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20th Century Decorative Art & Design showcased in Christie's December sale in New York
A newly discovered pair of red-lacquered wood divan blocks made in 1923 by Eileen Gray (1879-1976) remains a timeless synthesis of elegant line and immense practicality (estimate: $150,000-200,000). Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- On December 17, Christie’s 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sales in New York will showcase the entire range of 20th Century Decorative Arts, from Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, and Art Deco, to the Modernist and Contemporary movements. The auctions featured are Magnificent Tiffany: Including Property from the Estate of Jeanne Laverne Dailey, at 10am (separate press release available), and Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design at 2pm. With more than 300 lots offered for the combined sales, the auctions include iconic works by the category’s most distinguished creators, and are expected to achieve upwards of $7 million.

The sale features a strong selection of Art Deco works and leading the group are the extraordinarily elegant wall panels by Jean Dunand (1877-1942) designed for the breakfast room at Templeton Crocker’s San Francisco apartment in 1929 (estimate: $250,000-350,000). The first large, luxurious apartment fully executed in the modern manner in the United States, it was considered by many to be one of the most important interiors of the Art Deco period, and Vogue magazine, in 1929, declared it “perhaps the most beautiful apartment in the world.”

Templeton Crocker, a grandson of the founder of the Union Pacific Railroad and heir to the company’s fortune, traveled to Paris in 1928 to meet the most sophisticated designers of the day, among them the foremost exponents of the Art Deco style: Jean-Michel Frank, Pierre Legrain and Jean Dunand. Crocker commissioned approximately 400 objects, all fabricated in Paris and delivered to San Francisco about a year later.

Jean Dunand was charged with decorating three rooms; the bedroom (the furniture for which is now in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art), the dining room, and also the breakfast room. Dunand covered the walls of the octagonal breakfast room with exquisite black lacquered panels embellished with effervescent bubbles and shimmering multi-hued Japanese tropical fish all gliding in a radiant silver light glistening down upon them from the surface of the water above. With the consummate lacquer work for which he is renowned and the textural, tonal and artistic eminence of these panels, the ethereal breakfast room is certainly one of Dunand's masterworks.

A newly discovered pair of red-lacquered wood divan blocks made in 1923 by Eileen Gray (1879-1976) remains a timeless synthesis of elegant line and immense practicality (estimate: $150,000-200,000). Only one surviving example has been recorded, and of the blocks, one maintains two hinged compartments, the other with a single covered compartment.

Works by Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) offered for sale include a pair of Coiffure plaster table lamps designed for Jean-Michel Frank (sold separately, each estimate: $80,000-120,000) and a pair of Osselet patinated bronze floor lamps, circa 1939 (sold separately, each estimate: $80,000-120,000).

Several lots from Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933) epitomizing the timeless glamor of French Art Deco are offered, including a Macassar ebony center table, 1932 (estimate: $200,000-300,000) and Bouillotte, a silvered-bronze table lamp, circa 1920 (estimate: $80,000-120,000).

Leading the modern design section of the sale are three lots by François-Xavier Lalanne (1927-2008) which include Mouton de Pierre, a group of ten painted epoxy stone and patinated bronze sheep, designed circa 1979, from the Tateshina Open Air Museum, Japan (estimate: $600,000-900,000), Oiseau de Jardin III A a patinated bronze bird, 2004 (estimate: $100,000-150,000) and 'Brebis' an epoxy stone and patinated bronze lamb from the series Nouveaux Moutons, 1997 (estimate: $20,000-30,000).

A strong Italian group of lots is led by an illuminated etched glass mirror, circa 1958, by Max Ingrand (1908-1969) for Fontana Arte (estimate: $30,000-50,000) and a pair of pearwood and brass wall-mounted cabinets, circa 1953, by Gio Ponti (1891-1979) (estimate: $30,000-50,000).

A selection of French art glass with examples of marquetrie-sur-verre vases by Emile Galle (1846-1904) are offered, including a Crocus vase, circa 1900 (estimate: $20,000-30,000) and vase with applied handles, circa 1900 (estimate: $30,000-50,000).

Among a grouping of seven bronze and ivory figures are Starfish, a cold-painted parcel-gilt-bronze and ivory figure, circa 1930, and Astra, a gilt and cold-painted bronze and ivory figure, circa 1928, by Demetrie Chiparus (1886-1947) (each estimate: $40,000-60,000).

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