On Monday 5 December 2016, in collaboration with specialist Arnaud Plaisance, PIASA
will stage their first auction devoted to the Decorative Arts from the period 1870-1950. The sale will offer a panorama of designs from eight decades straddling the 19th and 20th centuries. Exceptional provenance, like the Maurice Rheims Collection, and rare designs by leading names, will make this sale a point of reference for international collectors.
The origins of Art Nouveau can be found in late 19th century England. The style then spread across Europe in forms reflecting the cultures and lifestyles of individual countries.
A Godwin Eagle Chair of Exceptional Provenance
Another sale highlight is an Eagle Chair designed by Edward William Godwin, the architect commissioned to build Dromore Castle by William Pery, 3rd Earl of Limerick, in 1866. Godwin took the opportunity to conceive a total work': the exterior reflected his knowledge of Irish medieval architecture, while the interior and above all the furniture expressed his eclectic approach to decoration. Godwin's mix of Japanese, medieval and Classical influences is epitomized by this chair, designed for the Library.
Godwin's furniture was manufactured by William Watt and included in his firm's 1877 catalogue. Few such chairs were actually produced, and fewer still have survived, so our chair offers a rare opportunity to acquire a fascinating example of the eclectic vision of an atypical architect.
Carlo Bugatti's career began in 1880s Milan and was marked by formal research into the circle and curved forms in a style dubbed Mauresque,' featuring incrustations and monumental elements. After his triumphant exhibition in Turin in 1902, Bugatti moved to Paris in 1904 as a decorator, architect, draughtsman and furniture-maker. His work evolved towards a more naturalistic approach using abstract forms, in line with the Art Nouveau style then sweeping Europe. He worked with everyday objects, which he embellished and magnified using various techniques: parchment covering, incrustation, metal-work...
The curule chair to be offered at PIASA exemplifies Carlo Bugatti's work from the 1890s. Wood, brass and copper wrought or incrusted rub shoulders with a more rarefied material that would become a feature of his work: parchment adorned with painted motifs. The form is geometric and of Mauresque inspiration. Bugatti liked to combine repoussé copper medallions, circles, arches and Oriental elements, like the outline of a minaret. The result is a piece of great originality that perfectly captures his creative fantasy style.
Georges Rey: a Discreet Designer with Loud Appeal
Also from the former Collection of Maurice Rheims is an eye-catching olive-wood centre-table, with exuberant organic and anthropomorphic forms and a precious mother-of-pearl marquetry top. Little is known of its designer, the wood-carver and cabinet-maker Georges Rey, although the armchair known as Le Jour et la Nuit (Day & Night') said to have belonged to the great Sarah Bernhardt and now in the Musée d'Orsay is also attributed to him.
Abel Landry & Art Nouveau
Abel Landry was a key figure in the Art Nouveau movement as an artist-decorator for La Maison Moderne (founded by Julius Meier-Graefe in 1899), the second-largest Paris sales outlet for decorative arts around 1900 (after the Maison de l'Art Nouveau founded by Siegfried Bing). Landry's imposing mahogany desk with leather, canework and silvered bronze, has flowing, organic forms inspired by Nature, and a curved apron showing the importance he attached to comfort and practicality.
Daum & Brandt: A Fruitful Collaboration
Edgar Brandt founded his Paris ironwork factory in 1902, branched into armaments after World War I then, following his success at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in 1925, opened a gallery to showcase his decorative ironwork, furniture, sculpture and lamps along with designs by other artists he worked with, notably Daum.
The floor-lamp illustrates the effectiveness of their collaboration. Daum made the marbled glass lampshade, while Brandt designed the shaft in the form of a snake, whose lithe, highly realistic body extends from the base to the top, entwining itself around the shade. The snake theme recurs in many of Brandt's lamp designs, partly inspired by mythological associations with underground hell. This floor-lamp should also be viewed in the light of its title, Temptation, evoking the Old Testament notion of original sin.
Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann: Apogée of Art Deco
Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann (1879-1933) began designing his own furniture shortly before taking over the family firm in 1907, upon the death of his father. His early designs bore the influence of Art Nouveau and the British Arts & Craft movement, but he swiftly moved on to work with more rigorous forms, whose sober lines and impeccable finish would establish his reputation and personify the Style 1925' (as Art Deco is sometimes known in France).
Ruhlmann's elegant furniture, with its harmonious volumes, exploited contrasting colours and materials including exotic materials like Brazilian rosewood, mahogany and ivory. From 1928 he designed individual items that were numbered, stamped, catalogued and sold with a certificate. Our refined dining-room suite of table and eight chairs (1932/3), made from precious mahogany, is a classic example.