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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Unique Pieces of Furniture by Charlotte Perriand to be Sold at Sotheby’s

The upcoming sale of 20th-Century Decorative Arts & Design at Sotheby’s Paris on 25 November 2009 comprises 79 lots and offers a rich panorama of iconic 20th-century works by Charlotte Perriand, Robert Mallet-Stevens and Jean Dunand, along with works of impeccable provenance by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Alberto Giacometti and André Arbus that have remained in the same family since they were made. The sale concludes with designs from the 1950s-1970s by Diego Giacometti, Mathieu Mategot and Jean Prouvé.

Charlotte Perriand

Of two exceptional works by Charlotte Perriand, the more unusual is undoubtedly the Deluxe Extendable Table (1927-30) that has been kept in the same family – that of composer Jean Rivier (1896-1987) – since it was made.

This unique table’s most striking feature is its tan linoleum top, which can be rolled out using a handle fixed to its cream-colored metal pedestal. The table also has two sets of wheeled tubular legs in chromed steel (estimate €250,000-400,000).

The table, made in 1930 after a prototype designed by Perriand for her Paris apartment in 1928, is clear evidence of Perriand’s creative genius: at the age of just 24, and even though she was unaware of their writings, she was proposing solutions to problems raised by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret: how to use contemporary materials – in this case, metal – and modern aesthetics in a limited spatial context.

The table was greeted enthusiastically by press and critics when unveiled at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs in 1928; a second version followed, made by Thonet and presented at the inaugural exhibition of the UAM (Union des Artistes Modernes) in 1930. Yet no orders were received, and the table was never produced commercially. This unique edition was bought by composer Jean Rivier (whose apartment Perriand was decorating at the time) and used every day until his death in 1987, when it passed to his grandson, who has remained its owner until now.

Another unique piece by Charlotte Perriand is a large Openwork Bookcase (c.1960) in ash veneer, with seven rows of shelves of different heights, sub-divided by aluminium compartments. The bookcase, edited by Galerie Stéph Simon, comes from the former personal collection of Henri Machet, director of the gallery in the 1960s/70s (est. €250,000-350,000).

A private, eight-lot collection from the family of architect Robert Mallet-Stevens, commissioned by his niece for her wedding in 1930, includes a pair of Oak Sideboards with pure geometric forms (est. €15,000-20,000); a modernist desk with a rhythmic design obtained by alternating drawers and shelves beneath the top (est. €12,000-15,000); and a palissandre library cabinet with four sliding doors (est. €7,000-10,000).

Also from the same collection comes a Contraste de Formes double-doors made by Jean Dunand & Robert Mallet-Stevens (c.1925-30) for Mallet-Stevens’ house in Paris. Each side, consisting of five lacquer panels, has a different design. One side, designed by Mallet-Stevens and made by Jean Dunand, can be compared to the screen owned by Mallet-Stevens’ widow, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. The other side, with a design in gold dust/brown lacquer on a black lacquer ground, was made by Jean Dunand alone (est. €200,000-300,000).

Completing the 1930s section are rare items by Alberto Giacometti (a gilt-patinated Bronze Ceiling Light, c.1930, est. €40,000-60,000); Jean-Michel Frank (his Aragon oak coffee-table, c.1928, est. €80,000-120,000); and Jean Dunand (an eggshell and black lacquer coffee-table, c.1925, est. €60,000-80,000).

The sale also includes four works by Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, kept in the same family since they were made: a silvered bronze fluted casket (c.1920, est. €30,000-50,000); a Macasar ebony letter-rack (c.1925, est. €4,000-6,000); and a circular mirror (c.1920) with two cords of gold thread (est. €15,000- 20,000).

A collection of sycamore and ivory furniture by André Arbus, kept in the same family since 1937, includes a low commode (est. €15,000-20,000); a dressing-table or lady’s desk with removable mirror (est. €5,000-7,000); and a pair of round-backed chauffeuse chairs (est. €8,000-12,000).

The sale ends with 1950s-60s “Design”, led by a rectangular table by Diego Giacometti (c.1960) with a patterned grey marble top and bronze legs linked by an H-shaped stretcher (est. €80,000-120,000).

The talent of Mathieu Matégot, who designed furniture and lighting with ingenious, playful forms, is showcased by two items: a red metal “Bagdad Lamp” (c.1954) in the form of a shooting star (est. €20,000-30,000); and an oval yellow Satellite ceiling-light (c.1953) topped by a triangular plaque (est. €15,000-20,000).

Furniture by Jean Prouvé, and 1970s Design, round off the sale.

Image: Sotheby’s