Christie’s is pleased to announce the sale of Treasures of France, From The Sun King To The Belle Époque – Vincennes And Sèvres Porcelain, French Furniture, Old Master Paintings, Books And Textiles From The Collection Of Dr. Bruce Wilson on October 24 in New York. A noted cardiologist in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Wilson has assembled one of the most important private collections of Vincennes and Sèvres porcelain of recent times in America, acquiring an amazing range of pieces from some of the most famous services of the 18th Century. Dr. Wilson became fascinated, not only with the extraordinary level of craftsmanship of French decorative arts, but also with the historic connections these pieces gave him, leading to a truly museum-quality collection. Intricately inlaid Louis XIV marquetry cabinets and lacquer commodes are complemented by paintings by Boucher and Huet and gilt-tooled leather bookbindings made for royal libraries. The sale is expected to realize in excess of $5 million.
In conjunction with the sale of Treasures of France, Christie’s will present Collecting Then & Now – The Timeless Appeal of French Craftsmanship, a symposium on October 21. Beginning at 2pm on Sunday, the symposium will feature discussions led by renowned experts, including Dame Rosalind Savill, director emeritus of The Wallace Collection, and Ulrich Leben, professor at Bard Graduate Center and associate keeper of furniture at The Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor. Topics will range from The Relevance of Collecting 18th Century French Works of Art In the 21st Century to Fashion Icons &Taste Makers in the Golden Age of French Style. For more information, please contact Johanna Josefsson at +1 212 636 2215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Highlights include a magnificent pair of Sèvres porcelain bleu nouveau two-handled vases and covers, circa 1774, which were likely made to commemorate the coronation of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette as the king and queen of France (estimate: $250,000-350,000). Given that these vases would appear to be the only pair of this form and decoration extant, it is likely that they were either a present to the French monarch or presented by him as a diplomatic gift.
A spectacular Louis XIV bibliothèque basse by André-Charles Boulle, cabinet-maker to Louis XIV, is among the furniture highlights of the sale (estimate: $250,000-350,000). Boulle was perhaps the most famous cabinet maker of the late 17th and early 18th century and the distinctive marquetry techniques he perfected have never gone out of fashion. This model of bibliothèque basse appears surprisingly late in his oeuvre, probably being first produced circa 1700 when the ébéniste was already sixty years old. This style of bas d’armoire, enriched with figures of Pomona, Ceres, Mars, and Bacchus enjoyed enormous success from 1720, and was again revived during the Neo-Classical movement of the 1770’s.
A Sèvres porcelain tureen stand from the Service De La Reine, dated 1784, is likely from the service produced specifically for Marie-Antoinette (estimate: $40,000-60,000). In 1784, Marie-Antoinette commissioned an elaborate service from the Sèvres manufactory likely to complement her redecorated apartments at the Tuileries. However, instead of being delivered to its intended recipient, the service was pre-empted for use as a diplomatic gift for Gustave III of Sweden (1746-1792) whom Louis XVI (1754-1793) had invited to France. So pleased was Gustave with this royal gift, that he quickly commissioned an additional 73 pieces in the same pattern from the factory which were delivered on 7 September 1784. Not long to be denied, Marie-Antoinette received her own service in the exact same pattern and design on 26 August 1784 with an additional 24 large oval and round platters.
The Bird Nesters by François Boucher is one of several paintings of nearly identical size, format and genre embraced by the artist upon his return to Paris from Rome in 1731 (estimate: $250,000-350,000). The scene depicts a young female bird seller putting chicks in a cage as an eager suitor attempts to engage her in conversation. In true Rococo fashion, The Bird Nesters employs a pastel palette and fluid paint-handling in depicting the light-hearted scene of a budding romance.
The Duc De Penthièvre Latz Table à la Bourgogne is a masterpiece of the German-born cabinet-maker Jean-Pierre Latz (estimate: $200,000-300,000). The exquisite provenance of the table is particularly noteworthy, as it appears in an inventory drawn up following the death of Louis-Jean-Marie de Bourbon, duc de Penthièvre. Latz’s work is characterized by rich floral marquetry in dense clusters. The charming Arcadian trophy of garden implements on this table, however, appears to be unique in Latz’s oeuvre. Very few pieces of furniture by Latz have an 18th century French provenance, making this table all the more rare.
A pair of Louis XVI White-Painted and Parcel-Gilt Walnut Fauteuils à la Reine by Adrien-Pierre Dupain, circa 1785, has a remarkable royal provenance. They are part of a larger ensemble by Dupain that was probably delivered to Marie Antoinette for either St. Cloud or to the Trianon at Versailles (estimate: $50,000-80,000). St. Cloud was originally intended as the temporary home of the Royal court while Versailles was redeveloped, but these plans were subsequently abandoned and St. Cloud was used as the Queen’s personal summer palace. Although Dupain is not recorded in the archives as one of the menuisiers employed by the Garde-meuble royal, the presence of his stamp along with the royal marks on a canapé from this suite, now at Versailles, these chairs supports the notion that Dupain worked for a Parisian tapissier who then supplied the finished chairs to furnish Marie-Antoinette’s private residence.