Published: November 4, 2003
Two French masterpieces by the leading French cabinetmakers of the Eighteenth Century, André-Charles Boulle and Bernard II Van Risenburgh, (BVRB) sold for nearly $8 million at Christie’s New York on October 23.
The sale of important European furniture, works of art, porcelain, tapestries and carpets, including a private Long Island collection, realized $14,274,333 and was 89 percent sold by value and 72 percent sold by lot.
“This sale reiterates the strong demand for the best examples of French furniture and reaffirms the robust state of the market,” said William Strafford, specialist head of the European furniture and decorative arts department in New York. “There was furious bidding for supreme works of art, in particular, the Boulle armoire and BVRB commode, the latter of which saw four active bidders still participating at the $1.5 million mark. Christie’s holds nine out of the top ten highest prices of European furniture sold at auction.”
European furniture week at Christie’s, featuring important English furniture, including property from the collections of Peter Glenville and Hardy William Smith, property from the collection of Nelson Grimaldi Seabra and important European furniture, works of art, porcelain, tapestries and carpets, including a private Long Island collection, totaled $20,773,543.
The top lot of the sale, a Louis XIV ormolu-mounted ebony, cut-brass, tortoiseshell, blue-stained horn and pewter marquetry armoire “De L’Histoire D’Apollon” by André-Charles Boulle, circa 1695-1700, sold for $4,599,500 in the salesroom.
This masterpiece is a tour de force that represents Boulle’s extraordinary ability to create sculptural gilt bronzes in an overall scheme rich with superlative marquetry. The armoire’s classically inspired imagery, which centers on the sun-god Apollo and figures emblematic of the seasons, glorifies Louis XIV, the Sun King. Together with its pair, formerly in the collection of Hubert de Givenchy, this armoire represents the original version of the “Histoire D’Apollon” series.
A world auction record for a lacquer commode, the Louis XV ormolu-mounted Chinese black, polychrome and gilt lacquer and vernis commode, stamped five times Bernard II Van Risenburgh, doubled its pre-sale estimate, selling for $3,031,500.
This masterwork is part of a celebrated group of lacquer-mounted commodes by BVRB, the first of which was delivered to Fontainebleau in 1738. The gilt-bronze mounts are of a superb quality representative of BVRB’s best work, and were most likely actually cast by BVRB, a bold act against the Eighteenth Century guild rules, which required a separate guild to supply mounts for ébénisterie.
Additional highlights included a Louis XV ormolu cartel clock, circa 1760, which fetched $354,700, and from a private Long Island collection, which was 91 percent sold by value, a Louis XVI ormolu-mounted mahogany, ebony and black and gilt Chinese lacquer-inset commode à l’Anglaise, circa 1775, which realized $231,500.
The October 23 sale of the collection of Nelson Grimaldi Seabra, the Brazilian socialite, was 86 percent sold by value, and was a tribute to this collector’s discerning and far-reaching taste, as shown by pieces such as a pair of George II walnut library armchairs ($253,900); a rare pair of Chinese carved lacquer vases ($59,750); and a set of four Louis XVI ormolu candlesticks ($74,090).
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