On October 7th, Christie’s Paris will present the extraordinary collection of Annie Bernheim-Dalsace and Jean Dalsace at auction.
In 1918, Annie and Jean Dalsace commissioned Pierre Chareau to design his first major project, thus marking the beginning of his career: the furnishings for their flat on Boulevard Saint-Germain, including the office of the young doctor who was then Jean Dalsace. Their collection was to grow steadily over the years and was completed by numerous other creations for the various properties of the Bernheim-Dalsace family. It is a close friendship, a true intellectual and emotional affinity, an unwavering trust that links the Bernheim-Dalsace family and Dollie and Pierre Chareau.
The two couples frequented the same artistic, literary, musical and intellectual avant-garde milieu. They supported their artist friends with enthusiasm and loyalty, remaining engaged in all avant-garde enterprises. They lived surrounded by painters, sculptors, writers, poets, musicians and dancers, and cultivated art of living based on friendship, high standards and quality.
They share with Dollie & Pierre Chareau a common interest in the work of Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Georges Braque, Max Ernst, Jean Lurçat, Max Jacob and Jacques Lipchitz. The Dalsace and Chareau collections are similar and yet distinct. Their boundaries are permeable and over the years, works pass from one to the other. Through Jean Lurçat, they are close to Jeanne Bucher. The latter was next door to Chareau in La Boutique de la rue du Cherche-midi.
The Dalsaces financed the first steps of the gallery, followed its programming and assiduously supported its artists’ book editions, a selection of which were part of the collections on sale. And it was again to a friend, Rose Adler, that they ordered frames and bindings.
Unfailing admirers of Pierre Chareau’s work, Jean & Annie Dalsace remained faithful to the Chareau couple, beyond the exile and death of Pierre Chareau in 1950. They passed on their admiration to their children and grandchildren, who worked for more than forty years, with perseverance and respect, to preserve a unique work within the history of Modernity.
“It is an extraordinary collection, an absolute point of reference for all connoisseurs and lovers of Art Deco. It is the only one that perfectly represents the work of Pierre Chareau and offers his vision of Modernity. It is a great privilege for Christie’s to organise the sale of this collection, which will enable us to celebrate this artist in his own right, and we are very honoured to have been entrusted by their children.” Cécile Verdier, President of Christie’s France.
Among the artists in this collection, which bears witness to Annie and Jean Dalsace’s artistic commitment, are Georges Braque’s ‘Nature morte au verre’ (€300,000-500,000), Giorgio de Chirico’s ‘Chevaux sur la plage’ (€200,000-300,000), ‘Composition aux oiseaux’ (€70,000-100,000) by Max Ernst and his ex-libris ‘Annae Alsatia’ inscribed in a frame by Rose Adler (€30,000-50,000), Picasso’s ‘Nature morte à la guitare’ (€60,000-80,000), watercolours and tapestries by Jean Lurçat including the screen ‘Les Constellations’ (€50,000-70,000).
Pierre Chareau’s exceptional furniture collection fully illustrates his absolute singularity among the designers of this period and is a beautiful tribute to his creative genius. Preserved in the Dalsace family from the outset, this corpus of around sixty pieces of furniture and furnishings offers a complete overview of his stylistic approach, his conception of the layout of space, and his highly architectural vision of furniture conceived as an elegant, powerful and functional construction with a solid, pure line.
The selection of armchairs, chairs, stools, desks – including the wood and metal desk ‘MB405’ (€200,000-300,000), and the typist desk, a unique piece in metal and leather upholstery (€200,000-300,000), tables such as the ‘Mouchoir’ game table (€80,000-120,000), or the three variations of the table MB106 with 4 elements (€60,000-80,000), 3 elements (€40,000-60,000) and 2 elements (€25,000-30,000), pedestal tables, or the ‘SN39’ coat rack (€40,000-60,000), a model designed specifically for the Maison de Verre, the ‘Masque – LP180’ lamp (€40,000-60,000), and other furniture pieces are all iconic creations.
We recall previous sales at Christie’s that have helped celebrate Chareau’s work. Following the sale of the Simone and Claude Dray Collections, 2006, the original set from the Simon Collection, 2008, the sale of the Château de Gourdon Collections, 2011, focusing on Modernity of the 1920s and 1930s, already celebrated the work of Pierre Chareau in terms of the number and quality of the pieces brought together. More recently, in June 2018, we had the pleasure of selling in New York a very rare metal example of the ‘Religieuse SN 31’ floor lamp, a sculpture as well as a light fixture, which fetched $2.1 million, setting a new record for the artist and confirming his rightful place as one of the 20th century’s greatest creators.
Although Pierre Chareau was still largely unknown at the beginning of his career in 1918, he gained real critical, peer and public recognition in 1925 when Annie and Jean Dalsace asked him to design their future home, the Maison de Verre (1928-1932), today considered one of the most iconic and extraordinary examples of 20th-century architecture. Within only a decade the architect proved his singular genius.
In 1925 he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur for his ‘Bureau d’une Ambassade Française’, which was presented at the International Exhibition and is now part of the collections of the Musée National d’Art Moderne and on deposit at the MAD in Paris, before taking an active part in the foundation of the C.I.A.M. (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) in 1928, then joining the U.A.M. in 1929.
The ‘Maison de Verre’ (1928-1932) was the topic of numerous publications upon its completion, including an article by the architect Paul Nelson in the magazine Architecture d’Aujourd’hui in 1933. It was then forgotten for 35 years before being rediscovered in 1966 by a small group of young English architects, including Richard Rogers, who wrote an article about it in the magazine Domus.
Today it is a true architectural icon, still fascinating, internationally admired, and a source of inspiration, questioning and interpretation for architects. It is also an opportunity to recall the friendship and admiration of the architect Bernard Bijvoet, who has been a partner in Pierre Chareau’s architectural creations since their meeting in 1925, as well as his invaluable collaboration with the genius ironmonger Louis Dalbet, who allowed him to fully express his ideas in terms of both furniture and architecture.
“It is a great pleasure and emotion to organise the sale of this group of furniture by Pierre Chareau from the collections of the Maison de Verre. While a number of models have been published several times, the pieces from the Dalsace family collections have remained unattainable from the market until now. This sale will be a real event for Pierre Chareau enthusiasts and collectors, but also a rare opportunity to discover his work in the context of a historic commission that was essential for his entire career,” adds Sonja Ganne, Chairwoman of the Design Department.
The sale of this ensemble will be an opportunity to once again highlight the work of Pierre Chareau, following the celebration organised by the Jewish Museum in New York a few years ago with its very fine monographic exhibition, Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, November 2016 – March 2017.
The history of the Bernheim-Dalsace family is a deeply human story, one that bears witness not only to the artistic and cultural context of the first half of the 20th century in France but also to its political and social history. Modern and progressive at heart, the Dalsace have committed all their lives and showed great political and social activism. From the 1930s onwards, Jean Dalsace campaigned in favour of family planning and contraception, a fight he continued after the war and which he shared with his son-in-law Pierre Vellay, he himself a gynaecologist and midwife.
They participated in the great political debates and actions of post-war France, promoting the values of humanism and social progress.
The sale of the Collections of the ‘Maison de Verre’ will be a real event on the art market and will not fail to leave its mark. The sale, which will take place in Paris on October 7th, will be one of the highlights of the second half of the year. Collectors from all over the world are sure to respond enthusiastically to this exceptional group of works, in a fitting tribute to Annie and Jean Dalsace and their friend Pierre Chareau.