Sotheby’s to Auction 400 Items from The Fabius Freres Gallery Co

Sotheby’s have announced the sale of the Fabius Frères Gallery collection on the 26th and 27th October 2011 in Paris, in association with the auction house PIASA.

The 400 sculptures, pieces of furniture, works of art, drawings and 19th century paintings, estimated to sell in the region of €10 million ($14,5 million), will be on view at the Galerie Charpentier for five days prior to the sale. The Fabius Frères Gallery is known worldwide for the exceptional quality, condition and provenance of the works of art in their collection.

The Fabius Frères collection is undoubtedly the most important ensemble of 19th century sculpture ever to be offered at auction. It consists predominantly of works by the most original and significant sculptors of the period: Antoine–Louis Barye (1795–1875) and Jean–Baptiste Carpeaux (1827–75).

Carpeaux’s important marble group Daphnis & Chloe is a sculptural masterpiece. It was made in 1874 during the sculptor’s two–year stay in England, where he took refuge in the turbulent aftermath of the Paris Commune. Alexander Hugh Baring, 4th Baron Ashburton, commissioned Carpeaux to make this large mythological marble group in 1873. It illustrates a passage from Longus’ idyll Daphnis & Chloe and was made as a pendant to Canova’s famous marble Cupid & Psyche (now in the Louvre), which then adorned Lord Ashburton’s London residence at Bath House, in Piccadilly. Carpeaux began modelling the group in plaster in 1873. It was not until July 1874 that Carpeaux began sculpting the marble group. It was delivered to Lord Ashburton on 8 January 1875.

Daphnis & Chloe perfectly expresses Carpeaux’s virtuoso talent for modelling form and sculpting marble: he brings the stone to life, combining graceful movement with the sensuality of his intimate subject (estimate €1,000,000-1,500,000 / $1,448,000-2,172,000).

The collection also includes an autograph plaster version of Carpeaux’s Ugolino & His Sons. Carpeaux chose the dramatic episode from Dante’s Inferno as the subject for the large-scale composition he was required to make during his time as a student at Rome’s Villa Medici in 1860/1. It depicts the moment when Ugolino, condemned to death by starvation, resolves to devour his children (est €50,000-70,000 / $72,400-101,350)

Shortly after Carpeaux’s return to Paris, the state commissioned a monumental bronze version of this subject which was exhibited at the Salon of 1863; it was subsequently installed in the Tuileries Gardens as a pendant to the monumental bronze of the Laocoon and is now in the Musée d’Orsay. A full-size marble version, signed and dated Jbte Carpeaux Roma 1860, was made for the 1867 Exposition Universelle, and is now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. More than six plaster and terracotta versions – composed of three to five figures – exist in public collections, including a terracotta version in the Louvre.

In 1865, at the request of architect Charles Garnier (1825-98), Carpeaux produced his most famous monumental group for the façade of the Paris Opera. La Danse was intended to complement three other allegorical sculptures: Lyrical Drama by Jean-Joseph Perraud (1819–76); Music by Eugene Guillaume (1822–1905); and Harmony by François Jouffroy (1806–82). The 2ft-high (61cm) autograph plaster model to be offered here shows the composition at an important point in its evolution: here the Genius of Dance is shown with feminine features; in the final version, the Genius is depicted as a man (est. €80,000-120,000 / $115,850-173,750)

Carpeaux’s marble bust Candour, was inspired by the features of his wife, Amelie de Montfort. It appeared in the Carpeaux sale on 29 April 1873, when it was bought by Madame Carpeaux herself. This exceptional bust is remarkable for its very sensitive modelling and delicate expression (est. €100,000-150,000). The collection also includes the plaster model for the bust, made by Carpeaux in 1867 (est. €60,000-80,000 / $86,900-115,850).

Amelie was 22 at the time of their marriage in 1869, roughly half Carpeaux’s age. She lent her features to several of Carpeaux works, notably Temperance, made for the church of La Trinité in Paris in 1865; Hope (1868) – an 1873 marble version of which appears in our auction (est. €70,000-100,000 / $101,350-144,800) La Fiancée (1869), represented by a terracotta version in the Fabius Frères collection (est. €40,000-60,000 / $57,900-86.900). Other busts of exceptional quality include L’Espiègle, a marble from 1865 (est. €70,000-100,000 / $101,350-144,800); and the plaster original of La Rieuse aux Roses from 1872 (est. €50,000-70,000 / $72,400 -101,350).

Antoine–Louis Barye, is represented by 51 bronzes, all cast during his lifetime. One of the highlights is Theseus and The Minotaur, a seminal version in bronze with attractive brown patina, stamped Barye and numbered 2. This superb cast belonged to Antoine-Marie d’Orléans, Duc de Montpensier, the Infante of Spain (1824–90), before entering the collections of the King of Portugal (est. €200,000-300,000 / $289,600-434,400).

Barye illustrates the story of Theseus and the Minotaur from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a combat symbolizing the battle between Good and Evil. It is a virtuoso rendering of a key moment during this epic confrontation, with the tense, muscular figure of Theseus carefully aiming his sword at the Minotaur. Variants can be found in the Baltimore Museum of Art (U.S.A.) and the Musée Bonnat in Bayonne (south–west France).

Another Barye masterpiece in the Fabius Frères Collection is his Charging Elephant, a unique work cast in 1832 by Honoré Gonon & Sons. This was the first major work by Barye to be collected by a member of the ruling House of Orléans. It was acquired by the Duke of Nemours and lent by him to the Salon of 1834 (est. €300,000-500,000 / $434,400-724,000).

Elephant Crushing a Tiger hails from the David Weill Collection. This is the chef-modèle cast in Barye’s own foundry and is a classic example of Barye’s concern for detail (est. €150,000-250,000 / $217,200-362,000 ).

The collection also includes an extremely fine cast of Tiger Devouring a Gavial from circa 1845 (est. €50,000-70,000 / $72,400 -101,350). At the Salon of 1831 the plaster model enjoyed unanimous acclaim from the critics and partisans of both of Academic art and Romanticism. It’s audacious depiction of the subject demonstrates Barye’s vivid imagination and his ability to observe, and transcend, the violence of the animal kingdom.

The sale’s furniture combines 18th century neo-classicism with 19th century exuberance. The sale includes magnificent neo-classical furniture, dating from Louis XIV to the First Empire. Fabius Frères were advocates of 19th century furniture and that century is represented by works by eminent cabinet-makers such as Grohé and Diehl, as well as Dufin’s unusual neo-Renaissance furniture.

The sale includes a Louis XIV ormolu-mounted kingwood- and palissander-veneered commode attributed André-Charles Boulle (c.1710). With its decoration of skilful frieze-work and sumptuous, original gilt-bronze mounts, this counts as one of Boulle’s most accomplished commode designs. The sober patterning of alternating concentric motifs to the front-drawers, and heart-shaped motifs to the top and sides, is a departure from the exuberant floral marquetry for which Boulle is best known. The virtuoso stringing and end-cut marquetry lend the veneer a pictorial feel, while the stringing in ebony and light wood around each drawer heightens the impression of relief and creates an illusion of depth (est. €300,000-500,000 / $434,400-724,000).

Sumptuous gilt-bronze mounts, typical of Boulle, underline the commode’s powerful architecture. he commode, which seems borne aloft by generous scrolls of acanthus leaves, was designed with five feet: an aesthetic, rather than technical, solution, as shown by a preparatory Boulle drawing now in the Paris Musée des Arts Décoratifs.

Two Sèvres porcelain Medici vases from 1811 epitomise Napoleonic prestige and the genius of Alexandre Brongniart, who helped give the Sèvres factory a new lease of life at the start of the 19th century. They are of outstanding interest due to their exceptional production quality, rare subject-matter, historic interest, virtuoso tortoiseshell grounds, powerful gold ornament and prestigious provenance (est. €500,000-800,000 / $724,000-1.158.450).

The scenes painted by Jean–François Robert on these tortoiseshell-ground Medici vases are particularly accomplished. Although some less prestigious ceramics show the imperial family at leisure or at their various homes, such scenes seldom appear on vases – which were usually decorated with official portraits, military subjects or allegorical scenes. It was doubtless Brongniart who, with an eye on Napoleon’s political Public Relations, chose the subjects for these vases, cleverly exploiting Sèvres’ latest technical innovations and Robert’s outstanding talent as a figure- and landscape-painter.

One vase shows Napoleon in a carriage with Marie–Louise, in front of the Palace of St-Cloud, where their civil marriage had taken place a few months earlier. The other vase shows Napoleon on a grey horse in the hills of Bellevue/ Meudon, about to go hunting. He is flanked by four tall dignitaries in the gold-trimmed green uniforms of the Imperial Hunt sporting the star of the Légion d’Honneur.

Tortoiseshell grounds first appeared at Sèvres in 1790. They were used in 1800 on the Cordelier vases (now in the Louvre) supplied for the Palace of St-Cloud’s Gallery of Apollo in 1802; and then in 1803 for Napoleon’s Service Ecaille at the Tuileries Palace (two plates from this service are now in the Palace of Fontainebleau).

An ebonized and ebony-veneered Louis XVI secrétaire à abattant with floral marquetry, stamped C.Topino, was originally part of an ensemble (along with commode and table) commissioned by the Duc de Lorges in the late 18th century (est. €80,000-120,000 / $115,850-173,750). With its stylish decoration of ‘bands of grey wood and flowers’ (as the contemporary description had it), this secretaire is unusual in Topino’s oeuvre, which is sometimes mistakenly thought to concern little more bonheurs du jour (ladies writing desks) with marquetry featuring everyday utensils.

The secretaire was part of a three piece an ensemble owned by Louis de Durfort Civrac, Duc de Lorges. After his death in 1775 in his Paris town-house on Rue de Sèvres, the ensemble was inherited first by his widow, then by their son-in-law, Renaud César de Choiseul-Praslin. The three-piece ensemble was doubtless considered of purely domestic use, as it survived the French Revolution intact and was mentioned in 1808, when it was brought back to Paris from St-Germain-en-Laye after the death of Guyonne de Lorges, Dowager Duchess of Choiseul-Praslin. The table, adorned with the CL monogram of Civrac de Lorges, was sold at Sotheby’s Paris (Léon Lévy Collection) on 2 October 2008; the commode is currently in a private collection.

Glass and ceramics hold pride of place amongst the sale’s decorative arts with numerous pieces of richly varied design. Highlights include striking, refined works by Théodore Deck, Eugène Collinot, Maurice Marinot and others.

The Fabius Collection also features a fascinating group of 19th century drawings and offers connoisseurs a rare opportunity to acquire works on paper by the sculptors Antoine-Louis Barye and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. There will be two Barye watercolours, Lioness Devouring a Gazelle and Study of a Panther Attacking its Prey (est. €30,000-40,000 / $43,400-57,900 apiece); and several portraits by Jean–Baptiste Carpeaux, including his Portrait of Bruno Chérier (est. €15,000-20,000 / $21,700-28,950).

A final sale highlight is Jean Béraud’s A la Salle Graffard, a spectacular canvas from 1884 showing a political meeting, with an anarchist orator ending his speech to triumphant acclaim from an audience shrouded in tobacco smoke. This is an unusual subject for Béraud, reflecting a little-known aspect of his artistic output. Although best-known for his worldly portrayals of elegant females and scenes from the Belle Epoque, Béraud also painted working-class scenes and episodes from everyday life, invariably imbued with a concern for historical accuracy (est. €350,000-500,000 / $506,800-724,000).

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