Sotheby's Paris offers seven rare 20th century art deco works in a sale on November 22.
In two weeks, Paris will see a little more of an India that once was. An auction to be held at Sotheby's Paris will offer seven rare art deco masterpieces in a sale of 20th century decorative arts and contemporary design with a very special highlight: two landmark works by Eileen Gray, one of them a Transat chair (estimated price €800,000-10,00,000) that once occupied pride of place at the palace of the Maharaja of Indore. The works at the auction include the chair, a large curved bar (black painted wood and alpaca, with two stools) by Eckart Muthesius also designed for the royal residence, a table designed by Gray for her own home, the villa Tempe à Pailla in the South of France, a pair of mirrored doors by René Lalique, a panel by Jean Dunand and an iconic table by Eugène Printz.
The Transat chair, designed by Eileen Gray in 1930, is made of leather, chrome and black lacquer. It was originally set in the company of other masterpieces in the modernist interiors of the royal residence, creations by famous names such as Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Le Corbusier and Louis Sognot. The palace itself was a jewel; in fact, it was named Manik Bagh, or Jewel Gardens, created by German architect Eckart Muthesius (1904-1989), for Prince Yeshwant Rao Holkar Bahadur, then future Maharajah of Indore. The men met at Oxford in 1928 and entered a fruitful partnership that hit its high point when, two years later, the Prince commissioned Muthesius to transform his palace in Indore.
The project involved architectural, furniture, lighting, interior and landscape design and the result was hailed as being ‘a Modernist masterpiece in the International Style, which boasted a simple and elegant atmosphere in the private rooms, with minimal ornamentation, confirming its primary purpose as a living environment for a young couple, in sharp contrast to a palace for state occasions.' And the interior decor lived up to that description too: modern, dignified, comfortable yet luxurious. The furniture became an extension of the architecture, using materials of the highest quality and a restrained colour palette, all to serve as fitting frames for the elaborate dress and rituals of palace life. Even the walls were specially treated to this end, enhanced with metal particles on a rough, coarse grained surface, while in the reception hall and on the staircase tiny glass splinters in the paint intensified the effect of reflection.
A unique Eileen Gray copper and tubular metal coffee table (1935-50)from her own villa in the South of France, the Tempe à Paillain Castellar (€100,000-150,000), was left to the mother of the current owner of the house by Gray and will also be on auction. The Lalique glass doors (9ft by 6ft) belonged to Lady Trent's residence in Jersey (€400,000-600,000).
The Jean Dunand panel has eight folds and depicts Monkeys Playing In The Trees (1929) in coloured lacquer with incised motifs on a gold-leaf ground; it is large, over 15ftx9ft, and was designed for Madame Yacubovich of Paris. The estimated price is €300,000-500,000.
The Eugène Printz dining table is made of black-lacquered/oxidised metal (1933) and has a price tag of €300,000-500,000. An oak and palissander shagreen-lined cabinet by Marcel Coard (c.1927) has an estimated price of €150,000-200,000. All the pieces will be on display at Sotheby's in Paris between November 17 and 20. All the works on sale are unique and have never been seen in auction before.