Christie's | Fine Art Auction House

YSL Sale Exclusive


Of the varied and fascinating lots in the last in the series of sales of the collection of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé, which offered Asian Art, Ceramics, Furniture and Antiquities, the bronze heads of a rat and a rabbit, made for the Emperor Qianlong's clepsydra at his summer palace were the highest lots, achieving €15,745,000/$20,297,268 each on the phone. Antiquities were very successful indeed, notably the rare Roman marble statue depicting the Minotaur, which greeted visitors in the rotunda entrance to the Grand Palais. The Roman marble torso which guarded the entrance hall of Yves Saint Laurent's apartment, overlooked by a superb pair of vases by Jean Dunand which made €3,089,000/$3,982,106 against a high estimate of €1,500,000/$1,916,520 in the 20th Century Decorative Arts sale which was also highly successful.

The very last lot in this historic sale of 733 superb works of art was a l9th century Sèvres breakfast set in the Chinese manner, which made €361,000/$465,374 against an estimate of €60,000/$76,661. After this stunning last result, the audience of over 1,000 gave leading auctioneer Francois de Ricqles, who had led off the sales and who knocked this last lot down, a lengthy ovation. He deserved it.
The marble Minotaur which Yves Saint Laurent positioned on his terrace, together with Lalanne's visionary marble chairs shaped like birds in flight, is Roman and was carved in the 2nd century A.D. It sold for €913,000/$1,176,971 against a high estimate of €500,000/$638,840.
On entering Yves Saint Laurent's unique apartment, the visitor was greeted by this outsized Roman marble torso of an athlete. The torso made €1,297,000/$1,671,995 against a high estimate of €500,000/$638,840. Other antiquities, notably a wooden Egyptian sarcophagus and a Roman column in marble also did extremely well.
Sèvres made this porcelain reticulated breakfast set in the series which they produced from l839 to l842. It bears the mark of the painter Pierre Huard and, estimated at €40,000-60,000, it achieved €361,000/$465,374 - a fittingly triumphant end to an extraordinary and historic sale.


The wonderful bronze head of Janus was the top lot of the six hour Sculpture and Works of Art sale – selling for €1,750,000/$2,587,302 against a high estimate of €200,000/$255,536 euros. This piece, probably more than any other in these sales, illustrates both Christie’s specialist expertise and a remarkable stroke of coincidence or luck. ‘We always thought this bronze was French, and dated to around l600’ Donald Johnston, the specialist in charge told me. ‘But two days before the catalogue was due to go to press, my colleague Isabelle Degut was at a study day connected with the recent exhibition of French bronzes at the Louvre. She was struck by the similarity of the head of a full length bronze Venus from Fontainebleau to the Yves Saint Laurent Pierre Bergé example. We bought a copy of the exhibition catalogue which had arrived in the bookshops literally days before and as a result we pushed the dating back by forty years. This put the bronze into the circle of Primaticcio (who was responsible for the Fontainebleau Venus), on the command of King Francois I’.
The Janus led a marvellous sale ranging from cameos to rare ivory cups to jewelled rock crystal cups and an extraordinary collection of Limoges and Venetian enamels, many of which had been in the collection of couturier Hubert de Givenchy.
These extraordinary l8th century allegorical busts, representing the four continents were greatly sought after, being exquisitely detailed and highly decorative. They made €841,000/$1,074,529 against a high estimate of €300,000/$383,304.
This supremely sophisticated bronze figure of a reclining hermaphrodite after the antique and attributed to Ginafrancesco Susini dates from the second quarter of the l6th century and made €721,000/$921,207 against a high estimate of €350,000/$447,188 euros.
20th Century Decorative Arts sold to a full room who sat completely silent when Lot 276 – Eileen Gray’s Dragons’ chair sold to Parisian dealers Robert and Cheska Vallois on behalf of a client for €21,905,000/$28,341,909. However, this was only the beginning of Gray’s triumph in the sale: of the top ten, five were by this reclusive Irish/French designer. Why so, I asked Philipe Garner and Sonja Ganne, our specialists, after a sale that had so many bids on each lot that it lasted for five hours. ‘I don’t like categorising her’ Philipe explained ‘but she really was an artist/creator, as well as being a designer. Her unique spirit is evident from her early lacquer through to her later reductionist/modernist pieces. Everything she did’ he told me ‘was so different and distinctive’. Is the cross over between art and design in the contemporary field now having an effect on earlier periods of creativity? If Gray Dragons’ chair is so prized that it makes major ‘fine art’ money then this is an important trend in 20th Century Decorative Arts to be watched. Not so much decorative, as art.
The Dragons’ chair was sourced by Robert and Cheska Vallois, at the sale of couturier Suzanne Talbot’s effects, for whom it had been made. They sold it on to a dealer/collector who sold it to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Now, after forty years, the Vallois’ have bought it back on behalf of a client.
Sold for €21,905,000/$28,341,909
The Enfilade represents a very early period in Eileen Gray’s work when she was experimenting with a variety of materials. For my money, it references classical 18th century Irish furniture Gray would have seen when she was growing up in Ireland.
Sold for €3,985,000/$5,156,015
This wonderful reductionist/modernist light hung in the corridor outside Yves Saint Laurent’s bedroom and, having been designed in 1925, shows the influence of the Bauhaus and in particular that of Le Corbusier, Gray’s great friend and collaborator.
Sold for €2,977,000/$3,851,808
Collecting silver used to be a quiet, academic pursuit. Not anymore. Bidders amounted to over 1,000 in the saleroom at the Grand Palais and yesterday they bought 100% of the 110 lots on offer to the tune of nearly €20 million. What Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé had collected in an era when silver was not fashionable was nevertheless the very best, having been in the possession of kings and princely electors in 16th and 17th century Germany.

Stars of the show were the Hanover cups of silver and vermeil which totalled €6,134,000. The top lot was the rare Osterode cup estimated at €100,000-150,000 which made a staggering €853,000/$1,103,697. Is it time for the really grand Schloss look to come back into fashion? Galerie J.Kugel who bought them and much else in the sale, thought so. They had sold them to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé originally. Another memorable piece was the extraordinary 17th century armillary sphere supported by Chronos - estimated at €200,000–300,000. It made €781,000/$1,010,501.
The Osterode cup was the top lot – a princely piece to grace any King’s board. It is, in fact four cups and was displayed, together with its Hanoverian fellow cups on special mounts on the wall in Pierre Bergé’s handsome salon in his apartment in the rue Bonaparte, together with Old Master pictures – the best kind of academic taste.
The armillary sphere supported by Chronos of silver and vermeil is more of a sculpture than a piece of domestic or ceremonial silver. Made in Troppau in 1630, it has that supreme air of the High Renaissance about it.
The charming series of animals in this sale that were used to decorate dining tables in princely houses were deservedly sought-after; this important cygnet in vermeil, made in 1593 was estimated at €70,000-100,000 and made €301,000/$389,451 and the silver and vermeil unicorn did even better at €325,000/$420,503.
After last night did harsh reality set in this morning? No. The quieter areas of Old Master and 19th Century Pictures were not sleepy hollow. The Frans Hals had been talked down by the trade and the press but lo! It marched, for 3,100,000 euros against a tip-top estimate of 1,200,000 euros. No secret of the interest in the Gericault double portrait of two sinister children. This covered several waterfronts, having a surrealist slant, whilst also calling Balthus to mind. ‘It is a truly great picture; atypical maybe but I was so happy when it made 8,000,000 euros’ said Paul Raison. That was 2 million euros over the high estimate.

High estimates? The silver sale which followed Old Masters sold every single one of sixteen gold boxes over high estimate, including a George II box which went for ten times more. The sale is still on and there has been one pass and everything else – everything else – has sold over high estimate. The triumph of connoisseur taste in a new collecting era I would say.
The Gericault Portrait of the Dedreux children. This is one of the strongest paintings Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé owned and illustrates their penchant for portraits ranging from Goya to Warhol and their courage in collecting atypical works of art such as this.
Portrait of a Man holding a book by Frans Hals is, I am told, Pierre Bergé’s favourite painting, as the use of the diagonals give it a very modern take and increase the psychological tension inherent in this portrait.
This important, beautiful and historic portrait box with a miniature of Louis XIV by Jean Petitot set in its crowned lid of diamonds was bought by the Louvre; thus Louis will go home again.
'We are in Paris, not New York and at 206 million euros; this is the biggest single owner collection ever sold and' said a jubilant François Curiel 'there are six more sales to come'. The smiles on the faces of François de Ricqles, the main architect of the sale, Pierre Bergé and Christie's owner François Pinault, told their own tale of triumph after a barrage of doubts both in the press and in the art market itself.

And the tally is extraordinary. Ten world records, led by Yves Saint Laurent's favourite painting; Matisse's 'Les Couscous tapis bleu et rose', 1911 which fetched an astonishing 35,905,000 euros. The Brancusi 'Portrait of Madam R' fetched 26,000,000, the second highest price of the night. The price of 7,900,000 euros for the Duchamp piece was the talk of the after sale. There were only two failures, notably the Picasso 1914 cubist picture. But its non-sale pleased Pierre Bergé who told everyone it would be going straight back on his wall. It was, as they say, a great night.
Matisse was the top lot in the sale. Painted in 1911, its combination of the prism of pattern, its colour, its relationship to the natural world and to abstraction, as a precursor to modernism, means that it is the bridge between 19th century and 20th century art.
This Brancusi wooden 'Portrait of Madam L.R.' was first owned by Fernand Leger who swapped it with Brancusi, for a painting. It was the first major piece Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé bought for themselves after, as Bergé puts it 'we started to make serious money in the early 1970's.'
François de Ricqles, the leading French auctioneer here with François Pinault; the owner of Christie's has worked with Pierre Bergé and an international staff of specialists from Christie's since last July to structure this extraordinary sale.
Upwards of 30,000 people queued for five hours from six in the morning until midnight this rainy weekend outside the Grand Palais to see the collection; there were Hermes bag ladies in minks and sables, ladies in vintage YSL couture, tweeds, puffers and anoraks. The queues have been the longest ever at the Grand Palais.

Pierre Bergé gave a private party for 2,500 on Friday night. Standing serenely by the Roman Minotaur which opens the exhibition, he greeted his guests with Moujik, the last of Yves Saint Laurent’s French bulldogs.

Led by Saint Laurent’s right hand; Helene de Ludinghausen, eighty ‘petites mains’ from the couture house joined YSL mannequins, figures from French politics (President Sarkozy had toured privately with M Bergé earlier) including ex Prime Minister Laurent Fabius, and Simone Veil, former President of the EU. Saint Laurent’s long-time muse white-blonde Betty Catroux was there; so was Chanel’s biographer Edmonde Charles-Roux and Bianca Jagger. It was a great Paris party. Even the taxi drivers were talking about it the next day.

The biggest sale Christie’s has ever undertaken will have 1,500 clients from all over the world seated in the Grand Palais tonight and 600 standing. ‘Clients have flown in from all over the world and the sense of anticipation has been building all weekend’ says Jussi Pylkkanen, President of Christie’s Europe. ‘We expect huge competition in the saleroom. It will be an historic sale’.
Pierre Bergé (left) greets guests at his private party with Moujik the bulldog. When he saw the exhibition installation by Nathalie Criniere; he said ‘It’s magic just like a film by D.W. Griffiths’.
Breaking News – Pierre Bergé has made a gift to the Musee d’Orsay of the tapestry ‘Adoration of the Magi’ by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, which once hung in the historic Lutyens house Les Moutiers in Normandy. The Goya portrait which hung in the drawing room has been donated to the Louvre.