When it comes to the market, Edouard Lièvre’s Sino-Japanese furniture is usually a surefire candidate for a big price.
Lièvre (1829-86) started out making
engravings of medieval and other works of art including those in
the Louvre before moving on to designs for oriental-taste furniture
in the 1870s.
Born out of a late 19th century French love
affair with all things Japanese, the designer's furniture is
sufficiently exotic and elaborate in its conception and execution
(and scarce enough) to be in high demand.
Indeed, one of Lièvre's most distinctive
creations, an 1890s version of a lacquer, rosewood and
ormolu-mounted cabinet on stand, that was originally designed in
1877 (now in the Musée D'Orsay), established what was a new auction
high for a piece of 19th century furniture when it made £1.8m at
Bonhams in December 2008.
Given this, it is unusual to find two
examples of furniture made to his designs coming up for sale within
the space of a few days, as happened last month.
First off was the example which featured
in Lempertz's sale of works of art in Cologne on
This 8ft 7in (2.6m) high openwork cabinet
with large pierced pediment came with an envelope of hand-written
assembly instructions thought to be from its manufacture, around
Lempertz had guided the piece at
€250,000-300,000 but it ended up going for €460,000 (£403,510) to a
Cabinet at Daguerre
Ten days later in Paris at Drouot, Daguerre
offered the two-piece cabinet on stand that was much more like the
version sold by Bonhams.
After Lièvre's death, the Pannier brothers,
who owned the Parisian luxury boutique L'Escalier de Cristal,
bought the original cabinet and some of his design drawings and
The Pannier records list six similar
versions of the cabinet that they produced post-1886. Another
turned up in 2006, coincidentally also at Lempertz, where it sold
Daguerre's version was distinguished by a
series of bronze mounts and a central lacquer panel featuring a
Japanese No theatre scene along with numerous applied bronze mounts
of small objects.
It was signed on the lock L'Escalier de
Cristal, Paris and dated to c.1895. It also had a
provenance back to c.1900 to the Chalet de la Roque at Port-Mort in
the Eure Department.
Daguerre had estimated it at €200,000-300,000, relatively
conservative given the prices of the examples mentioned earlier,
and true to form it easily outpaced that guide, selling finally for