‘Mixing various periods together lends a certain musicality’

Leading French designer Hervé Van der Straeten selects some of his favourite pieces from The Exceptional Sale on 28 November, ranging from an Art Nouveau sculpture of a vampiric goddess to an exquisitely carved Louis XVI chair

Hervé Van der Straeten is one of France’s most respected designers, known for the bold design and meticulous craftsmanship of his furniture and lighting, among other inventive pieces. 

‘Many art forms have inspired my work: architecture, contemporary art and also the decorative arts of different periods,’ Van der Straeten says. ‘I am very curious [about] nature. I'm interested in a lot of things and these get translated into my work.’

It is perhaps no surprise, then, that when asked to select his favourite pieces from The Exceptional Sale, which sees a wide range of decorative objects with extraordinary provenance offered on 28 November at Christie’s in Paris, Van der Straeten’s picks are particularly diverse.

Agathon Léonard (1841-1923), Le Vampire ou la chauve-souris, c. 1903. Height 84 cm (33⅛  in). Estimate €100,000-150,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November 2017  at Christie’s in Paris

Agathon Léonard (1841-1923), Le Vampire ou la chauve-souris, c. 1903. Height: 84 cm (33⅛ in). Estimate: €100,000-150,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Among his highlights is a gilt bronze figure — seemingly half-woman, half-bat — executed circa 1903 by French Art Nouveau sculptor Agathon Léonard. This ‘phantasmagoric bronze’ illustrates the ‘tormented and sinister aspects of Symbolism,’ Van der Straeten says, and would have appealed to the imaginative taste of the 19th-century avant-garde.


A pair of porcelain Chinese-style onion vases by Charles-Nicolas Dodin, 18th century. Height 15.5  cm (6¼  in). Estimate €60,000-100,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November 2017  at Christie’s in Paris

A pair of porcelain Chinese-style onion vases by Charles-Nicolas Dodin, 18th century. Height: 15.5 cm (6¼ in). Estimate: €60,000-100,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

A pair of 18th-century Sèvres porcelain vases by Charles-Nicolas Dodin ‘recall my associations with Asia’, says the designer. ‘The vases represent the Western vision of an idealised China.’ These unusually shaped vases were used for displaying fashionable flower bulbs such as hyacinths, narcissi and tulips.

Louis Carrogis, known as Carmontelle (Paris 1717-1806), Ensemble de cinq transparents représentant des paysages des Campagnes de France. 43 x 221  cm (16⅞ x 87  in); 42 x 152  cm (16 ½ x 59⅞  in); 42 x 161  cm (16 ½ x 63⅜  in); 40 x 39  cm (15⅜ x 15⅜  in); 41 x 35.5  cm (16⅛ x 14  in). Estimate €150,000-250,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November

Louis Carrogis, known as Carmontelle (Paris 1717-1806), Ensemble de cinq transparents représentant des paysages des 'Campagnes de France'. 43 x 221 cm (16⅞ x 87 in); 42 x 152 cm (16 ½ x 59⅞ in); 42 x 161 cm (16 ½ x 63⅜ in); 40 x 39 cm (15⅜ x 15⅜ in); 41 x 35.5 cm (16⅛ x 14 in). Estimate: €150,000-250,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

A panoramic work by Louis Carrogis, known as Carmontelle, ‘is a very interesting and fun piece’, Van der Straeten says. ‘It’s the ancestor of the moving image, if you like. This big panel would be go inside what was called a “magic lantern”, and the piece would be backlit. This was very fitting in the Age of Enlightenment,’ he explains, when optics, perspective and light were at the centre of the attention of scientists and artists alike.

‘It is very interesting to look at all the little details,’ the designer continues. ‘The colours are quite intense because it was made to be lit from the inside.’

Bergère d’epoque Louis XVI, last quarter of the 18th century. Height 100  cm (39¼  in), length 62  cm (29½  in). Estimate €150,000-250,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November 2017  at Christie’s in Paris

Bergère d’epoque Louis XVI, last quarter of the 18th century. Height: 100 cm (39¼ in), length: 62 cm (29½ in). Estimate: €150,000-250,000. This lot is offered in The Exceptional Sale on 28 November 2017 at Christie’s in Paris

Van der Straeten was also ‘seduced’ by a Louis XVI chair made of mahogany, without any fabric. ‘The finish on the ram heads,’ on the armrests, ‘and many other details, are of a very high quality,’ he says. ‘The design is very graphic but at the same time it feels extremely sturdy.’

‘Personally, I like to surround myself with pieces from different eras and places,’ the designer continues. ‘Mixing these various periods together lends a certain musicality. It doesn't mean that you can’t show them with contemporary pieces. They are little nods to our past and our history.’