tables, and stools, were donated to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1950, and recently deaccessioned.
VICTORIAN INVALID’S TABLE
Leveson & Sons (London maker). Invalid’s table or reading table, circa 1870. Mahogany, brass hardware. H; 31″ up to 44″ L: 31″ D: 16″. $4,000
So-called invalid tables were bought not only by invalids and the elderly, but also by those who enjoyed rude health. And no wonder, since these multi-purpose tables could be used for writing, reading, and dining, while seated in an armchair or lolling in bed. This one bears the label of Leveson & Sons, a London-based firm with outlets in the prosperous industrial cities of Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds. Established in 1849 by Alexander Leveson, the firm made furniture that was adjustable, collapsible, and wheeled, for both domestic and military use. Under his sons, grandsons, and great grandsons, Leveson flourished until 1915. This circa 1870 invalid’s table is hewn from mahogany, equipped with sturdy brass hardware, and a ratcheted top that can be raised or lowered. The top can also be pivoted — when parallel to the floor a small book can rest on the ratcheted lectern, and when tilted a hefty one can rest on the slats. Mounted to the table’s base are brass wheels that allow it to be slid aside when getting in or out of a chair or bed.
PAIR OF ENGLISH VICTORIAN ETAGERES
Pair of English etageres, circa 1850. Japanned wood and papier-maché inlaid with mother of pearl. H: 47 1/2″ W: 26 1/2″ D: 17″. $10,000
Wildly curvaceous, this pair of English Victorian etageres are decorated with black japanning, mother-of-pearl inlays, naturalistically painted flowers, and gold-filigree. Each etagere has three drawers — one beneath the middle shelf and two beneath the bottom one — with mother-of-pearl pulls. The drawers retain their original decorated-paper linings. These etageres, like the best examples of Victorian furniture, are charming as well as bizarre, and more than a little fetishistic.
19TH-CENTURY JAPANESE TILT-TOP TABLE
Japanese tilt-top table, circa 1870. Lacquered wood with mother-of-pearl inlay, brass fittings. H: 29″ , 40″ with top vertical, Dia: 21 1/2″. $9,000
Made in Japan around 1870, this table is lacquered, inlaid with mother-of pearl, and takes the form of a European tilt-top table. It was probably intended for the export market — or not, since at the time Emperor Meiji pivoted Japan from an isolated feudal state to an industrial world power, and encouraged the production of Western-style goods for local consumption. Like many Western tables made in the 19th century, this one has a tilt-top and an openwork support. The top is decorated with the three yin-yang-like lobes known to Buddhists as the “wheel of joy.” Each lobe presents a picture. In one ducks cavort among chrysanthemums, in another swallows do the same among cherry blossoms, and in the third they flit about a vase filled with flowers on a cart. In Japan, it should be noted, ducks symbolize fertility, swallows ancestral spirits, cherry blossoms renewal, and chrysanthemums long life, which is why the Chrysanthemum Throne is the seat of imperial power.
NAPOLEON III CHAUFFEUSE
French, 19th century. Napoleon III chauffeuse, circa 1860. Giltwood, silk-satin upholstery. H: 35″ W: 20″ D: 21″. $9,000
This elegant yet eccentric little chair conforms to a type known as a chauffeuse, from the French verb chauffer, “to warm.” It would have been placed by a fireplace where one took a seat on coming in from the cold. Ours was made in France during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III. There, the prevailing eclectic style now referred to as “le style Rothschild” was the French equivalent of the Victorian style, which prevailed in England under Queen Victoria. This chauffeuse is an over-the-top take on the earlier Louis XVI style, as seen in the plethora of neoclassical rosettes, ribbon cresting, moldings, and the acanthus-topped fluted legs that splay out with abandon at the back.
PAIR OF SAMUEL MARX STOOLS
Samuel Marx (American, 1885-1964) pair of stools, 1933. Ebonized wood, leather, brass nailheads. H: 19″ W: 18 1/2″ D: 14 1/2″ Provenance: Mr. & Mrs. Edward Sonnenschein, Glencoe, Illinois; The Art Institute of Chicago. $12,500
This handsome pair of stools were designed by Samuel Marx to go with the tables made for the “jade room” of Edward and Louise Sonnenschein in Glencoe, Illinois (see above). The leather upholstery is studded with decorative nailheads set in a zigzag pattern.
1030s FELIX DAVIN CHAIRS
Félix Davin (French, 1902-1976). Pair of chairs, circa 1937. Limed oak, Aubusson tapestry upholstery. H: 46 1/2″ W: 19 1/2″ D: 21″. Bibliography: Mobilier & Décoration, Jan 1, 1937, p. 182. Provenance: Reed & Delphine Krakoff, New York. $12,000
Félix Davin practiced architecture before he came to specialize in domestic interiors and furniture design in the 1930s. His work was clean-lined and modern looking, yet informed by an historical knowledge worn lightly. This is seen in our pair of chairs in a vaguely Louis XIII style. They retain their original Aubusson tapestry coverings. The same chair model, upholstered in a different Aubusson pattern, appeared in an article on Davin in a 1937 issue of Mobilier & Décoration.
1930s WALTER KNOLL TUBULAR STEEL ARMCHAIRS
Pair of armchairs designed and upholstered by Walter Knoll (German 1878 – 1971), with frames by Thonet (model no. K411). Chromed-steel, leather. H: 32″ W: 30″ D: 28″. Bibliography: Jan van Geest & Otakar Macel, Stuhl aus Stahl, Metallmobel 1925-2940, fig. 4. Provenance: Galerie Ambiente, Vienna. $12,500
These Walter Knoll armchairs have frames of chrome-plated tubular steel made by Thonet, and retain their original leather upholstery by Knoll. The Knoll family furniture dynasty began in 1864 when Walter’s grandfather set up a tannery in Stuttgart specializing in leather-upholstered furniture. At loggerheads with his father and elder brother, who was then being groomed to take over the family firm, Walter left in a huff for New York where he worked in the leather-glove trade. Returning for a death-bed rapprochement with his father, he stayed on, married up, and established a rival furniture company in 1925 that was financed by his father-in-law. A modernist, Walter sold furniture to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and supplied chairs for the first-class lounge of the Bremen, the fastest and most innovative luxury liner of the day. Our 1932 armchairs unite avant-garde tubular-steel frames with traditional gemutlich upholstery. In the years that followed, history repeated itself when Walter’s son Hans, bristling under the paternal thumb, left in a huff for New York, where he established his own furniture firm and also married up, for it was his talented wife Florence who made Knoll International the ne plus ultra of midcentury-modern American design.
JOHN VESEY ‘MAXIMILIAN LOUNGE CHAIRS’
The “Maximilian Lounge Chair” was John Vesey’s finest and most celebrated chair design — it was also the most expensive to produce. The aluminum frame was wrought rather than cast, solid rather than assembled, and polished to a seamless satiny sheen. An industrial-aluminum screen supports the black-leather upholstery tufted in a pattern that harks back to the 19th century. So too does the chair’s form that’s based on low-slung Latin American planters’ chairs. One that belonged to the ill-fated Emperor Maximilian of Mexico inspired both Vesey’s design and the chair’s name. Although humbly born, Vesey attended Harvard, wore Saville Row suits, and became a high-society fixture. Among his clients were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Babe Paley, Cecil Beaton, Hubert de Givenchy, and “Baby” Jane Holzer. He began as an antiques dealer, and then had the brilliant idea of replicating his antique inventory in aluminum, steel, brass, glass, and black leather. The stunning results prompted him to sell his antique inventory in a 1955 auction and use the proceeds to produce a furniture line of his own designs.
LARGE BARLEY-TWIST CANDLESTICK
English, 18th century. Barley-twist candlestick, circa 1750. Walnut, brass nozzle insert. H: 32 1/2″; Dia: 10 1/2″. $3,750
Candlesticks of barley-twist form were popular in 18th-century England, but it’s rare to find one on such a large scale. The twisted form was derived from the barley-twist-candy sticks that were made in England from sugar imported from the West Indies colonies. The candy’s other ingredient was barley water, which was made by boiling barley with water. When these ingredients were combined to make candy, their amber color resembled the walnut from which this candlestick was hewn.
French, 18th century. Candelabra, circa 1770. Giltwood, gilt metal, mirror. H: 19 1/2″ W: 13 1/4″ D: 7 1/4″. $8,000
This candelabra with leaf-sheathed arms takes the form of a ruin consisting of an urn-topped tower with mirror-embedded windows, which is improbably supported by a Gothic flying buttress. All this is rooted on rockwork that rests on a stepped Neo-Classical base. The mirrors are a later addition, but they ramp up the charm quotient and reflect the object’s history — not to mention day- and candlelight. Such wild imaginings are typical of the Rococo style that prevailed in the mid 18th-century, when artists painted whimsical landscapes with ruins overgrown by nature. This is also seen in the contemporary prints and tole de Jouy fabrics that were then widely disseminated, prompting a craze for the picturesque but useless garden structures known as follies.
SWEDISH TRUMEAU MIRROR
Probably Swedish, 19th century. Trumeau mirror, circa 1830. Giltwood, bronze-colored paint, mirror plate. H: 81″ W: 36 3/4″ D: 5 1/4″ Provenance: The Metropolitan Museum, New York. $20,000
This grandly-scaled Neoclassical mirror was probably made in Sweden around 1830. It was recently deaccessioned by the Metropolitan Museum. The richness of its carving and gilding are remarkable. On the upper panel the woman’s arm and cup, the eagle’s head and wings, and the foliage and rockwork, are so deeply carved that they’re nearly freestanding. These carved areas are water-gilded, and contrast subtly with the oil-gilding in alternate bands of the serpentine columns. The flat backgrounds, and alternating gadroons in the entablature, are painted a greenish-brown to imitate bronze. The bottom panel is unusual as well in having a single arrow, rather than a pair or a group of them. The upper panel depicts Hebe, who was the cupbearer to the gods and the daughter of Zeus, who often assumed the form of an eagle. She bends to pour him a cup of ambrosia. When she married Hercules and retired from her duties, Zeus sought a replacement. And so, much to the chagrin of his wife Hera, he swept down to earth, espied the beautiful youth Ganymede, and wafted him aloft to Mount Olympus.
ENGLISH BRASS TELESCOPE
English, 19th century. Telescope, circa 1900. Brass, glass lenses, brass and mahogany implements. Telescope length: 44″ stand height: 18″. $5,000
This circa 1900 English brass telescope is in working condition, and has a sculptural form that makes it an arresting table-top display object. It comes with its original screw-on cap to protect the lens, and two mahogany-handled brass instruments to adjust the gears.
SOUTHEAST ASIAN BIRDCAGE
Southeast Asian, 19th/20th century. Birdcage, circa 1900. Stained wood, brass. H: 37 1/2″ W: 38″ D: 14 1/2″ Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $8,000
This large birdcage was made in Southeast Asia — most likely India or China — for the Western market. It takes the form of the European greenhouses that were built to house the “exotic” plants native to the place it was made. Ironically, it’s maker would have found those plants commonplace, unlike the greenhouses themselves, which would have seemed exotic. Compounding the irony, the “exotic” birds the Western buyer would have put in it — parakeets, parrots, macaws — also came from Southeast Asia, and would also have struck the birdhouse maker as being commonplace. But perhaps we overanalyze. In any case, pull out four metal pins at the top by their wood-finial mounts, and off lifts the dome to free or entrap third-world birds. And pull the brass tab at the bottom of the cage, and out slides a tray for first-world servants to clean.
1930s DUNHILL HUMIDOR
Dunhill of London (English maker). Humidor, circa 1935. Mahogany, burled walnut, gilt brass. H: 4″ L: 15 1/2″ D: 6 1/2″. $6,000
This Art Deco mahogany and gilt-bronze humidor has a tambour hatch that slides open to reveal a burled-walnut compartment for cigars and cigarettes. Its form is based on ancient Roman barges. But the humidor also bears comparison with the bull-nosed Art Deco interiors of the ocean liner Queen Mary, dubbed “the ship of beautiful woods.” Dunhill of London was a luxury-goods firm founded in 1893 by Alfred Dunhill, a descendant of saddle makers. Originally they specialized in leather goods, but they soon became tobacconists too, opening branches in Paris and New York in the 1920s. By the 30s they had expanded into perfumes, housewares — notably humidors — and men’s and women’s clothing, which was featured in the pages Esquire, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar. In the 1930s Dunhill received a Royal Warrant from King Edward VIII, the future Duke of Windsor, and, in spite of the Great Depression, opened a large and stylish emporium on Fifth Avenue in a brand-new Rockefeller Center.
ROYAL COPENHAGEN PORCELAIN SCULPTURE
Arno Malinowski (1899 – 1976) for Royal Copenhagen (maker). Diana with a Hound, 1927. Porcelain, with a later ebonized-wood base (not shown). H: 15 1/4″ W: 7 1/2 D: 7 1/2″ (with base H: 18 1/4″ W: 16 1/2″ D: 12″). Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $12,500
This 1927 Royal Copenhagen porcelain sculpture is exceptionally large in scale, and appears to represent an Amazon with her hound. It is remarkable for the juxtaposition of the simplified forms of her limbs and base, seen in the carefully detailed flowers of her crown and the laurel-leaf trim. Her swoop of drapery is almost free-standing, and a technical tour de force. The classical subject of an idealized nude, imbued with a cool eroticism, harks back to the white marble sculptures of Bertel Thorvaldsen, a Dane himself, which were sculpted a century earlier. This porcelain was modeled by Arno Malinowski who trained as a sculptor at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen. From 1921 to 1935 he created models for Royal Copenhagen, and won a silver medal for them at the Paris 1925 Exposition. From 1934 to 1939 he taught at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. And from 1936 to 1965 he designed for the silversmithing firm of George Jensen. Among the pieces he created for them was a 1940 medal celebrating the 70th birthday of King Christian X. Minted just after the Germany conquered Denmark, it was worn by Danish citizens as a sign of resistance.
Allessandro Mandruzzato (Italian, 20th century). Pair of faceted sommerso-glass objects, circa 1970. H: 2 1/4″ W: 4 3/4″ D: 4 1/2″ and H: 4″ W: 5″ D: 5″. Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $3,000
One might think that these two faceted sommerso-glass objects, and the one below, were made as ashtrays since they date to around 1970 when everyone smoked. But unless it’s placed with great care, their rims aren’t quite thick enough to balance a smoldering cigarette. This might lead one to think they were made as vide poches for spare change and keys, were it not that the cavities aren’t large enough for that. And so, like many seemingly functional Venetian glass vases, bowls, and trays, they were probably made to be objects of beauty to seduce the eye and the hand. This they most certainly do, with their arresting colors, and bold faceting that catch and refract light.
Allessandro Mandruzzato (Italian, 20th century). Faceted sommerso-glass object, circa 1970. H: 4 1/4″ D: 5 1/2. Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $2,000
ALBRIZZI SNAKE SCULPTURE
Alessandro Albrizzi (Italian, 1934-1994). Snake sculpture. Lucite and brass on glass block. H: 7 1/4″ W: 4 1/4″ D: 5 1/4″. $4,000
Baron Alessandro Albrizzi made this rare brass-headed-and-tailed Lucite snake sculpture in the 1960s. Later in the 70s he produced a larger number of “nest of snakes” sculptures, each unique and consisting of Lucite tubes, hand-knotted by craftsmen (we have two in our inventory), that we’re mounted with silver-metal heads and tails. Albrizzi grew up in his family’s Venetian palazzo, and, as a child, he played on the terrazzo floors of the ballroom, where French doors opening to the garden were secured by hardware embellished with bronze snakes. Decades later, when a designer in London, the memory inspired the snake sculptures. He sold them, along with other designs, from his Sloane Square store where jet-setting clients — David Hicks, Diana Vreeland, the Agnellis, the Windsors, and others — descended in droves.
ALESSANDRO ALBRIZZI RUG
Alessandro Albrizzi (Italian, 1935-1994). Rug, circa 1965. Wool. 15′ 4″ x 10′ 6″ Provenance: Alessandro Albrizzi, London and New York. $20,000
In the 1960s, Baron Alessandro Abrizzi moved to London, designed furniture and objects, and opened a fashionable store. Among his designs were a pattern for a rug that could be sold by the yard. He had this iteration, the only one known to have been made, woven for his store. In the 1970s, when he opened a second one in the Carlyle Hotel in New York, he moved into an apartment on East 66th Street, and sent the rug there, where it remained until we bought it.
AUSTRIAN NEO-CLASSICAL PORTRAIT MEDALLION IN PORCELAIN
Probably Viennese, circa 1810. Portrait of Katarina Koblitz (nee Kurz, died 1823). Porcelain-bisque plaque, original giltwood frame and glazing. H: 15″ W: 13 1/4″ D: 2 1/2″. $7,500
This exquisite bas-relief porcelain bisque plaque is in its original and no-less-exquisite giltwood frame, and secured under glass. Unmarked, the porcelain both seduces the experts — one pronounced it “divine” — and stumps them as well. The superlative quality signals an important maker they strain to identify, since no other porcelain with a scagliola-like background is known to exist. Its light-blue coloration suggests Wedgwood, but their blue was monotoned, and their modeling less fine. A German expert thinks it’s Viennese, and an Austrian one thinks it is too — unless it was made in Berlin. Both, however, link it to the Royal Vienna Porcelain Manufactory when under the direction of Konrad von Sorgenthal. His marbleized backgrounds, however, were painted in trompe l’oeil rather than “kneaded” in porcelain paste. In any case, this apparently unique piece was probably an experiment that proved to be too difficult and costly to produce. The sitter, however, is identifiable, thanks to an old inscription on the verso. She’s Katarina Koblitz, nee Kurtz, who died in 1823. Yet, on conducting a genealogical search, she too eludes the experts and us.
1920s ABSTRACT SCULPTURE BY HENRI HAMM
Henri Hamm (French, 1871-1961). Abstract sculpture, circa 1927. Plaster with inner metal strut. H: 13″ W: 5 1/2″ D: 7″. $8,000
Henri Hamm was born in Bordeaux, studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts there, and moved to Paris in 1902. By then he was an accomplished sculptor. The following year he became a founder of the Salon d’Autumn, an annual art and design exhibition, with the painters Georges Rouault and Eugene Carrière, and the architect Frantz Jourdain. Initially inspired by the formalism of Cezanne and the Cubists, he frequented the Bateau-Lavoir studios of Picasso and Brancusi, and the garrets of the poets Apollinaire and Max Jacob. If the influence of Brancusi on our plaster is obvious, that of Alberto Giacometti in his Surrealist period is also in evidence. This accounts for our late 1920s dating. Then, just as Giacometti paid his bills by sculpting lamp and drawer-pull models for the decorator Jean-Michel Frank, Hamm did so by making one-of-a-kind luxury objects — boxes, combs, and hair ornaments — from silver, ivory, tortoiseshell, and mother-of-pearl. Teaching was an additional source of income that supplemented the sale of his sculptures by Pierre Loeb, the Paris dealer who also sold works by Picasso, Klee, Miro, and Arp. On occasion, Hamm made large sculptures, but he’s best known for small plasters of pure abstract forms that bear a kinship not only with Brancusi and Giacometti, but with Hans Arp as well.
MARTIN BATTERSBY TROMPE L’OEIL PAINTING
Martin Battersby (English 1884-1982). Garbo Sphinx, 1958. Oil on canvas, signed & dated. H: 23 3/4″ x 35 1/2″; framed 27 1/2″ x 39″. Provenance: Grosvenor Gallery, London, Michael Clancy, New York. $12,500
This 1958 trompe l’oeil painting titled “Garbo Sphinx” depicts the 1930s silver-screen goddess who enchanted movie goers. It was painted by Martin Battersby who had studied acting, designed jewelry, concocted stage sets with Cecil Beaton, and dealt in antiques, before picking up the brush without having had any formal training. In post-war Britain his talent, charm, and good looks won over high society, the intelligentsia, and politicos alike, landing him painting and mural commissions from Daisy Fellowes, Lady Diana Cooper, Evelyn Waugh, and John Profumo. In the States he received mural commissions for the lobby of the Westbury Hotel in New York and the house of Paul and Bunny Mellon in Virginia, among others. He also played a role in the revivals of the Art Nouveau and Art Deco styles as the author of The World of Art Nouveau (1966), The Decorative Twenties (1969), and The Decorative Thirties (1971). In addition, he wrote Trompe l’Oeil (1974), a book in which he brazenly, if justifiably, juxtaposed his own accomplishments with those of Van Eyck, Veronese, and Zubaran.
THREE DRAWINGS BY DRIAN
Etienne Drian (French, 1885-1961). Women in Wartime, circa 1915. Graphite and watercolor on paper, in giltwood frames. Each 24 1/4″ x 20 sight; framed 24 1/4″ x 20″. $6,000
These three masterful drawings are by the French artist Drian, who dispensed with his first name professionally, and became one of the most successful artists of his day. Sketched during World War I, they depict women going about their daily activities when the men were off fighting. As such, they’re atypical of his work since Drian was celebrated for his glamorous murals, and flattering portraits of high-society sitters like Elsie de Wolfe, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Coco Chanel, among others. One of our drawings depicts a pregnant woman opening a letter from, presumably, her husband at the front, and two others of women doing the jobs of absent men — one dispensing change or selling tickets, the other hawking the Paris daily Le Figaro. As with their high-society counterparts, Drian presents them in multiple views that he crossed out if they displeased him. He captured their every gesture with an immediacy and realism that doesn’t preclude grace. Drian, who hailed from an obscure provincial family, was taken under the wing of a local grandee who introduced him to 18th-century refinements. Among those that influenced the artist throughout his career were the drawings of Antoine Watteau, who, like Drian much later, delineated aristocrats and commoners alike with psychological insight and respect.
ERTE GOUACHE OF AN INTERIOR
Erté, born Romain de Tirtoff (Russian/French 1892-1990). Design for an Interior, circa 1935. Gouache on paper, signed, mounted on a sheet bearing his stamp “ERTE/Romain de Tirtoff/Composition originale”. Image 6 1/4″ x 6″, backing sheet 10″ x 12 3/4″; frame 14″ x 11″. Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $7,000
Erté was both the incarnation of the Jazz Age, and the soigné embodiment of the ancien regime. Born into the Russian aristocracy, Romain de Tirtoff — Erté is the phonetic pronunciation of his initials in both French and Russian — left St. Petersburg in 1913 and landed a job in Paris with Paul Poiret. After going solo, Erté’s mid-bogglingly creative designs for dresses and theatrical costumes caught the eyes of New York fashion retailer Henri Bendel, publisher William Randolph Hearst who put him under contract for Harper’s Bazaar, and Louis B. Mayer who brought him to Tinseltown and MGM’s back lot. On returning to Paris in 1925, Erté designed revues for the Follies Bergères, the Lido, and the Café de Paris. The Depression brought the gravy train to a halt, yet Erté, who was savvy with money, continued to wear bespoke suits with pearls and furs (he was a pioneer of gender fluidity), and lived in a chateau he decorated with fine antiques and the offbeat furniture he designed. In 1935, when the Paris impresario Mitty Goldin acquired the Theatre ABC, Erté received a new round of commissions. In addition to costumes and sets for revues, Goldin may have asked for his help in revamping the theater’s decor. Since our gouache dates to this time, and appears to represent a waiting room, it may be a scheme for Goldin. Regardless, it shows Erté as a master of decor off-stage as well as on, judging from the dramatic color scheme, and his designs for a settee, cubist stools, and sconces in the form of human hands. The latter is a nice Surrealist touch — as are the skittering clouds beyond the clerestory windows
1937 ERWIN BLUMENFELD PHOTOGRAPH
Erwin Blumenfeld (German/American 1897-1969). Untitled (Faberge imperial Easter egg with hands), 1937. Image: 6 1/4″ x 8 1/4″; framed 12 1/4″ x 14″ Provenance: Diana Vreeland, New York; R. Louis Bofferding, New York; Pierre Le-Tan, Paris. $7,000
In 1937 Erwin Blumenfeld shot this Surrealist photograph of a woman’s perfectly manicured hands, forming an aureole around an enameled and bejeweled imperial Russian Easter egg for Harper’s Bazaar. It presents Peter Carl Faberge’s “Peter the Great Egg,” which was commissioned in 1903 by Tsar Nicholas II as a gift for his wife, and commemorates the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg’s founding by Peter. Each imperial egg packed a “surprise,” and on opening this one a miniature gold replica rises mechanically of “The Bronze Horseman,” the life-size equestrian portrait of Peter commissioned from Falconnet by Catherine the Great in the 18th century. Today the egg is in the Virginia Museum, but in the 1930s it belonged to Armand Hammer, the New York financier who did business with the Soviets, and bought art from them that had belonged to the tsars. The photographer Blumenfeld was born in Berlin in 1897. He became a poet and fell in with the Dadaists, until he moved to Paris in 1937 and fell in with the Surrealists. There he became a professional photographer and worked with Vogue. When war broke out he was sent to an internment camp as an undesirable alien. In 1941 he escaped to New York. There, he signed a contract with Harper’s Bazaar, worked with Diana Vreeland who owned this photograph, and lived more than comfortably in the toney Gainsborough Studios on Central Park South.
THIRTY-THREE ERNEST BOICEAU EMBROIDERED FABRIC PANELS
Ernest Boiceau (Swiss/French, 1881-1950). 33 embroidered fabric panels. Sizes range from 9 1/4″ to 46″ high, and 4 1/4″ to 24″ wide. 7 framed. Bibliography: “Sew Chic,” The World of Interiors, October 2022, pp. 296-299. Available individually, unframed from $750 to $6,500 framed.
Ernest Boiceau is known today as an Art Deco master, but he started out as an embroiderer in the 1910s, became a couturier in the 1920s, and came to dedicate himself to designing furniture and interiors in 1933. Yet embroidery never ceased to interest him. As a couturier he used it to embellish clothing, and as a decorator he set embroidered fabrics into wall paneling. Our 33 embroidered fabric panels, eight of which are shown here, were made as samples and never used, which is why they remain in pristine unfaded condition. Each is breathtaking in color, superb in workmanship, and inventive in design. Realized in the 1910s, 20s and 30s, they’re compositions rendered in multicolored sequins of many forms and finishes, paste jewels, faceted-glass beads, synthetic flossing, and even baroque pearls, on panels of silk, satin, velvet, cashmere, wool, felt, netting, and tweed. An article recently appeared on them in The World of Interiors. We have framed eight, which are on display in the gallery.
NINE ERNEST BOICEAU TASSELS
Ernest Boiceau (Swiss/French 1881-1950). 9 Tassels. Sizes range from 16″ to 32″ long, 4 are Framed. Bibliography: “Sew Chic,” The World of Interiors, October 2022, pp. 296-299. Available individually from $1,000, unframed to $6,000 framed.
These over-the-top tassels, of which four are shown here, are no less striking in design, craftsmanship, and materials, than the embroidered panels (see above). As a couturier, Boiceau used them to embellish dresses, jackets and coats — and as a furniture designer he inserted them into decoratively-cut openings in paneled screens. A selection of these tassels appears in a recent issue of The World of Interiors. We have framed four, which are on display in the gallery.
AND A FEW OTHER THINGS…
Chinese, 20th century. Mounted and lidded vase, circa 1925. Ceramic, carved and gilded wood, pink quartz. H: 12 1/2″ Dia: 7″ Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $3,500
Chinese, 20th century. Birdcage, circa 1920. Carved and painted wood, bone, metal. H: 18″ Dia: 9″ Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $3,750
Natural specimen of coral mounted on an onyx base. H: 8″ L: 12″ D: 9″. Provenance: Michael Clancy, New York. $2,500
Other recent arrivals at FEATURED INVENTORY