by Louis Bofferding
NEWLY DISCOVERED PAIR OF CUBIST FRESCOES BY EYRE DE LANUX
Eyre de Lanux (1894-1996) pair of “frescoes” in their original oak frames, late 1920s. Each 15 3/4“ x 22 1/2“ framed. Provenance: Mr. & Mrs. Kenneth Farrand Simpson, Paris and New York; by descent, Mr. & Mrs. William Kelly Simpson, New York. $30,000
Madonna, whore, muse, vamp – in the annals modern art, these stock female roles fill the interstices between the lives of great male artists. Only recently have women like Hilma af Klint, Lee Miller, and Louise Bourgeois emerged from their relative, unwarranted obscurity. Among their number is the artist, furniture and interior designer Eyre de Lanux, who resurfaced after a decades-long hiatus in 1989, seven years before she breathed her last at the age of 102. Since then, her work and its significance have come into focus. And that work, along with her beauty, chic, and many love affairs with celebrated men and women, have made her a cult figure.
Lanux led a high profile life in Paris and New York during the interwar years. Her contemporaries, however, were long gone by 1989 when a Cubist table she designed in the late 1920s resurfaced at Sotheby’s New York, and sold for $72,500, an astonishing price for an unknown maker [below left]. This prompted Rita Reif to interview her for a profile in The New York Times. In 1997, shortly after Lanux’s death, the art and furniture that she had kept for herself was hammered down at Christie’s for multiples of the estimates. In 2013 she was the subject of a Paris exhibition at Galerie Willy Hubrechts, and a book by Louis-Géraud Castor. Two years before, Nick Mauss, that contemporary art world darling, featured a group of her Sapphic pen-and-ink doodles in his 2011 Whitney Biennial installation.
Born Elizabeth Eyre, Lanux hailed from a distinguished Philadelphia family. On moving to New York, she studied painting at the Art Students’ League under Robert Henri. In 1918, during the Great War, she worked at the Foreign Press Bureau where she caught the eye of Pierre de Lanux, a handsome French diplomat, cultural liaison, and writer [above right]. Before the year was out, the Armistice was signed, they married, and set sail for France. Over the decades that followed they remained very much in love, and faithful in their fashion, but, from the get go, theirs was an open marriage.
Lanux wasn’t the only member of the Lost Generation who found herself, literally and figuratively, in Paris. There, in the crucible of modernism, she crafted a new identity, and took her maiden name as her first, becoming Eyre de Lanux. She bobbed her hair, wore the geometrically patterned clothes of Sonia Delaunay, and studied under the sculptor Constantin Brancusi (in 1979 she donated a group of his rare photographs, which he presumably gave her, to the Museum of Modern Art). She posed for the camera of Man Ray [above left], and was painted as a huntress in animal skins by Romaine Brooks [above right], another American ex-patriot, and the lover of Natalie Clifford Barney, poet, salonnière, and celebrated beauty from Dayton, Ohio. Lanux had a fling with Barney too (conveniently, they lived in the same building on the rue Jacob), and became a regular at her salon, where Jean Cocteau, Colette, Ezra Pound, Isadora Duncan, Eric Satie, Anais Nin, and T. S. Elliot forgathered, along with other avatars of the modern.
If a bohemian lifestyle is a necessary ingredient for cult figure status (think Jean-Michel Basquiat), so too is talent. As an artist, Lanux mastered portrait drawing, painting on canvas and wood panel, and etching and lithography. But it was fresco painting that she returned to time and again over the course of her life. She showed hers in Paris at the Galerie des Quatre Chemins in 1937, and in New York at the galleries of Peggy Guggenheim in 1943, and Alexander Iolas in 1951. Fresco, however, is a misnomer since they are painted in wet plaster, whereas Lanux incised, and modeled bas-reliefs from a concrete-like mixture, that she painted when dry.
The lines incised in our painted panels, which we date to the late 1920s, can be compared to those chiseled by Brancusi in stone, as seen in his masterpiece The Kiss [below left], which Lanux would surely have known. The compositions, however, can be compared to those painted by Picasso during his Synthetic Cubist period, when the multiple shards that characterize Early and Analytic Cubism coalesce into recognizable forms, as seen in his 1922 Still Life with Guitar [below right]. Not coincidentally, Lanux and Picasso became friends around this time, and were photographed together some years later at the Cafe de Flore by Brassaï. A few years after that, back in New York, she rented an apartment in a brand new East 58th Street building named The Picasso, where three large works after his originals still decorate the lobby. Presumably, she was the only tenant there who knew, or was on a first name basis with the artist.
One of our still lives depicts a bottle of Gordon’s Gin, a martini with an olive, a pipe, a smoldering cigar, an ace of diamonds, an Ionic capital, stars, a mask, and what might be a newspaper. The other depicts a bottle of VO Whisky, a seltzer bottle, a cut-glass tumbler, a lemon for a twist, an ace of hearts, dice, and that Jazz Age musical favorite, a ukulele, against a background of books.
The panels belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Farrand Simpson of New York [seen below left with their children]. In 1925 they married at St. James’s on Madison Avenue, embarked on a Paris honeymoon, and rented a Left Bank pied-a-terre overlooking the Seine. They were ardent Francophiles. Helen, a Knickerbacker on her mother’s side, had served in France during the war as a nurse, and wore Paris couture. Kenneth was a Yale man who went on to study law at Harvard, becoming a lawyer representing the French Line, the passenger ship company, and Madame Coty of Paris perfume fame, before entering politics. Together they were a Social Register couple that was attracted to la vie bohème. Befriending Gertrude Stein, Alice Toklas, and the notorious Harry and Caresse Crosby, they also collected modern art, including the work of Modigliani, Picasso, Matisse, Giorgio de Chirico, and Joan Miró.
Our panels call for a biographical reading, since Kenneth was a heavy drinker, a chain smoker, and an avid poker player. The Ionic capital, a symbol of the arts, reflects their keen interest in art, music, and literature. And so our panels evoke an evening chez Simpson — when the stars come out, books and newspapers are put aside, cocktails are served, the aroma of tobacco wafts through the air, and a jazz tune is casually strummed on a ukulele (masquerade optional).
Many years later, when jotting down her chronology, Lanux noted, “Helen: 1st order.” Around 1927 she asked Lanux to decorate their Paris apartment at 1 rue Git-le-Cour (in translation Here-Lies-the-Heart). The building was also the home to Sara and Gerald Murphy, E. E. Cummings, Gilbert Seldes (pop culture critic and father of the actress Marian Seldes), and Alice De Lamar, the American lesbian patron of the arts, whose apartment was a crash pad for her artistic friends, including Dolly Wilde, Oscar’s niece, the painter Eugene Berman, and his actress wife Ona Munson. Some thirty years later, Lamar would step up to the plate for Lanux, whose means had by then thinned, to cover her rent at The Picasso.
Lanux painted the Simpson dining room a terracotta color [below left], designed a steel table with an actual terracotta top, bought chairs from Jean-Michel Frank, and collaborated on the rug design with her latest love interest, Evelyn Wyld, a weaver who had just broken up with her previous collaborator and lover, the architect designer Eileen Gray. Lanux transformed an alcove into a wet bar [below right] by installing a sink and a zinc countertop. She mirrored the backsplash and cabinets, positioned an African tribal mask, and laid down another Wyld rug. Our terra-cotta-painted panels may have hung in this room, and been a gift from the artist, or the result of a commission.
In the 1920s Lanux was best known as an artist, although she also wrote art criticism, poetry, and fiction. By 1930 she had become known for her furniture and interiors. But in the mid 1930s she abruptly abandoned design, and took off for Rome. At the outbreak of war she repaired to New York, and when peace returned she ricocheted between New York, Paris, and Rome, where she took a much younger man as her lover. In the years that followed, she painted more frescoes, experimented with photography, illustrated books, and published fiction in The New Yorker. In an age of specialization, she branched out. Lanux was born at a time, and in a class, that discouraged women from having a métier, pursuing a career, and achieving success. She took it on the chin. The incarnation of freedom, hers was a life fulfilled.
AN ITALIAN BEAUTY
Giovanni Nicolini (1872-1956). Bust of a Woman, circa 1920. Marble. H: 10 ½” W: 7 ½” D: 9 ½” $9,000
The sculptor Giovanni Nicolini won fame and fortune in the 1910s, and kept two studios in Rome and Palermo humming until his death in the 1950s. He exhibited at the Venice Biennale, and was compared by Primo Levi (no less) to the great Michelangelo (no less again), architect of St. Peter’s in Rome where Nicolini’s over-life-size marble of St. Eufrasia surveys the nave. Nicolini also made his mark in Havana with an enormous monument to General Jose Miguel Gomez. On a smaller scale, he sculpted portraits of the great composers, poets, and statesmen of his day, including Verdi, d’Annuzio, and Italy’s king, Victor Emanuel II. The identity of our Roman beauty – signed “G. Nicolini Roma” – is a mystery.
EUGENE BERMAN COLLAGE
Eugene Berman (1899-1972). Radiograph of a Heart, 1945. Paint on paper, collage, metal shavings. H: W: D: $9,000
This haunting image by Eugene Berman was painted on a sheet of paper that was cut in the shape of a heart, mounted to a paint-speckled ground, encircled with metal shavings, and placed in a frame of the artist’s own devising. The title, Radiograph of a Heart, refers to the medical X-rays that doctors had recently come to employ. Berman, however, seems to suggest that while a heart can be monitored scientifically, the emotions traditionally ascribed to it lie beyond the grasp of medical science.
Russian by birth, Berman fled St. Petersburg for Paris after the revolution. Then, as a jew, he fled Europe before the outbreak of World War II. Having taken a comfortable refuge in New York and Hollywood, his peace of mind was again shattered by the suicide of his wife, actress Una Munson (who played Belle Watling in Gone With the Wind). That distressing event — “Don’t follow me” she admonished in a suicide note — cast him adrift once more. He would come to rest in Rome, where he passed his remaining years.
Along with his brother Leonid, Pavel Tchelitchew, and Christian Bérard, Berman was a painter of the Neo-Romantic school. The works of these artists were avidly collected in the 1930s and 40s by, among others, Alfred Barr, founding director of the Museum of Modern Art. Since then, the school has fallen out of favor. Should fashion reverse itself yet again, perhaps their paintings will emerge from storage, and resume their places on those hollowed walls.
AN HISPANIC BEAUTY
Latin or South American, possibly Cuzco school, circa 1700. Portrait of a Noblewoman. Oil on canvas, in a later giltwood frame. 37 “ x 28 ¾” $10,000
The elaborate coiffure, sumptuous dress, pearl collar, and jeweled necklace, speak to the sitter’s wealth, just as the coat of arms does to her exalted station. The painting was sold to us as Spanish, but we now think it’s by a Latin or South American hand. The painter may have been part of what’s now known as the Cuzco school, which takes its name from that Spanish Colonial city, which had formerly been the capital of the Incas. Our sumptuously dressed sitter, apparently European, would have been in the circle of a viceregal family, if not a member of it. Originally octagonal in shape, the painting was later supplemented with corners, and placed in a rectangular frame. That original, decorative shape suggests it may have been one in a series of portraits that represented members of a particular family.
ART DECO CHINOISERIE CHAIRS
Pair of Chinese-style hall chairs, circa 1925. Lacquered wood, carved and gilt decorations. H: 37” D: 19” W: 17 ¾” $8,000
When new in the 1920s this glamorous pair of chairs, that merge Asian and Art Deco styles, evoked the orient for occidental buyers. Although the construction suggests Western manufacture, the carved and gilded medallions appear to be the handiwork of the Asian artisans who were then working in Paris, London, and New York, for retailers, dealers, and importers like C. T. Loo and Yamanaka.
RUSSIAN MAHOGANY TABLE
Russian, circa 1840. Tray table with a drawer. Mahogany, brass stringing and wheels. H: 26” L: 18 ¼” D: 11 ¾” $8,500
Every contour and plane of this exquisite mahogany table is outlined with glinting brass stringing — a hallmark of Russian cabinetry. The form, however, is derived from the furniture that was then being made in France under King Louis-Philippe. At the time, Russians were besotted by all things French, in spite of their recent war with Napoleon that left Moscow in cinders.
Figli Zunino & Rivarola, Chiavari, Italy. Pair of chiavari chairs, circa 1950. Painted wood with gold decorations, caning. H: 37 ¼” W: 16” D: 16” $7,000
The delicate, lightweight chiavari chair was first made in the Italian town of Chiavari in the early years of the 19th century. Their elegance and grace would come to charm mid-century modernists, including the influential architect and designer Gio Ponti. As he was the first to admit at the time, they inspired his Superleggera chair, perhaps his most iconic design.
GEORGE III SILVER LUSTERWARE VASE
English, circa 1800. Painted and silver lusterware porcelain. H: 14 ½” $5,000
This elegant vase of attenuated proportions was given an unusual silver-luster glaze, and embellished with two medallions on a military theme. One depicts a young soldier with a sword and statuette of Athena, goddess of war. The other depicts an older, bearded, and helmeted warrior visiting a shrine. There’s no maker’s mark, but the classical proportions, Wedgwood-blue color, and antique-inspired medallions suggest English manufacture, circa 1800, and align the vase with the refined taste of Robert Adam.
IBERIAN MIRROR WITH FLOWERING TENDRILS
Mirror, possibly Bilbao, circa 1800. Walnut veneer, gilded and gessoed wood, original mirror plate. H: 34 ¼” W: 15” $9,000
The so-called Bilbao mirrors were made around 1800 in Portugal and Spain, and named after the city where many were crafted. On our shores they’re often mistakenly said to be American, for the simple reason that examples were found in old New England houses. Nevertheless, these mirrors were made on the Iberian peninsula, and dispatched to the republic on swift clipper ships laden with cargoes of port wines. Only then did they come to take their places on the walls of the Early American home.
Italian flowering urn, possibly Genoese, circa 1720. Gilt cut metal, gessoed and silvered wood. Height 24” $10,000
This flowering urn of gold flowers in a silver vase was probably made in Genoa in the early 18th century. If the flowers are are lilies, symbol of the Immaculate Conception, and carnations, symbol of the Virgin’s love, it may have been made for the altar of a church [see below]. But if those lilies are actually tulips, which don’t symbolize much of anything, it may have been made as a decoration for a grand private house. Flowering urns on altars, it should be noted, were typically one-sided, since they were seen frontally, whereas this one was sculpted in the round. Whether destined for a sacred or secular setting, the sophistication of form, fine workmanship, and costly gilding, point to a prominent studio and a patron of note.
Hispanic jug. Copper-luster-glazed earthenware. Height 10 ½“ $3,000
The origin of this jug, with its sculptural form and copper-luster glaze, is a mystery to us. Its form is typical of Renaissance and Baroque metalwork [below right], as the copper glaze is of Hispano-Moresque ceramics made in Spain [below left]. But then it could have been made in Latin or South America by an artisan inspired by those wares — or, for that matter, in Spain or the Hispanic New World around 1900, when vernacular traditions were revived. In any case, the monumental form and gutsy decoration endow our jug with a boldness that bears witness to an unknown craftsman’s mastery.
AN ALLEGORY OF SUMMER
Overdoor painting of an allegory of summer, French circa 1800. Oil on canvas, unframed. Height: 33“ Length: 72“ $15,000
This Neo-Classical painting, an allegory of summer, would have been hung with representations of fall, winter, and spring, over the doors of a salon [below left]. Here, Ceres, Roman goddess of agriculture, points to her handmaidens harvesting wheat, and wears a few springs of it in her hair. A child toys with succulent fruits in a basket. The harvest, a child, and fruit, symbolize fertility and, by extension, summer itself. Our panel was painted to imitate a bas-relief carved in stone, with shadows cast upward to conform with light emanating from windows and candles below. Trompe l’oeil panels were in vogue, but not invented, in late 18th century France when Belgian-born artist Piot-Joseph Sauvage, who specialized in them, was appointed Peintre du Roi.
“THE BEST DRESSED WOMAN IN THE WORLD”
George Platt Lynes (1907-1955). Mrs. Harrison Willams, later Countess Mona von Bismarck, circa 1940. Photograph. 10″ x 8 1/4″ unframed. $4,000
Mrs. Harrison Williams, known universally as Mona, was the beautiful wife of the first billionaire, and the world’s richest man. In 1933 she set her own record when a panel of experts, which included Coco Chanel, voted her “Best Dressed Woman in the World” — the first American to be so honored. Mona also smashed records for the accumulation of luxury goods, and the speed of her social ascent (the daughter of a Kentucky stableman, she would go on to marry Count Edzard von Bismarck, among others). All this took some effort, and left little time for reflection. Our 1940s photograph by George Platt Lynes [below left] captures her hard glamor, and hints at a lack of substance, by juxtaposing her perfectly coiffed head with a fluffy dog, a perforated-paper backdrop, and the carved openwork back of a settee. We lent this vintage print, the only one known, to the exhibition Magnificent Mona Bismarck at the Frazier Museum in Louisville [below right]. No catalog was published, but Scott Rogers, the curator, is writing a book on her life, and that fugitive thing known as style. Hers, however, continues to enthrall the fashion world to this very day.
PAIR OF BAGUES LAMPS
Baguès Frerès, Paris. Pair of table lamps, circa 1935. Silvered metal, cut and cast glass, glass beads and prisms. H: 24″ $10,000
During the first half of the 20th century, Baguès of Paris produced the world’s most fashionable lighting fixtures. Their major commissions ranged from 18th-century-style chandeliers laden with prisms for a restoration of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, to the glass-beaded Art Deco chandeliers of the Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice, the pleasure dome built by American tycoon Frank J. Gould. Like much of the work of Baguès, our madcap tendril-sprouting urn-form lamps can be situated, designed wise, between Louis-Louis gentility and Art Deco flash.
THE DIVA AS MUSE
Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947). Bookplate for Misia Sert, circa 1920. Etching on laid paper. 4 3/8″ x 2 6/8″, the giltwood frame 12″ x 9 1/4″. $4,000
The very definition of haute bohème, Misia Sert, a musical prodigy who once played the piano on Franz List’s knee, married, successively, an art publisher, a newspaper baron, and the high-society painter José-Maria Sert. A raving beauty when young, and the apogee of chic to the bitter end, she was also a divining rod for talent. With her affinity for the modern, she inspired Renoir [see his portrait of her below], Mallarmé, Cocteau, Satie, Stravinsky, Diaghilev, and Coco Chanel, whom she introduced to opium and, it was rumored, sapphism.
As one might expect of a muse to the intelligentsia, she had a library, which, in that genteel day, meant having a bookplate. And so, Pierre Bonnard, who had painted her often, etched her ex-libris of a flowering potted plant, placed on a dining table, set for just one, in her country house. The use of her first name only suggests their intimacy, and, in a world where there was only one Misia, her celebrity. Bonnard created just one other bookplate for Charles Terrasse, an expert on his work, who wrote the introduction to the catalog raisonne of Bonnard’s prints. There, an etched study for our bookplate appears [below right]. It shows the artist experimenting with various motifs that include the plant, which made the final cut. Our bookplate, however, doesn’t appear in the book. Apparently, Terrasse never saw an impression — an indication of its rarity.
ROBERT BLOCK / ROBERTO BLOCK
Robert Block (born Switzerland). Table, circa 1945. Painted steel, brass, marble. H: 26 1/2″ Dia: 31 1/4″ $15,000
The furniture and interior designer Robert Block achieved considerable success in 1930s Paris. But, as a jew, the outbreak of war left him facing a fate far worse than career disruption. So he high-tailed it to Mexico, and settled in Mexico City with his brother, Mito. There he achieved success yet again as Roberto Block. Until recently, Latin and South American designers didn’t figure on the cultural map, but now they’re a focus of interest among curators and collectors worldwide. This positions Block’s work for a rediscovery. Our table is a inventive riff on the traditional French guéridon — and a nostalgic, over-the-shoulder gaze at the land of his birth.
BRAZILIAN SILVER AMULETS
Brazilian, 19th century. A set of 31 amulets consisting of 29 fruits, 1 double gourd, and 1 gourd dipper. Silver, content 70 to 80%. Double gourd 8″, fruits approximately 5“ each, dipper 16″ $8,500
These 19th century Brazilian amulets, known as balangada, were hammered from silver in the form of pomegranates, guava, sugar apples, and other exotic fruits. Symbols of fertility, they were the bling of their day, adorning women’s wrists and waists, and when not being worn, their homes. Crafted by enslaved men from equatorial Africa for their own womenfolk, balanganda represent the final efflorescence of the Benin people’s metalworking skills, which reached an apogee in the figurative bronzes coveted by European kings in the 17th century, as they are today by museum curators. Like the jazz music that would come into being in the United Stares, Brazilian balanganda testify to the persistence of the creative impulse under duress, and the inventiveness of black culture in the New World.
Now, as in the past, balangada could be worn to dramatic effect, but they’re perhaps better suited to their other original purpose of home decoration. That’s why we’ve put some in a Venini glass bowl, and, in a few months hence, we’ll hang them on a Christmas tree.
AN ART NOUVEAU CENTERPIECE
Designed by Albert Meyer (1867-1944), made by the Württembergerische Metallwarenfabrik. Flower bowl, circa 1905. Silver plate with a glass liner. H: 4 ½” L: 12″ D: 4 ½” $5,000
This ravishing Art Nouveau silver-plated centerpiece, decorated with butterflies, flowers, and budding tendrils, was designed by the German sculptor Albert Meyer. It retains the original applied patina, the cobalt-blue glass liner, and the stamp of its maker, the Württembergerische Metallwarenfabrik (the Tiffany of Mitteleuropa, you might say). Celebrated internationally, this firm exhibited in every world’s fair, and maintained showrooms in Württemberg, Berlin, Vienna, and Warsaw. To capture the Anglo-Saxon market, they published an English-language catalog, which featured this centerpiece, and built a six-story salesroom, office, and studio in London, which was christened Wurtemberg House.
HANDSOME PRINCE ALBERT
Baron Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867). Bust of Prince Albert, circa 1850. Chased bronze. H: 14 ½” $8,000
In centuries past, it was rare for an artist to be ennobled for his mastery, but Baron Marochetti was born into a noble family years before he proved his mettle as a sculptor. After studying in Rome he moved to Paris, where he was honored with the patronage and friendship of King Louis-Philippe. When the king fled France for England at the outbreak of the 1848 Revolution, he took his court sculptor with him. On arrival, Queen Victoria noted in her diary that Marochetti was “very agreeable, pleasant and gentlemanlike.” And when that famously laconic monarch pronounced the bust he modeled after Prince Albert, her consort and beloved husband, “extremely successful,” the prince commissioned a marble version as a gift for his wife. To capitalizing on its overnight renown, Marochetti created this signed bronze version that celebrated the sitter’s good looks, and certified the artist’s mastery. It also delights the contemporary eye with a madcap juxtaposition of Victorian facial hair and the off-the-shoulder toga of an ancient Roman.
PAIR OF LOUIS-PHILIPPE ARMCHAIRS
French, 19th century. A Pair of Louis-Philippe armchairs, 1840s. Rosewood, upholstered. H: 37″ Provenance: KK Auchincloss. $15,000
In the 1940s KK Hannon, a Boston-born socialite in the making, moved to Manhattan, launched a clothing line, designed jewelry for Tiffany, and said yes to a marriage proposal from “Shipwreck” Kelly, the legendary football hero — and then yes again to Peter Larkin, an heir to the 825,000 acre King Ranch in Texas. She would come to say yes twice more before she breathed her last as Mrs. James D. Auchincloss at age 89. Over the span of those years she had come to call Manhattan, the North Shore of Long Island, Dark Harbor, Hobe Sound, London (the Albany), and Paris (the Place des Etats Unis), home. Among her stateside possessions was this superbly carved pair of Louis-Philippe rosewood armchairs, now upholstered in grey felt.
A SHAPE-SHIFTING TABLE
French gate-leg table, circa 1650. Oak with metal fittings. Height 28 ¼“ Width 54“ Depth 20 ½“ / 41 ½“/ 62“ $20,000
This French Baroque, solid-oak table has two pivoting legs to prop up hinged leaves. When left hanging the table’s a compact rectangle, with one raised it’s a half circle, and with both raised it’s an oval that seats six. Between meals, with cutlery stashed in two long narrow drawers, it does triple duty as a desk and display table. Its versatility suits the small Manhattan apartment, and when fully extended and heaped with books and objects, it makes the grand statement in a Hamptons manse.
CAFÉ SOCIETY CHAIRS
Pair of American chairs, 1930s. Mahogany, brass, leather studded with nail heads. H: 38 ½“ W: 21 ½” $12,500
In the 1930s, gossip columnists christened the sophisticates who frequented swank restaurants and nightclubs, and lent their presence to opening nights, “Café Society.” When it came to furnishing their homes, they favored streamlined classics over genuine antiques, and hard-edged modernist designs. This pair of over-scaled chairs were said to have graced a Chicago interior that was decorated by Samuel Marx. Perhaps so, but they were probably made by William Quigley, who made much of that celebrated designer’s furniture, and designed his own too, which was sold in his Lake Forest and Chicago stores [below left]. The sweeping lines of the back and seat, the white leather upholstery, and the fluted mahogany legs are a sleek riff on the George III style. And those brass-rope handles, permitting the chairs to be dragged hither and yon, would have come in handy at cocktail hour on the servant’s night off.
A DRESSING TABLE MIRROR
An English mirror-framed dressing table mirror, or frame, from the 1930s. Etched mirror and black-painted wood. H: 19 ½” W: 14 ½” D: 10″ $1,500
In the 1920s, Edward, the young and handsome Prince of Wales — the future King Edward VIII and then the Duke of Windsor – made a splash on the international social scene. That’s when his device of three plumes became a reigning motif in the decorative arts. This mirror-framed dressing table mirror, which would also serve nicely as a photo frame, is acid-etched with those plumes on the cresting. It dates to the 1930s, the decade of his abdication and his marriage to Wallis Warfield Simpson, the glamorous American divorcee.
A LAPEL CLIP WITH A SAINT
Line Vautrin (1913-1997). ‘Sainte Foi’ clip, circa 1950. Enameled gilt bronze. 1 ¾” Sold
In the late 1930s, Line Vautrin launched her career by supplying jewelry to Elsa Schiaparelli. After the war, in addition to her jewelry, she began making small sunburst mirrors, which sell for fortunes today. Having fallen into obscurity by the 1980s, she was rediscovered by Paris artist and tastemaker Pierre Le-Tan, which led to Rei Kawakubo commissioning jewelry for her Comme des Garcons label. A good Catholic, Vautrin occasionally incorporated religious imagery in her designs. The figure in this enameled, gilt-bronze clip was based on the medieval, bejewelled gold reliquary of Sainte Foi in the abbey church at Conques, which contains her remains to this day.
A Louis XVI trumeau mirror with a trophy of musical instruments, circa 1780. Oak and mirror plate. 81″ high, 36“ wide. $20,000.
“Don’t forget, there were people with good taste in the 18th century as well” said Eugenia Errázuriz to Jean-Michel Frank, sometime around 1930 in Paris. Coming from an avant-garde tastemaker like her, that admonition might have surprised the designer of modern furniture and interiors who was then just coming into his own. After all, she was an intimate of Pablo Picasso, a patron of Igor Stravinsky, a backer of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe, and, on the cusp of seventy, a client of Coco Chanel’s still.
Fashionable Parisians were abuzz over the minimally-furnished home of Errázuriz where, following her dictum “elegance is elimination,” she hung just one of her many Picassos on the chalk-white walls of the salon [see VINTAGE PHOTOGRAPHS]. But if they looked closely, as Frank undoubtedly did, they would have seen some of her fine Louis XVI pieces among the modern upholstered furniture and Giacometti lamps Frank supplied (see below left).
With her words ringing in his ears, and her 18th-century furniture before his very eyes, Frank set about designing the Louis XVI-style pieces that would round out his own furniture line. His versions, however, were no mere copies, for he made the tried and true look decidedly new by eliminating superfluous ornament, emphasizing line and proportion, and substituting humble oak for fancy giltwood and mahogany veneer.
Meanwhile, across the English Channel, the decorator Syrie Maugham achieved a similar look by trawling the countryside for antiques on the cheap that she’d strip of original paint and gold leaf. A sacrilege to be sure, but the abstract, modern-looking results would became so fashionable that soon the only antiques not in danger of being stripped were those safely lodged in museum collections.
Fast forward to the present, and our acquisition of this handsome Louis XVI trumeau mirror that had been stripped to the oak decades ago. We decided not to repaint and regild it since that would erase a chapter of its history, as well as the history of taste. Besides, as Errázuriz and Frank knew, line and proportion trump surface decoration.
Those qualities, and the trophy of musical instruments – flute, horn, tambourine, triangle, and violin — are what make our mirror sing. When carved in the 18th-century, this trophy would have been recognized as an allegory of music, just as the branch of laurel would have been associated with Apollo, the god of music who wore a wreath of it in his hair.
The charm of trophies representing the arts, the seasons, and the sciences, have lost none of their appeal since the reign of Louis XVI. In the 1970s San Francisco designer John Dickinson [see CASE FURNITURE and LAMPS] created his own trophy of agriculture from a group of actual farm implements painted white, and arranged on a wall in his own home. Thus did Dickinson, like Frank and Maugham half a century earlier, make the 18th-century look new yet again.
FOLK ART WIGSTAND
A French 19th-century milliner’s head by Louis Danjard (active 1862 to 1880) of papier-maché, leather, fabric netting, iron, and wood, from the collection of Mr. & Mrs. A. Stewart Walker, Southampton. 19” high. Bibliography: M. Hofer & R. J. M. Olson, Making It Modern: The Folk Art Collection of Elie and Viola Nadelman, page 143. $12,500
Pioneers of modernism like Picasso and Brancusi took inspiration from the pure forms and direct expression of so-called primitive and folk art. Among them was the Polish-born, Paris-trained sculptor Elie Nadelman, who settled in New York in the 1910s after marrying an American heiress, Viola Flannery. Together they assembled an important collection of folk art and built a private museum to house it.
Without the example of the Nadelmans it’s unlikely this striking, almost surreal-looking milliner’s stand would have found its way into the collection of Mr. and Mrs. A. Stewart Walker, a Social Register couple with worldly tastes. Mr. Walker was a prominent architect who commissioned Nadelman to sculpt the monumental bas-relief that still presides over the 57th Street entrance of the Fuller Building, the celebrated Art Deco skyscraper he designed. His wife Sybil was a celebrated decorator who arranged their Nadelman sculptures along with the old master paintings, 18th-century English furniture, and Jean Dunand lacquered objects in their Manhattan and Southampton residences.
Folk art wasn’t really their thing, but the Walkers couldn’t have failed to appreciate the striking resemblance of this milliner’s head (a type they and the Nadelmans called a wig stand) to their friend’s own sculptures. And that begs the question, how did they come to acquire it? They could have bought it on their own, inspired by the Nadelman’s collection, but it is known that they exchanged gifts with the Nadelmans over the years. Or they could have acquired it when the Nadelmans were forced to sell off the collection during the Depression. Happily, most of it was purchased by The New-York Historical Society in 1937, thanks in part to the good graces of Stuart Walker, who had designed the museum’s expansion that very year. And there, in 2015, in the Walker-designed galleries, selections of the Nadelman folk art collection were juxtaposed with his modern sculptures in the exhibition The Folk Art Collection of Elie Nadelman: Making it Modern. Our sculpture warrented mention in the catalog.
WINE CELLARET PURCHASED BY DAVID ADLER
A Queen Anne walnut cellaret, circa 1710, from the collection of Dr. & Mrs. Egil Boeckmann (daughter of James J. Hill), St. Paul. 21” high, 20” wide, 16”deep. $10,000
In the depths of the Great Depression, David Adler, the celebrated Chicago architect, went on a shopping spree for antiques in New York and London. His clients, Dr. & Mrs. Egil Boeckmann of St. Paul, were sitting pretty thanks to Rachel Boeckmann’s vast inheritance from her father, the railroad tycoon James J. Hill. Their refined red brick mansion, located just a few doors down from her parents granite pile on Summit Avenue, was designed by Adler, and furnished by him too, with an embarrassment of fine English antiques.
Among the better pieces Adler bought for his clients was this handsome, walnut-veneered wine cellaret that came to us with its original 1930 bill of sale from Lenygon & Morant, the eminent London antiques dealership with a branch on New York’s Madison Avenue. Since twentieth-century wine bottles are taller than their eighteenth-century ancestors, the Boeckmann’s staff would have had to position them horizontally, rather than vertically, to make them fit inside. That, and Prohibition, which wasn’t revoked until 1933, makes us wonder if this handsome, sculptural piece might have been used in the library as an end table, rather than the dining room as a cellaret for contraband wine.
PAIR OF 1930s ALABASTER LAMPS FEATURED IN DOMUS
A pair of Italian carved alabaster lamps by the Cooperativa Artieri Alabastro, Volterra, circa 1938. 12 ½” high. $10,000
Shortly after the invention of the light bulb, decorative urns, vases, and other kinds of vessels were wired for electricity. This adaptation of the antique for modern use had the benefit of casting the indirect light that flatters both rooms and the people in them. And when those vessels were carved from fine, translucent marbles and alabaster, they emitted a lovely, mysterious glow. That’s why the Art Deco masters Louis Süe and Andre Mare set about designing from scratch stone lighting fixtures, which then came to be very much in vogue.
Our graceful pair of Italian alabaster lamps, which take the form of cornucopias fastened to bases with ropes, were carved in the Volterra workshops by a firm that was very much admired by Gio Ponti. This great 20th-century architect [see below] founded the design magazine Domus that published this lamp model in the July 1938 issue. And no wonder, for they’re more illuminated sculptures than mere lighting fixtures.
CANDLESTICK FROM ROYAUMONT
An English 19th-century glass candlestick, from the collection of Baron Max Fould-Springer, Palais abbatiale de Royaumont. 14” high. $3,000
For centuries glassmakers working on the island of Murano in the Venetian lagoon inspired their counterparts throughout Europe and beyond. Among them, it would seem, was the Englishman who, around 1800, created the bold spiral stem of this candlestick by fusing flattened blue and white glass canes back to back, and then twisted them in a column of clear molten glass.
This stunning candlestick was owned by Baron Eugene Fould-Springer, the heir to a small French fortune who married the heiress to a big Austrian one. With the two conjoined he was in a position to indulge his pitch-perfect taste, and acquire Royaumont, a small 18th-century palace just outside Paris. After restoring its ancien regime splendor, he went on to furnish it superbly. In the 1970s his handsome son Max (seen below) inherited the house and contents, which he in turn left to the arbiter of Paris society, his sister Liliane, Baroness de Rothschild.
Baguès Frerès, Paris. Pair of candlesticks, 1950. Rock-crystal and gilt bronze. Reproduced in Plaisir de France, 1950. H: 13 1/2″ $18,000
This pair of rock-crystal-and-ormolu candlesticks was made by Baguès, reproduced in a French design magazine, and retailed by Bonzano, a stylish purveyor of luxury goods in Paris.
These silken mohair rugs have been made for centuries by the nomadic peoples of Anatolia, and are still being made today by their descendants in what is now modern Turkey. When on the road they were worn as cloaks, and when in camp they were used as blankets, and laid on the earth in tents. During the winter the soft mohair tufting was kept against the body for warmth, and reversed to the cooler, mat side during the summer.
Purple and black ”filikli tulu” rug. Mohair, wool backing. Approximately 92″ x 60” $7,000
Green “filikli ulu” rug. Mohair, wool backing. Approximately 87″ x 64”. $6,000
Red “filikli tulu” rug. Mohair, wool backing. Approximately 83″ x 57”. $5,000
Violet “filikli tulu” rug. Mohair, wool backing. Approximately 54” x 41” $3,000
20TH CENTURY BERLIN BLANC DE CHINE
Two large porcelain sculptures of a Nereid and Triton, and a Nereid on a hippocamp, modeled by Paul Scheurich (1883-1945) for KPM, produced in 1941 as table decorations, and bearing their mark. Their heights are 20″ and 16″ respectively. $12,500
KPM porcelain wall bracket, attributed to Alexander Kips (1858-1910), circa 1900. Height 13″. $3,750
A circa 1900 KPM porcelain vase, attributed to Alexander Kips, modeled in a style that blends Art Nouveau with Rococo. Height 19 1/2″. $3,750
SOME OTHER ITEMS…
A complete set of twelve Stoviglia (“Crockery”) plates by Piero Fornasetti (1913-1988), all marked, numbered, and dated 1955. Gilded and transfer printed on porcelain, each plate 10 1/4″ diameter. $15,000
Louis XV sofa, circa 1760. Walnut, silk-satin upholstery. Height 43 1/4″ length 73 1/4″ depth 33″ $20,000
Small painting by Jean Hugo, signed and dated 1927. Gouache on paper, matted, and in its original oak frame that’s 10 3/4″ x 11 1/2″ $10,000
French 18th-century sculpture of a female nude, circa 1760, on a modern bronze base. Gilt, gesso, wood. Height 18″ (with stand), lenght 27″, depth 9″ $20,000
Alessandro Albrizzi rug, 1960s. Wool. 15′ 4″ x 10′ 6″. Provenance: Alessandro Albrizzi, his London shop (as seen below), and then his New York apartment. $20,000
Jasper Morrison 1988 table with adjustable top, not from the later production (see original invoice below), that was made from industrial parts. Glass, steel, paint, rubber. Height ranges from 23″ to 43 1/2″, diameter 20 1/2″. $6,000
Pair of Jean Perzel standing lamps from the 1930s of brass and sand-blasted glass. Height 67″, diameter 22″. $30,000
Adjustable mahogany and brass deck chair by Jean-Pierre Hagnauer, French circa 1950. H: 43″ L: 36 W: 24 ½”. $15,000
Portrait of Emperor Meiji, his consort, and son, by Toyohara Chikanobu (1838-1912), 1887. Color woodblock triptych in silk-wrapped mat and giltwood frame. Image 14″ x 18 1/2″, framed 19 1/2″ x 33 1/2″. $8,000
Japanese female courtiers by Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 – 1912), from the 1890s. Color woodblock diptych, in a silk-wrapped mat and a giltwood frame. Image 14″ x 18 1/2″ image, framed 19 1/4″ x 24″. $5,000
Justen Ladda 2012 painting of an AMG Mercedez-Benz engine, executed by ink jet on metal-leafed wood, with epoxy resin. Diameter 11″. $4,000
Northern European, probably German. Mirror, circa 1710. Mirror plate, with walnut and pine backing. H: 24″ W: 15 1/2″ $5,000
American, 20th century. Leaf pin, circa 1970, possibly cast from an actual leaf. Silver plated metal. 3 ½” $1,000
English drum table (Royal Dublin Fusiliers), circa 1900,of painted brass, wood, iron, and modern glass. Height 15″, diameter 14 1/2″. $4,000
Pair of Biedermeier style pedestals, American circa 1940, attributed to McMillen. Walnut, marble, bronze. H: 40″ Dia: 20″ Provenance: Mr. & Mrs. Nicholas Salgo. $12,000
French trompe l’oeil drawing, circa 1800, in walnut period frame. Paint, silver pigment on paper. 11 3/4″ x 17 1/4″ sight; 18″ x 23 1/4″ framed. $5,500
Ruby-glass lamp, American circa 1890, now electrified. Glass and brass. Height 24″ including shade. $3,750
Tiffany (signed with acid mark). Obelisk, 1970s. Cut glass. H: 14″ $2,500
Napoleone Martinuzzi (1892-1977) for Venini. Bowl, late 1920s. Glass with gold leaf. H: 7 ½” Dia: 15″ $3,750
Venini (bears adhesive label). Paperweight. Clear glass with purple and orange internal spirals. H: 4″. $2,000
Vietnamese gold-decorated, red-lacquered carrying bowl, circa 1900. 15″ x 15″. $800
Fornasetti “nugget” paperweight, circa 1960, of gilt and transfer-printed porcelain. Length 4″. $1, 250
Japanese sculpture of a lotus, circa 1900, retailed by John Bradstreet, Minneapolis. Bronze. H: 9″ Dia: 14″ Provenance: Governor John S. Pillsbury. $5,000
Large American Art Deco table, attributed to Eugene Schoen, of macassar-veneered mahogany, black glass top. Height 30 1/4″, lenght 79 3/4″, depth 40 1/4″ $20,000
English Regency library steps, with a secret compartment, circa 1810. Mahogany, gold-tooled leather. Height: 26 1/2″ Width: 31″ Depth: 18 1/2″. $7,000
Two French Empire nightstands, both circa 1810. Mahogany, marble, bronze. Circular table: Height: 31 1/2″ Diameter: 17″. Square table: Height: 29 1/2″ Width & Depth: 15″. $10,000
Pair of Louis-Philippe urns of mat-finished opaline glass, with gilt- and red-painted decorations, circa 1840. Height 14″. $1,250
Double-shaded French lamp, circa 1850. Bronze, and textured-paint on sheet metal. Height: 20 ½” $3,000
Walter Dorwin Teague (1883-1960) for Steuben. Candlestick, 1933. Cast glass, silvered-cast glass, and chromed-metal fittings. Reproduced in an article on table settings, Harper’s Bazaar 1933. Height 2 1/2″. $1,250
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