Thursday - 18 September 2014

Eastern promise of Lièvre lots

23 December 2013Written by Anne Crane

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 November 14-15.

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 1875.

Lempertz had guided the piece at €250,000-300,000 but it ended up going for €460,000 (£403,510) to a French dealer.

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 reproduction rights.

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 for €750,000.

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 €960,000 (£842,105).

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