NEW YORK, NY.- Sothebys
announced the sale of an exceedingly rare, long-lost grand piano by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann from the Ladies Drawing Room and Music Room of one of the greatest ocean liners ever built, the Normandie, on 6 March 2013 at the 20th Century Design sale (est. $400/600,000). It has remained in the collection of the Butler family in Buffalo since it was purchased at one of the New York auctions in the early 1940s that disposed of the contents of the ship. This piano, made of ébène de macassar and American walnut with gilt bronze and ivory accents, is one of only six pianos whose whereabouts are presently accounted for, and one of three which are in his iconic, modern shape. He first displayed a piano in this shape at the 1925 Paris art deco exposition, Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, the significant and defining moment of French art deco.
Built in Saint-Nazaire, France, the Normandie was a famed ocean liner known for its luxurious and elegant French art deco décor which made its maiden voyage in May 1935. After Ruhlmanns death in 1933, his employees organized a tribute to him by creating a room on board decorated with his furniture, which became the Ladies Drawing Room and Music Room.
In 1939, the US government interned the Normandie and turned her into a troopship called the USS Lafayette. The contents of the ship were sold at auctions in New York in the 1940s by the US Treasury. The piano was installed at the opulent Butler Mansion designed by architect Stanford White in Buffalo until the house was sold to a local university a few years ago.
The Ruhlmann piano will be on view in New York beginning on 2 March 2013 in advance of the sale.