A rare ensemble of furniture by Eugène Printz that has been in the same family since it was purchased from the Art Deco designer/decorator has sold at auction in Arles in the south of France for a total of €1.96m.
The collection was discovered by the auctioneer Christelle Gouirand of Arles Enchères (24% buyer’s premium) during a valuation of a townhouse in Provence.
The owner had lived her whole life surrounded by the furniture and used it on a daily basis. It was purchased from Printz by her mother for the family’s Parisian apartment and moved with the family to her current home in Provence. The vendor’s mother acquired the furnishings gradually over a number of years and she remembers visiting Printz’s gallery on the rue de Miromesnil when she was a child.
Printz (1889-1948) was a well-known designer of the inter-war period with a wealthy clientele. He specialised in the use of exotic woods to create fashionable Modernist examples of cabinetmaking, working with a number of other famous names in the field to create his simple but luxurious furniture and fittings.
He was particularly noted for his use of costly palmwood to produce distinctive veneered finishes.
Cross-section of styles
The collection, offered for sale in Arles, represented an interesting cross-section of Printz’s repertoire of styles and materials.
It included an impressively long sideboard, a dining table and chairs, a bureau plat, cabinets and smaller occasional tables, armchairs, lights and other fittings and used a mixture of different woods as well as metal and lacquer.
Several of the pieces were examples of his collaboration with other artists, notably Jean Dunand (1877-1942), who was famous for his lacquerwork and metalware with special hammered and lacquered finishes known as dinanderie.
The collection also featured three preparatory sketches in pencil and watercolour from Printz’s workshop showing the furniture arranged in different rooms of the apartment, indicating his role as an interior designer with regard to this ensemble.
The collection was offered as 31 lots and went under the hammer in a sale held by Christelle Gouirand of Arles Enchères, with Amélie Marcilhac as expert, on October 3. It attracted interest from private collectors and dealers, mostly from Europe and the US, bidding via the phones and internet. “Several buyers remained mobilised throughout the sale – we had 10 lines in constant use,” noted Gouirand and Marcilhac.
The most expensive piece in the auction was an impressively large sideboard (above, top) from c.1937 measuring 9ft (2.76m) in length, which was an example of Printz’s collaboration with Dunand. Made from palmwood, its folding doors featured geometric decorated dinanderie panels and it was stamped with the artist’s monogram to the front. This sold for €500,000 (£454,545) against a €300,000-400,000 estimate.
It was followed in price at €355,000 (£322,730) by another Printz/Dunand collaboration: a 6ft 5in (1.96m) wide bureau plat from c.1931 in red lacquered wood mounted with gilt bronze. Both these pieces featured in the preparatory drawings offered in the sale.
A third Printz/Dunand work was a secretaire/desk measuring 1m (3ft 3in) in height and 1.67m (5ft 5in) in width. Made from black lacquered wood with a sycamore veneered fitted interior, it had doors and fall fronts that were decorated by Dunand with dinanderie plaques featuring ducks and birds to the front and other animals to the reverse. Monogrammed to the lower-right front and retaining its original keys, it made €185,000 (£168,180), more than three times the estimate.
Two other lots that featured in the preparatory sketches were a dining table and set of 12 chairs made from palmwood. The table, 5ft 10in (1.79m) in length with 4ft (1.25m) extensions, is a model that Printz first exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Décorateurs de Paris in 1929. It sold for €190,000 (£172,730).
The chairs, 10 of them bearing the artist’s stamp and now with seats recovered in leopard print fabric, more than doubled their €80,000- 100,000 guide to take €225,000 (£204,545).
Alongside the top-selling pieces were examples of Printz’s furnishings at lower price levels. Two small curved-ended side tables in stained walnut fitted with two drawers went for €14,000 (£12,730), for example, and a set of three oxidised brass curtain rails with the original ropes was sold for €1000 (£910).
The half dozen lots that failed to sell included a cabinet by Printz and Jean Serrière guided at €150,000- 200,000.
£1 = €1.10