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Sotheby's Paris announces sale of Art Nouveau masterpieces formerly in the Garden Museum, Nagoya
René Lalique (1860-1945), Broche Papillon, vers 1890, en diamant, rubis, argent et or émaillé. Signée LALIQUE. Largeur : 9 cm (3 ½ in.). Photo: Sotheby's.

PARIS.- Sotheby’s announced the auction in Paris of an exceptional collection of 130 Art Nouveau items formerly in the Garden Museum, Nagoya (Japan). The sale will be held on Saturday 16 February 2013.

This exceptional collection was assembled by Takeo Horiuchi, a real estate magnate and prominent collector with a passionate interest in the Japanese influence on Western art around 1900. Horiuchi teamed up with the decorative arts specialist Alastair Duncan to track down magnificent works and build up the world’s most important Art Nouveau collection: the Louis C. Tiffany Garden Museum Collection.

The museum was popular for many years but, following the tsunami and Fukushima catastrophe in 2011, Takeo Horiuchi decided to sell his collection to an American amateur who, in turn, has asked Sotheby’s France to offer the French and European items at auction.

This sale offers the rare opportunity to acquire market-fresh Art Nouveau masterpieces – unique items kept in private hands for many years, some of them shown at the Expositions Universelles of 1889 and 1900 – along with important furniture and decorative items of early 20th century art.

The collection offers precious evidence of late 19th century European enthusiasm for Japonisme, a faraway source of renewed, Nature-based inspiration for European decorative arts that also offered innovative techniques and formal solutions. The presence of several Art Deco items in the collection reflects the fact that this Asian influence continued into the 1920s.

The collection reflects the versatility of several major early 20th century French artists, like Louis Majorelle, whose sinuous furniture was especially suited to plant and leaf motifs; the cultured Emile Gallé, the movement’s undisputed frontrunner, who imbued objects with a spiritual meaning and sometimes adding contemporary poetry as a decorative feature; and René Lalique whose jewellery marked a total break with the decorative repertoire of the time.

Louis Majorelle
Louis Majorelle will be in the spotlight with a range of furniture made between 1890-1905, led by La Mort du Cygne grand piano, designed jointly with Victor Prouvé (c.1903) for the famous French instrument-makers Erard. The piano was shown at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts en 1904. Just three versions are known: one in an American private collection, the other in the Musée de Nancy.

A Majorelle Orchid desk, shown at the Société des Artistes Français in 1903, evokes the elegant 18th century designs of Cressent, Riesener and Dubois; enthusiastic critics declared that nothing quite so sumptuous had appeared for over a century. The combination of fluid outlines and bronze mounts underlines Majorelle's ability to transform an item of furniture into an aesthetic tour de force. Orchids were among his favourite subjects, and appear here in glass versions by Daum (est. €250,000-350,000 / $318,600-446,100)*.

Ebony and palissandre pieces from the Waterlily series include a desk (est. €40,000-60,000 / $51,000-76,500), mirror (est. €15,000-20,000 / $19,100-25,500) and corner cabinet adorned with a magnificent bird of paradise (est. €50,000-60,000 / $63,700-76,500)

Emile Gallé
The dining-room ensemble commissioned in 1890 by Henri Vasnier, owner of Maison Pommery in Reims, was one of Gallé's earliest furniture masterpieces, reflecting both his botanical knowledge and interest in poetry. The ensemble features marquetry verse by such leading literary figures as Victor Hugo and Robert de Montesquiou, and includes a tall buffet, Les Chemins d’Automne, adorned with intricate wine-harvest scenes, estimated in the region of €500,000 / $637,300; a Herbes Potagères table; and a sideboard and fourteen chairs with delicate marquetry flowers from Gallé’s native Lorraine.

An important Africa cabinet, made in 1903 when Gallé was at the height of his powers, is carved with exotic animals reflecting the contemporary taste for distant lands. This cabinet, showcasing Gallé’s extraordinary technical and artistic prowess, was much admired at the School of Nancy display at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français in Paris.

The Gallé ensemble also includes works in crystal and glass marquetry, some of Asian inspiration.

Hector Guimard
Furniture by Hector Guimard rarely appears on the market. Rather than treading the beaten path to Italy, the young Guimard boldly headed to Belgium, where he met Victor Horta and became a ‘convert’ to his architectural approach to furniture, with its taste for fantasy and asymmetry. The sale includes six works by Guimard in all, notably a naturalist pearwood ensemble comprising a table and two chairs.

René Lalique
The sale’s René Lalique highlight is a sensuous nude in the form of a winged female – a cire perdue bronze from the balustrade of his stand at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (est. €200,000-300,000 / $255,000-382,300).

The superb array of Lalique jewellery will delight Art Nouveau connoisseurs. It includes a pocket-watch embellished with a moonstone bat (est. €155,000-235,000 / $200,000-300,000); a gold, diamond and ruby Butterfly brooch (est. € 60,000-80,000 / $75,000-100,000); an enamel, gold and pearl brooch of female form (est. €100,000-120,000 / $125,000-150,000); an ivory, diamond and gold Baiser (Kiss) necklace, shown at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (est. €200,000-235,000 / $250,000-300,000); a rock crystal, gold and diamond necklace (c.1905) (est. €140,000-160,000 / $175,000-200,000); a gold and opal necklace (c.1900) (est. €80,000-100,000 / $100,000-125,000); and a pair of silver-gilt-mounted opal and amethyst Night & Day ear-rings (c.1900) (est. €20,000-30,000 / $25,000-35,000).

Several glass and bronze lamps from 1910-20 complete the Lalique ensemble, including a Pavot table-lamp (est. €40,000-60,000 / $51,000-76,500) and a Firebird lamp (est. €20,000-30,000/ $25,500-38,200).

Other French & Foreign Highlights
The celebrated music hall dancer Loïe Fuller was the inspiration behind Raoul François Larche’s refined 1898 bronze table-lamp – an iconic work of the Belle Epoque. Loïe Fuller was top of the bill at the Folies Bergère for years, and the first artiste to use lighting as an integral part of her performances. Bathed in light and clad in billowing costumes, she would filled the stage, and the audience’s collective imagination, with her mobile luminous forms (est. €12,000-18,000 / $15,300-23,000).

Several items by the famous French glassmakers Daum Frères hail from their finest period – notably a Poppy vase typical of their work shown at the 1900 Exposition Universelle (est. €6,000-8,000 / $7,600-10,200), and a pair of iridescent ceramic, glass and bronze Honesty wall-lights realized with Louis Majorelle.

The sale also includes furniture and works of art by Jacques Gruber, Léon-Albert Jallot, Agathon Léonard and Georges Hoentschel, including a pair of stoneware and gilt-bronze vases on carved walnut bases.

Works made by European artists include a table by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, formerly in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art; an ebony and aluminium chair by Otto Wagner, designed for Die Zeit’s newspaper Vienna office; the Sitzmaschine, a Sezession icon by Josef Hoffmann; and a William Morris carpet similar to one in London's Victoria & Albert Museum.

* estimates do not include buyer’s premium

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