On 18 September 2014 Christies
sale of The Opulent Eye will offer furniture, sculpture and works of art from the 19th century. Representing many of the best makers and sculptors of the period, the sale presents palatial furnishings drawn from an eclectic mixture of styles and countries, united by their opulence, fine craftsmanship and use of precious materials. The sale is led by an exceptional coffre à bijoux, jewellery cabinet-on-stand, by Henri Fourdinois (estimate: £70,000-100,000). Recently rediscovered by Christies in a private Portuguese collection, this unique cabinet captures the grand ambition and subtle sophistication of the great exhibitions of 19th century Europe. The mahogany veneers are finely inlaid with silvered-bronze mounts, and the angles cornered by lapis lazuli veneered columns supporting ivory angels by the sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse. Featuring furniture, lighting, marble and bronze sculpture, garden statuary, clocks, carpets and porcelain, the sale totals 328 lots and is expected to realise in the region of £3.5 million.
Further highlights include two highly important pieces by Edouard Lièvre, one of the most prized designers in Paris during the 1870s and 80s. A cabinet, Crédence en noyer enrichie de bronzes, (estimate: £150,000- 250,000), is Lièvres defining piece in the Renaissance style. The portrait plaques depict Charles VII and his favourite mistress Agnès Sorel, chosen to represent love. Its importance is underlined by the fact that it was retained in Lièvres own collection, only being sold after his death. Lièvre appreciated that Western European art could not be understood in isolation of Chinese and Japanese elements and towards the late 1870s, Lièvre started to create furniture in le style japonais et chinois. A table de milieu (estimate: £70,000-100,000), is exemplary of this style. A small number of tables of the model are known, another is in the collection of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
The sale also offers a group of Danish Royal furniture dating to the late 19th/early 20th century when the Danish Royal Court was at the centre of European nobility and played host to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, and her husband the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Princess Dagmar of Denmark, Empress Consort to Tsar Alexander III. A highlight from this Royal Collection is a Danish Royal giltwood eleven-piece salon suite, (estimate: £12,000-18,000).
Continuing the theme of grand entertaining, a sumptuous piano à queue is a unique creation by François Linke, the most important ébéniste of the late 19th century. This magnificent and unique piano is exemplary of a small group of Art-Case pianos by Linke, and is lavishly adorned with gilt-bronze mounts which fuse the Art Nouveau of Belle Époque Paris with the Rococo (estimate: £100,000- 200,000).
The selection of fine 19th century bronze and marble sculpture offered within the sale is led by these bigger than life-size models of a lion and tiger (estimate: £70,000-100,000). They were cast in circa 1880 by the Val dOsne foundry in Paris after models by the animalier sculptor Henri Jacquemart. They are made from cast-iron and durable for outside display as garden statuary.