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The Opulent Eye: Important 19th century decorative arts to be offered at Christie's London
A French giltwood and vernis Martin piano a queue. 39 in. (99 cm.) high, closed; 64 in. (163 cm.) long; 57 in. (145 cm.) wide. Estimate: £30,000 - 40,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.

LONDON.- On 6 March 2014 Christie’s sale of The Opulent Eye will offer furniture, sculpture and works of art from the 19th century. The sale reflects the eclectic and opulent styles of the period from the regal grandeur of Napoleon’s Empire to the Art Nouveau of Belle époque Paris. The sale is led by an exceptional French gilt-bronze mirror designed by the sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier Belleuse and made by the bronzier Ferdinand Barbedienne (estimate: £100,000-150,000). An important discovery from a Private Monaco Collection, the mirror stands 2 meters high and is sculpted with foliate scrolls and figures emblematic of fortune. Only two other examples of the mirror are known: one in the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, the other in the Bowes Museum, Co. Durham.

Further highlights include a monumental Napoleon III commode, attributed to the Grohé Frères (estimate: £150,000-250,000). The commode is veneered in pictorial marquetry and applied with finely cast mounts is a celebration of Minerva, goddess of Wisdom.

The sale also features an important rediscovery of a Bechstein grand piano with art-case by François Linke, the most important ébéniste of the late 19th century which was thought lost until recently being rediscovered at Pineheath House, Harrogate, in a collection created by Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji in the 1920s. Part of one of Linke’s most important commissions, the piano was originally supplied to Elias Meyer at 16 Grosvenor Square London in 1909. With only two owners since new, the piano is offered here for the first time at auction and is a major addition to the inventory of important known pieces by Linke (estimate: £100,000-200,000).

The selection of fine 19th century bronze and marble sculpture offered within the sale is led by this Florentine marble of Leda and the Swan expertly carved in contrapposto from a single block of Carrera marble by Vittorio Caradossi, (estimate: £80,000-120,000).

The auction also features a 22 lot collection, The Property of a Lady from a Noble Italian Palazzo, of ornate Italian neo-rococo furniture. The collection was formed in the late 19th century when the unification of Italy inspired a new nationalist aesthetic in celebration of the glory of the Kingdom of Italy. This was a more florid, uniquely Italian, interpretation of the international beaux-arts style, which was fashionable from Belle époque Paris to Gilded Age America and was based on a revival of art from France’s ancien régime.

The Opulent Eye will offer furniture once owned by spectacular performer and jazz age diva Joséphine Baker. Born in the slums of St. Louis in 1906, Joséphine Baker rose to fame during that city’s Roaring Twenties becoming the highest-paid chorus girl in vaudeville. She travelled to Paris in 1925 where her sensual La Danse de Sauvage sensationalized society. Baker was the first African-American actress to star in a major motion picture and was the most successful entertainer working in France at the time. The piano (estimate: £30,000 – 40,000) and the Louis XVI style giltwood bed (estimate: £4,000 – 6,000) were in Joséphine Baker’s French home, the Château des Milandes in the Dordogne where she lived with her fourth husband, the French composer Jo Bouillon whom she married in June 1947, and where she raised her twelve adopted children.

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