Published: December 24, 2001
NEW YORK CITY – On December 7, Christie’s New York offered European and American design in its two sales Important Twentieth Century Decorative Arts and Tiffany: Innovation in American Design.
Art Nouveau and Modernism highlights included Orchidée, a desk designed around 1903 by Louis Majorelle and Daum which epitomizes the Ecole de Nancy’s expression of the Art Nouveau idea. Crucial to the Art Nouveau philosophy was the concept of nature and many of the decorative motifs used to embellish the desk refer to this flower, especially the pair of lamps whose opalescent amber glass shades are shaped after orchid blossoms.
Louis Majorelle, who designed the desk, and Daum Frères, the glass firm responsible for the creation of the shades, were protagonists of the Art Nouveau movement, which makes the Orchidée desk an example of one of Europe’s most creative Twentieth Century design movements. The desk achieved $424,000 and was bought by a private collector (est $300/400,000).
Almost three decades later, nature had most definitely disappeared from the scene and had been replaced by a search for simplicity and purity of form. Granet, a prominent architect and the son-in-law of Gustave Eiffel was fascinated by the new technologies of his day and his commission to Ruhlmann emphasized the latter’s reputation as one of the most important designers of his time.
The desk, which represented a combination of functionality and beauty, was the centerpiece of Granet’s office and featured a dramatically cantilevered top, nickel-plated desk lamp and leather writing surface. It brought $446,000 ($450/600,000).
The world might not have known as much about the Tiffany Studios had it not been for Vito D’Agostino, a man of great education and moderate means. Completely fascinated by Tiffany’s designs, D’Agostino rescued a number of Tiffany records as well as Tiffany products at a time when the work of the Studios had fallen from fashion. Not only did he buy well in their 1927 liquidation, but he also discovered many a Tiffany treasure abandoned as trash. Christie’s offered a Poppy leaded glass and gilt-bronze floor lamp, once part of the D’Agostino collection. The lamp is one of only two known examples and its shade (301/2 inches in diameter) is the largest one ever produced by the Tiffany Studios and was purchased for $1,601,000.
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