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The most notable example was this burr walnut veneered meuble a fards at Sotheby’s Bond Street commissioned in 1928 from Emile Jacques Ruhlmann and S. Foucault by M. Paul Dormann as a wedding present for his daughter Xenia. A particularly good example of his work (“one of the great set pieces by Ruhlmann”, said Sotheby’s Philippe Garner), it was also substantially boosted by its watertight provenance. Offered for sale by Xenia’s daughter, it came with contemporary documentation detailing its history, including a certificate with facsimiles of the branded signature and atelier, plus an explanatory letter from Ruhlmann confirming that one certificate would be kept by the firm, and another lodged with the archive of the Musée des Arts Decoratifs.

Sotheby’s £150,000-200,000 estimate fully ackowledged the importance of the piece and it still managed to outstrip those predictions at £250,000.

The auctioneers also obtained a respectable £62,000 for a black lacquer bed of c.1933 to a design first shown by Ruhlmann at the 1929 Salon des Artistes Decorateurs, but other less expensively estimated pieces by the designer had less success, as did a section of pieces by Jean Dunand, and when it came to the 1930s to ’50s pieces by the likes of Royère and a section of later work by key Modernist and post modern designers, hardly anything found a buyer.

Christie’s King Street’s select 89-lot sale proved even more difficult, with most of the furniture left unsold. Talking after the auction, their specialist Adam Chadwick gave his analysis of the current situation.
He reckoned that the demand was still there for good pieces by top Deco names, as indicated by the price of the Ruhlmann meuble or the £30,000 paid for an Edgar Brandt lamp of c.1925 in their own sale, but that those from a rung or two down the ladder; works from the ’30s and ’40s and those by less familiar names were much more difficult to sell. His sale, for example, included a 16-lot section of 1930–35 works by two less familiar members of the Lyon School: Michel Zadounisky and André Sournay, which saw just two lots sell, while the 24-lot 1930–80 selection that followed did not perform any better.