A packed saleroom and a continuous barrage of phone bids combined to ensure a near sell-out, multi-estimate result at Sotheby’s in Paris for their three-session auction (in association with Artcurial) of the collection of Félix Marcilhac.
All bar 15 of the 313 lots sold to total €20.5m hammer, two and a half times the original predictions of around €8m.
Marcilhac is a highly regarded decorative arts dealer but is equally well known as an auction expert and author on Art Nouveau and Deco. Over his long career he has bought from many major properties. His own private collection, which furnished his home, was peppered with unique pieces and those that came with provenances to earlier key names.
Last week's results provided strong evidence of the draw of the Marcilhac name. Almost 600 people from Europe and the USA registered to bid and as well as the strong take-up, the sale set 21 auction records.
Most of the highest prices came on the first evening session on March 11 when demand was such that the 74 lots took a marathon two and a half hours to disperse. However, the enthusiasm continued right through the sale, with many of the ceramics, glass, and metalwares offered the next afternoon leaving their modest estimates in the dust.
The top price of the auction was for a piece that epitomised what was most desirable about this property. The 4ft 2in (1.09m) cabinet, constructed from patinated bronze and panels of gypsum, is a unique piece by the designer-decorator Jean-Michel Frank, created c.1935 for the smoking room of his own Paris apartment.
Sotheby's had put an estimate of €400,000-600,000 on this restrainedly elegant piece which Félix Marcilhac acquired in 1980, but at the sale the bidding rose to around three times that level as the Paris Art Deco dealer Cheska Vallois, a major buyer at the auction, did battle with another room bidder then a phone bidder.
A second phone, bidding through Sotheby's European decorative arts head Cécile Verdier, was waiting keenly in the wings, joining in when Galerie Vallois dropped out and they eventually emerged victorious when the hammer fell at €3.2m (plus premium).