Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection Auction

PARIS – Christie’s has announced the sale of the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection, which will take place in Paris on the 23rd, 24th and 25th February 2009 at the Grand Palais, in association with the Pierre Bergé & Associates auction house.

As in many instances where an artist’s signature style defines a décor, the word “Collection? is uniquely qualified by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. The works of art found in their respective apartments at the rue de Babylone and the rue Bonaparte, are brought together to become one of the most important collections ever to come onto the art market. A reflection of 50 years of passionate and detailed search for rare and unique pieces, this shared collection is a truly moving exhibition of their affinities with one another. It is one of the most sumptuous private collections of our time, a French paragon of quality and taste, consisting of masterpieces of Modern Art, Art Deco, European furniture and works of art, antiquities, Old Master and 19th century paintings and drawings. The works, amounting to more than 700 in total, are estimated at between 200 and 300 million Euros.

Yves Saint Laurent bequeathed his joint share of the Collection to the Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent Foundation. Pierre Bergé has since decided to put the entire Collection up for sale and to create a new foundation dedicated mainly to scientific research and the fight against AIDS.

The Collection, put together by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, not only displays great quality but is also an expression of creative harmony; alluding to a dialogue between the objects, their owners, their admirers and their settings. Pierre Bergé acknowledged that the art and lifestyle of the Viscount and Viscountess of Noailles served as a source of inspiration to them. He pays ardent homage to these aristocrats and patrons of the arts: “They have been indispensable to the making of me? and, he adds, “it was them who taught us to mix styles, eras and continents.”

In 1972 Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé left their apartment on the place Vauban and moved to one on the rue de Babylone.

This apartment had previously been owned by an American who had decorated it in a minimalist style, covering the walls with oak panelling. Ruined by the crash of 1929, the owner never in fact lived there.

It was Marie Cuttoli (1879-1973) who settled there during the early 1930s. Passionate about art, she played a key role in the wallpaper revival. This was the beginning of a great artistic venture which led Marie Cuttoli to frequent the greatest artists of her time: Picasso, Léger, Matisse and Le Corbusier, from whose portfolios she was able to create wallpapers in very limited editions.

Her admirable collection, brought together at the rue de Babylone and combining masterpieces by Picasso, Braque, Calder, Klee, Miró, Laurens, Dufy, Léger and even Rouault was, at her wish, partly bequeathed to the Museum of Modern Art in Paris.

Reminiscent of one of J-K Huysmans’ novels, one must pass through a discrete black door in order to access this cathedral consecrated to Art. The hallway, with its graceful curves, lacquered in opium red and crowned by a dome gilded with gold-leaf, provides the setting for a great white-marble Roman torso which greets you in slight contraposto.

The main drawing room, whose oak panels are hung with a tapestry of paintings, is a triumphant ode made to celebrate the “Collection”. The works bear the signatures of Théodore Géricault, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Fernand Léger, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Edward Munch … The most emblematic and rarest creations of the greatest names in Art Déco ensure the presence of these artists: Miklos, Legrain, Eileen Gray, Jean Dunand … And upon the pedestal tables of Rateau and Ruhlmann, upon the coffee tables of Jean-Michel Frank, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé have placed spectacular objects of gold, silver, vermeil and ivory from the Renaissance and 18th century – a transfiguration reminiscent of the Hôtel Noailles on the Place des Etats-Unis.

Aesthetes and patrons, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé called upon Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne, whose poetic and plant-inspired universe reflected their taste. From the commissioning of a simple pair of mirrors from Claude Lalanne in 1974, their influence escalated until the walls of this room eventually were covered by fifteen bronze mirrors decorated in a plant-like style and with light brackets to illuminate the room with candlelight which, at night, is subtly reflected in the faces of their multiple twins, a brotherhood of Narcissi.

It was after a journey to Bavaria and Austria that the idea of this décor entered Yves Saint Laurent’s thoughts. The halls of mirrors found in baroque castles, where people and objects are transformed into shimmering enchantment reflected into infinity, were the source of inspiration for this, “much more so than the Galerie des Glaces at Versailles”, explained Pierre Bergé.

“What charmed me from my first encounter with Yves was the great affection that we shared. It has stayed with me throughout the years and enabled me to succeed with the fanatical accomplishment of the hall of mirrors, which remains my most precious memory.” Claude Lalanne

The staircase leading to the lower floor ends in a landing from which appears, like the guardian of the Temple, an Egyptian sarcophagus cover from the Ptolemaic era, wooden and standing over two metres high. One must come via this route to discover the Curiosity Cabinet: a little room covered with display cases emulating the Schatzkammer of the German Prince-Electors. It was created in the 1980s by the interior designer Jacques Grange to display an enthusiastically collected set of cameos, enamels, jewels, agate chalices and crosses, chalcedony, jasper, ivory, mother-of-pearl, lapis lazuli and rock crystals.

A calming, gold and red lacquered wooden Buddha in the dhyanasana position, from the Ming dynasty, presides serenely over all, lending grace to its surroundings.

Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé also brought their shared taste into this bright room overlooking the garden, which, though inspired by that of the Noailles apartment, has been wholly renovated to arrive at a style and taste that is unique to them. Thus, they in turn became key players in the history of good taste and collecting.

A series of partitions of all sizes, in straw, wood or parchment marquetry, accompanied by coffee tables or side tables, themselves in straw marquetry, shagreen, oak or in ivory veneering, are all tributes to the talent of Jean-Michel Frank, and who Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé were among the first to make in the 1970s.

Noone could fail to be impressed by the three oil paintings emblematic of Piet Mondrian, dating from 1914, 1920 and 1921 or to be reminded of the Hommage à Mondrian collection complied by Yves Saint Laurent in 1965, which to this day lingers on in memory.

One’s gaze then lights upon Le Danseur, a jagged gouache by Matisse from 1937, produced long before Le Jazz which it foreshadows. It faces the tapestry of Edward Burne-Jones, L’Adoration des Mages, a unique piece commissioned in 1904 by the Mallets for their property in Varengeville, ‘Les Bois de Moutiers’.

Lamps and standard lamps by Alberto Giacometti and Jean-Michel Frank, antique marbles, 17th and 18th century bronzes and a small landscape by Douanier Rousseau, hung alongside a portrait of Jean Cocteau by Modigliani, surround the awestruck visitor with their presence. And, almost despite themselves, they will enter into their own dialogue with Art.

In the spirit of this place, placed at the very centre of the garden, stands a Minotaur, a fabulous monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull dating from Roman times, reigning with benevolence and authority over the ‘Oiseaux de marbre’ chairs created specially by François-Xavier Lalanne for Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1974.

At the end of the 80s, Pierre Bergé moved into the house on rue Bonaparte which had witnessed the birth of Edouard Manet and the death of Marshal Lyautey. This apartment, decorated by François-Joseph Graf, and which style could be described as “ancien régime modernism”, reflects his passion for Art.

Both gracious and majestic, four 18th century female busts, allegories of the continents in wood, sculpted then painted and gilded, stand ready to greet you as you enter. Europe is crowned by a horse, America by an eagle, Asia an elephant and Africa a lion.

James Ensor, David and Ingres, Géricault, Degas, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Edouard Manet, Edouard Vuillard, Picasso and Braque decorate the walls of the drawing-room, whose tables bear sculptures dating from the 16th and 17th century, and German plate of such rarity and quality that renders it indisputably as one of the most exquisite collections to be privately owned.

Naturally, one’s attention is captured by James Ensor’s Le désespoir de Pierrot, a magnificent composition by the artist, perfect in its layout. Harlequin departs with Colombine; masks originating from the commedia dell’arte and masquerades fill the canvas. This painting has been loaned by Pierre Bergé to the Musée d’Orsay to be a part of the exhibition Masques, de Carpeaux à Picasso from October 2008 to February 2009.

The library resembles the studiolo of a conoscenti (connoisseur), the walls covered with souvenirs of long-gone, inspirational presences, described by Mario Praz as “The House of Life”. One can see an antique marble head, Renaissance bronzes, 17th century German towers in turned ivory, a vermeil gladiator… and an extraordinary collection of Limoges enamels: dishes, plates and chandeliers from the former Hubert de Givenchy collection, bought as one lot from Nicolas and Alexis Kugel. Covering the walls are a portrait of a man by Frans Hals, a young woman feeding her parrot by Pieter de Hooch, a portrait of a woman with a large ruff by Cornelis de Vos, Iznik pottery as well as majolica ware from Montelupo.

On the first floor, in a separate apartment with pale grey walls and a neoclassical feel to it, one finds heads of a rats and a rabbit immediately upon entering, originating from the zodiac clepsydra from the Old Summer Palace of the Emperor Qianlong in Peking. They belonged to José Maria Sert who was, without a doubt, one of the greatest art lovers and collectors of the 20th century.

The small drawing room holds cups thought to be of Hanoverian origin. A spectacular collection of ceremonial plate gathered by Prince Georg-Wilhelm boasts fountains, silver or gilded silver cups and beakers unrivalled in private collections.

In 1983, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé purchased Château Gabriel in Benerville-sur-Mer in Normandy. Included in the auction from this property is a work by Edouard Vuillard, Les Lilas, depicting Misia Sert, the patron and friend of numerous artists; Luna executed by Burne-Jones in 1875, a love seat and candelabrum by Claude Lalanne and large cloisonné birds, a monumental marble basin and a silver canteen of cutlery by Christofle comprising more than 1,200 pieces.

“The Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé Collection is one of the most significant collections of Modern art still held in private hands today. It was a truly unique experience to discover so many works of such historic magnitude, quality, and outstanding condition. As such, it is among the most important collections of Modern art ever to be offered on the market.

From the late Cubist paintings by Pablo Picasso and by Juan Gris, to the Constantin Brancusi sculpture carved in wood and through to the sumptuous still-life by Henri Matisse, one marvels before this collection that is so avant-garde, yet so well-balanced and elegant.

The Piet Mondrian compositions are absolute masterpieces, each expressing degrees of tension between line, form and colour, and all are moving testimonies to the artist’s pursuit for purity and equilibrium.

Size is no substitute for quality either. Smaller scale works such as the wonderful Juan Gris collage, an early Italian landscape by Edgar Degas, or the ready-made masterpiece ‘La Belle Haleine’ by Marcel Duchamp maintain the same level of quality and outstanding presence. Not to be forgotten is Ensor’s monumental ‘Pierrot’, the most important work by the artist to be presented at auction in the last 25 years, in fact since that very same composition was last seen at auction in the early 1980s.

It is a great joy and privilege to take part in the sale of such an important collection. The numerous masterpieces included in this collection are testimonies to the highest achievements from the greatest artists of the twentieth century, a very humbling experience indeed.”

Thomas Seydoux,
International Head of the Impressionist and Modern Art Department

Pablo Picasso (1878-1973)
Instruments de musique sur un guéridon, 1914
Estimate: €30,000,000-40,000,000

Fernand Léger (1881-1955)
La tasse de thé, 1921
Estimate: €10,000,000-15,000,000

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Les coucous, tapis bleu et rose, 1911
Estimate: €15,000,000-20,000,000

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Le Danseur, 1937-38
Paper collage and gouache mounted on canvas
(Most likely a study for the curtain in Rouge et Noir)
Estimate: €5,000,000-7,000,000

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
Composition avec bleu, rouge, jaune et noir, 1922
Estimate: €8,000,000-12,000,000

Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957)
Madame L.R. (Portrait de Madame L.R.) 1914-1917
Sculpted wood, 120 x 35 cm.
Estimate: €15,000,000-20,000,000
Former Fernand Léger collection

James Ensor (1860-1949)
Le désespoir de Pierrot, 1892
Estimate: €2,000,000-3,000,000

“It was in November 1972, at the very beginning of my career in the auction business, that I had the good fortune to attend the sale in Paris of the Art Deco furniture of Jacques Doucet – a sale that has since become legendary. During the view in the galleries of the Hôtel Drouot I noticed a tall, elegant young man in thick-framed glasses, deep in concentration before the treasures on display. He was of course instantly recognisable as Yves Saint Laurent – and he was about to become the owner of pieces from this historic collection.

What an extraordinarily privilege, after all these years, to be playing a part with my international Christie’s colleagues in the dispersal of the Collection assembled by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. What could be more fascinating than such an opportunity to trace the lives of individual objects as they reflect the cycles of construction and dispersal of these distinguished collections, and in the process to savour the significant ways in which the collectors have contributed to our culture through their distinct visions and sensibilities.

The dominant style in the apartment is that of the 1920s and 1930s; here is a meticulous assemblage of Art Deco treasures that expresses the collectors’ unerring search for refinement and elegance, their rare balance of instinctive passion and deep connoisseurship. The end result is a sophisticated celebration of one of the most brilliant chapters in Parisian cultural life and a homage to the great personalities, designers, collectors, patrons, who so marked their era – Jacques Doucet, Marie-Laure de Noailles, Eileen Gray, Pierre Legrain, Jean-Michel Frank and numerous others, for whom Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé have proved themselves the most noble of champions.” Philippe Garner, International Head of the 20th Century Decorative Art & Design

Eileen Gray (1878-1976)
Fauteuil decorated with dragons in lacquered brown ochre on wood, circa 1920-1922
Estimate: €2,500,000-3,500,000

Gustave Miklos (1888-1957)
Pair of stools with palm veneering, circa 1920-1922
Estimate: €2,000,000-3,000,000

Eileen Gray (1878-1976)
Enfilade, circa 1920-1922
Estimate: €3,000,000-5,000,000

Jean Dunand (1877-1942)
Pair of large vases, copperware and lacquer, 1925
Estimate: €1,000,000-1,500,000

Claude Lalanne (born 1925)
Set of fifteen mirrors decorated with branches, 1974-1985
Bronze and galvanised copper
Estimate: €800,000-1,200,000


“The collection is remarkable for the wide range of disciplines it encompasses, and for the rarity of many of the individual items. There is an extremely strong section of renaissance enamels, with unusually large collections of both Venetian and Limoges examples. The latter includes some extremely fine pieces, including an oval platter Depicting the Rape of Europa by Jean de Court, and a pair of portraits of Christ and the Virgin signed by Leonard Limousin and dated 1554. There are also wonderful bronzes such as a model of the Hermaphrodite attributed to Gianfrancesco Susini, and ivories by artists such as the Austrian sculptor Simon Troger. Finally, there is a very strong section of hardstone works of art, including a sumptuous collection of cameos which have been beautifully mounted, and examples in rock crystal including an urn which was formerly in the French royal collection.” Donald Johnston, Head of the Sculpture Department

Hercule et Nessus and Hercule terrassant Achille sous la forme d’un taureau
Pair of groups in bronze, after Giambologna and Tacca, probably French craftsmanship dating from late 17th century – early 18th century
Estimate: €300,000-500,000

Pot for flowers
Rock crystal, Milan late 17th century – early 18th century, mounted in vermeil set with 24 rubies
Estimate: €100,000-150,000

Polychrome enamelled dish by Jean de Court, late 16th century, depicting l’enlèvement d’Europe
Estimate: €300,000-400,000