So extraordinary was his path, that the name of Paul-Louis Weiller (1893-1993) still carries great weight even to this day.
This man, a First World War fighter and officer of the Legion of Honour at just 25 years old, later revolutionised the industry as one of the founding fathers of Air France.
However, as well as his business interests, Paul-Louis Weiller also led an incredibly glamorous social life, regularly visiting the royal houses of Europe, renowned businessmen and politicians, as well as cultural personalities and famous figures from the entertainment industry.
The curator Gérald Van der Kempf was also a notable member of his entourage, and as a great patron of the arts, Paul-Louis Weiller also made a considerable contribution to the major refurbishment of the Palace of Versailles.
François Curiel, Christie’s Chairman Europe commented: “A giant among men, that’s how Commander Weiller appeared to me during our first meeting in 1970 in Geneva. This statement by Hugo Wickers, the official biographer of the English court, is a tribute to an exceptional life. A giant due to the courage he demonstrated during the great war, a giant of the aviation industry in the inter-war years, a financial giant during the second half of the century, and if that was not enough, a true patron of the arts and philanthropist.
It was during our biannual meetings in Geneva at the time of the jewellery sales or during my visits to the Noviciat in Versailles or in Paris, that I got to know the Commandant better and where I discovered the many facets of his exceptional personality, his passion for jewellery and precious stones, but also for exceptional paintings and works of art. This sale, therefore, serves a beautiful tribute to this great man whose collection reflects the best French taste has to offer”.
During his fascinating life, the Commandant Weiller developed a keen eye that enabled him to assemble the most splendid of collections. The works that are to be offered on the 17th June come from several properties, including La Reine Jeanne, the near-mythical villa where Weiller was visited by countless celebrities and famous faces such as Charlie Chaplin, Richard Nixon, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo and Georges Pompidou to name a few.
Lionel Gosset, Director of Collections: “It is a great honour for Christie’s to sell part of Paul-Louis Weiller’s collection, whose perfect taste enabled him to acquire real treasures. The furniture, paintings, drawings and works of art that make up the sale will catch the eye of both discerning collectors and amateurs for whom the name Paul-Louis Weiller is synonymous with elegance, delicacy and refinement”.
The many portraits present in the auction illustrate the elite social life that the Commandant Weiller led, as shown by two portraits of the glamorous American decorator Lady Mendl (1865-1950), one of which was executed by the celebrated artist Bernard Boutet de Monvel in 1937 (estimate: €40,000-60,000).
Other important portraits will also be presented such as a second version of La Belle Strasbourgeoise by Nicolas de Largillière (1656-1746) (estimate: €600,000-1,000,000), a pastel depicting Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Ducreux (1735-1802) (estimate: €200,000-300,000) or a portrait of the Marquise de Sevigné by Pierre Mignard (1612-1695) (estimate: €50,000-70,000).
In addition, two large capriccios executed in the 1750s by Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) will also be up for auction (estimate: €300,000-500,000).
As for the decorative arts, the property in Versailles housed many important pieces of furniture and valuable works including a stunning Italian neoclassical centre table (estimate: €50,000-80,000), a Louis XV period canapé bearing the stamp of Nicolas Heurtaut (1720-1771)(estimate: €100,000-200,000) and a Louis XVI period royal commode made in 1783 by Jean-Henri Riesener (1734-1806) for the apartments of Marie Thérèse of France at the Château de Fontainebleau.
Always attracted by exceptional objects, the Commandant Weiller also acquired superb pieces of silverware, including an imposing tureen from the famous Orloff service commissioned by Catherine II of Russia (1729-1762) in 1770 from Jacques-Nicolas Roëttiers (1707-1784). This tureen, which will be offered together with its stand, is part of a service originally composed of more than two thousand pieces that the Empress had made for her lover, Count Grigori Orloff (1734-1783). The service, manufactured in just eighteen months, shows the first traces of neoclassicism in silverware in the early nineteenth century. A real tour de force, this tureen is the top lot of the sale at €800,000 to 1,200,000.
Some works from the collection will be offered in specialist sales such as a sublime work by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1727-1804) from his Punchinelli series formerly in Lady Mendl’s collection which will be offered in the Old Masters Drawings sale also in Paris on the 25th March (estimate: €200,000- 300,000).
The Rare Books and Manuscripts Sale on the 7th April will offer a selection from the Weiller collection, including a rare autographed manuscript from 1833 signed by George Sand (1804-1876): Lavinia. An old tale (estimate: €8,000-12,000), three unpublished letters from Marcel Proust (1871-1922), one of which is addressed to the Princess of Caraman-Chimay in response to her criticisms, and a very fine 16th-century volume of Hippocrates’ works (460 BC – 377 BC) bound for Henry III, King of France and Poland, in olive-green Moroccan leather incised with the king’s coat of arms (estimate: €40,000-60,000).
Auction: Wednesday 17 June 2020 at 5 pm
Exhibition: From Saturday 13 to Tuesday 16 June. Open on Sunday from 2 pm to 6 pm.
Christie’s : 9 avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris