“The love of art has been the cement of our couple. I am proud today to present the collection that we have built up with passion”. Véronique Forneri
On 28 September, Christie’s will be hosting the sale of the collection of Monsieur and Madame Jean-Marc Forneri. Comprising nearly 300 lots, this eclectic collection has been carefully selected by this passionate couple over several decades. It will attract a broad panel of collectors, due to the diversity of periods and mediums on offer. The estimates, ranging from 200 to 250,000 euros, will appeal to both young and experienced collectors.
Madame Forneri comes from a family of Italian antique dealers who settled on the French Riviera in the 1910s. Her husband, Jean-Marc, is originally from Marseille and went to the prestigious ENA school before becoming a finance inspector. Both share a common passion for art and started their collection in 1980, focusing on 18th-century furniture, -when baroque and rococo were the prevailing trends- to decorate their splendid duplex located in Neuilly. Their tastes evolved and they became interested in modern and contemporary art, but also in old masters paintings, collecting works by artists such as Hyacinthe Rigaud, recently on view at the Château de Versailles, as well as Nicolas de Largillierre and Jean-Baptiste Oudry.
Lionel Gosset, Director of Collections: ” Monsieur and Madame Jean-Marc Forneri have built up a four-handed collection in which nothing has escaped their curiosity. From antiquity to contemporary art, they have built a dialogue with the works, and their complementary approaches reflect their personal taste while constituting a perfectly homogeneous whole.”
The couple also shares a passion for sculpture, from antiquities – fabulous marble busts and heads make up the collection – to Oceanic art, with Malangan statues from New Ireland coming into harmonious dialogue with contemporary works of art by Pierre Soulages, Martin Barré or Geer Van Velde. The latter will be offered in the sale of Post-War and Contemporary art on 2 December.
Old master paintings are also well represented, including a Portrait présumé d’Alexis César Freslon, marquis d’Acigné by the famous court painter, Hyacinthe Rigaud, estimated at €60,000-80,000. The painter of the most famous portrait of the Sun King, Hyacinthe Rigaud, dominated the portrait genre for almost a century, giving it new codes. Here, we find all the mastery of the painter offering an imposing and noble image of his model where each detail increases the power of the painting.
Another great portraitist, Nicolas de Largillierre displays his talent in this Portrait en buste de la comtesse de Courcelles (estimate: €80,000-120,000), his technical mastery allowing him to play with materials, colours and light, such as the red velvet that contrasts so beautifully with the cream-coloured silk. The compositions of Jean-Baptiste Oudry, who is a follower of Largillierre, are also among the highlights of the sale, with a hunting scene emblematic of the wonderful animal painter, Chien à l’arrêt devant une perdrix (1725, estimate: €150,000-200,000), but also a sumptuous Portrait de gentilhomme en chasseur (1725, estimate: €150,000-200,000), which echoes those of his master, displaying the same gleam in the fabrics.
A section of the collection is also dedicated to early drawings. A very fine portrait by Charles Le Brun in black stone, Tête d’homme les yeux écarquillés, of which there are two other studies for the same head in the Louvre (estimate: €20,000-30,000). There is also a wash drawing by the most famous history painter of his time, François-André Vincent, Deux épisodes du Gil Blas de Lesage, estimated at €30,000-40,000.
Mr and Mrs Forneri have also enriched their important collection with sumptuous Decorative works of art. The collection includes a large number of painted enamel pieces, such as a splendid enamel ewer with a prestigious provenance. The richly decorated composition is inspired by an engraving illustrated in the Quadrins historiques de la Bible, a work first published in Lyon in 1553. Although unsigned, this ewer can be attributed to Jean Court, bearing similarities to two signed tazzes now in the Frick Collection in New York (estimate: €80,000-120,000).
Another object of interest is a large oval enamel dish (1561), painted in greyscale with gold highlights, a true painting of a battle scene against Amaleck by Pierre Reymond, a famous Limousin enameller of the Renaissance. The technique of painted enamels, born in the previous century, was considerably perfected in the 16th century and the works of Pierre Reymond, many of which are preserved in renowned institutions throughout the world, are evidence of great technical skill.
The artist produced objects of great quality and of various kinds (salt cellars, a pair of which is also offered at €20,000-30,000, ewers, plates or bowls). An exceptional piece where the ornamentation adapts to the shape of the object and coming from the former collection of the Earl of Roseberry (Mentmore Towers, ill. on the right), estimated at 150,000-250,000€. Collectors will also have the opportunity to acquire polychrome enamel plaques, including a set of twelve plaques depicting the Apostles by another Limousin master, Colin Nouhailher, estimated at €30,000-50,000.
Furniture – the couple’s first passion which comprises a rich selection of lots: consoles, secretaries, chandeliers, armchairs, mirrors, carpets, corner fountains… – is thus celebrated through the greatest cabinetmakers, such as an elegant Transitional period commode, stamped by Jean-François Oeben (15,000-25,000€). Oeben’s creativity can be seen in the marquetry and design of this commode, which won over a prestigious clientele such as Madame de Pompadour, to whom he supplied furniture through the merchant Lazare Duvaux from 1752.
The marquise also intervened on his behalf in 1754 giving him the title of King’s cabinetmaker-mechanic and helped him getting housing at the Gobelins factory. Another remarkable piece attributed to Joseph Feuerstein is a secretary, also from the Transition period, in rosewood veneer, amaranth and marquetry, a model comparable to ours is in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin (estimate: €20,000-40,000). Collectors will also be able to acquire a very fine pair of armchairs, stamped by Mathieu Bauve (estimate: €15,000-20,000), a researcher and innovator, who developed an atypical repertoire of exaggerated forms and lines, combined with a classical ornamental vocabulary, such as the acanthus leaf, the volute, the interlacing, the piastres and other laurel garlands.
Lovers of the sculpture will be delighted with remarkable pieces of great modernity and yet very ancient, such as this marble female idol with refined lines, delicately sculpted with the head in the shape of a lyre (2600-2500 BC), estimated at €70,000-90,000.
The Forneris also turned to Oceanic art, collecting important works, such as a superb Malagan statue presented in a beautiful state of conservation and estimated at €50,000-70,000 or a statue of the island of Bougainville (€12,000-18,000) both from former Czech collections. Asian Art also did not escape their thirst for discovery, acquiring a magnificent pair of six-leaf screens, emblematic of Japanese art, estimated at €20,000-30,000.
Auction: 28 September 2021 at 2pm
Exhibition: From 24 to 27 September from 10 am to 6 pm. Open on Sunday 26 September from 2 pm to 6 pm
Christie’s : 9 avenue Matignon, 75008 Paris