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Design Classics with Gatsby Flair Set the Stage for a Swank May 25 Sale at Palm Beach Modern Auctions

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Great Gatsby would feel quite at home at Palm Beach Modern’s May 25 auction. A free-spending millionaire bootlegger, the fictional Jay Gatsby was the quintessential literary embodiment of Jazz Age extravagance. Living a life of unbridled excess, Gatsby decorated his spectacular Long Island mansion with the finest Art Deco furnishings money could buy – the type that have endured to this day as icons of classic design. Palm Beach Modern’s May 25 auction pays homage to the Gatsby era, with 357 lots of furniture and art objects that perpetuate or complement the Art Deco aesthetic.

Palm Beach Modern’s auctioneer, Rico Baca, gets into the Gatsby mood as he inspects premier items in the company’s May 25 auction
Palm Beach Modern’s auctioneer, Rico Baca, gets into the Gatsby mood as he inspects premier items in the company’s May 25 auction
“Without Art Deco to serve as its inspiration, mid-century modern might never have happened. There is an evolution from Art Deco to Moderne to mid-century design that cannot be denied, and that’s the focus of our next auction,” said Rico Baca, auctioneer at Palm Beach Modern Auctions.

Three outstanding French Art Deco period pieces represent the “Gatsby era” in Palm Beach Modern’s sale. The first of these items is a fine and rare 1939 rosewood sideboard/dresser designed by Alfred Porteneuve (1896-1949) specifically for the SS Pasteur ocean liner. It features six drawers and a single center door that smartly conceals two shelves. It is expected to make $15,000-$20,000 at auction.

Art Deco elegance is expressed to perfection by a pair of important circa-1923 Jules Leleu (French, 1883-1961) chairs with matching cushioned ottomans of rosewood with ivory upholstery. The chairs are illustrated on Pages 28 and 29 of Viviane Jutheau’s reference Jules et Andre Leleu, as well as on Page 133 of The House of Leleu by Francoise Siriex. Effortlessly chic and of impeccable quality, the pair is estimated at $50,000-$70,000.

A substantial matched pair of Egyptian Revival candelabra reflects the frenzy for Egyptian design in the decade following the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s Tomb. The motif on each silvered-bronze candelabrum includes bas-relief pharaohs’ heads and mythological imagery on fluted columns. Made in France around 1930, the pair is entered in the sale with a $6,000-$8,000 estimate.

Art Deco or mid-century modern? One would be hard pressed to tell the difference in quite a few of the 1950s-1970s pieces featured in the May 25 sale. A convincing case could be made either way for Lot 71, a circa-1975 Jacques Duval-Brasseur dining table with a whimsical dragon-sculpture base, est. $30,000-$35,000; or Lot 81, a circa-1950 Andre Arbus (French, 1903-1969) bronze-mounted cabinet of ebonized wood with Greek-key motif, ex Christie’s London, est. $20,000-$30,000.

Another mid-century interpretation of the Art Deco taste is seen in Lot 143, a rare and important Gio Ponti (Italian, 1891-1979) walnut desk with asymmetrical cutout drawers and brass sabots. Ponti said of this desk: “…this is my masterpiece, it is a piece of furniture that is very simple but not formally inert.” It is illustrated on Pages 8 and 166 in Lisa Licitra Ponti’s 1953 reference Gio Ponti The Complete Work 1923-1978. Estimate: $50,000-$70,000.

A pair of timeless 1970s Karl Springer (American, 1931-1991) torchieres/floor lamps (Ref: Karl Springer Ltd. Catalog 1977-1994) was made from mixed metals with acrylic columns and artful inverted shades. The lamps will cross the auction block together with a presale estimate of $2,500-$3,500.

Many other premier designers add cachet to the auction lineup, like Paul Evans (American, 1931-1987), whose elusive set of 10 sleekly tufted camel-colored leather and wood dining chairs – two of them having arms – date to around 1970. The set would pair up nicely with nearly any type of glass or wood contemporary table and is expected to command an auction price of $20,000-$30,000.

Several designs by Charles and Ray Eames (American, 1907-1978 and 1912-1988, respectively) will be offered, including a Model 671 rosewood, leather and metal lounge chair and ottoman manufactured by Herman Miller. A classic of the mid-century modern design realm, the chair/ottoman could make $3,000-$4,000. Another innovative design concept is reflected in Lot 218, the pair of 1972 Warren Platner (American, 1919-2006) for Knoll International padded lounge chairs with desirable bronze wire-effect frames. Estimate $5,000-$7,000.

Murano glass vases, decanters, lamp bases, sconces and candlesticks of exceptional quality are entered in the decorative art section of the sale. Several designs are by Murano master Anzolo Fuga, including three monumental vases. One of them, Fuga’s “Murrine Incantante” gourd-form vase, is a 1950 production similar to an example in Rosa Barovier Mentasti’s book Anzolo Fuga: Murano Glass Artist, Works for A.V.E.M. It carries an estimate of $4,000-$6,000.

Art Deco or mid-century interiors would be equally suitable settings for any of three Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973) etchings to be auctioned. All three are of nudes and have 1938 dates (etched into plates). Each is estimated at $5,000-$7,000.

Palm Beach Modern’s “Tribute to Great Gatsby” auction of Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern Design will commence at 12 noon Eastern Time on Saturday, May 25, 2013. The exhibition center and auction venue is located at 417 Bunker Rd., West Palm Beach, FL 33405. All forms of bidding will be available, including live via the Internet through Preview Mon.-Fri. May 20-24 from 10-5; and from 9 a.m. on auction day. For additional information, call 561-586-5500, e-mail [email protected]. Website: View the fully illustrated auction catalog online at