• 19th Century Furniture, Sculpt auction at Christies

    Sale 2210

    19th Century Furniture, Sculpture, Works of Art & Ceramics

    20 October 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 51

    AN ORMOLU-MOUNTED TULIPWOOD AND MARQUETRY GRAND PIANO

    THE MOVEMENT BY STEINWAY & SONS, NEW YORK, SERIAL NUMBER 122780, 1906, THE CASE ADAPTED WITH ASSOCIATED LEGS, STRETCHER AND KEYS, THE MOUNTS ADDED AND PARTIALLY BY JOSEPH-EMMANUEL ZWIENER, LATE 19TH/EARLY 20TH CENTURY

    Price Realised  

    AN ORMOLU-MOUNTED TULIPWOOD AND MARQUETRY GRAND PIANO
    THE MOVEMENT BY STEINWAY & SONS, NEW YORK, SERIAL NUMBER 122780, 1906, THE CASE ADAPTED WITH ASSOCIATED LEGS, STRETCHER AND KEYS, THE MOUNTS ADDED AND PARTIALLY BY JOSEPH-EMMANUEL ZWIENER, LATE 19TH/EARLY 20TH CENTURY
    The hinged lid applied with classically draped maidens and cloud-borne putti, above shaped sides inlaid with floral bouquets and mounted with female terms, with a serpentine ormolu-moulded music rest and mother-of-pearl veneered keys, flanked by a pair of putto-form candelabra, one signed J Zwiener/Paris 1896, on Apollo mask-headed cabriole legs and a lyre-shaped pedal support, the movement with serial number and various patent stamps, the associated legs stamped 95631 and 2639, the top of lyre stamped 12182/J1163
    Open: 66½ in. (169 cm.) high; 68½ in. (174 cm.) wide; 92½ in. (235 cm.) long; Closed: 44¼ in. (112.3 cm.) high


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    Registered as a Model B, this extraordinary art-case piano is an homage to the Belle Epoque with lush, sculptural mounts by the one of the century's most celebrated cabinetmakers. According to Steinway records, the original 1906 case was manufactured in Hamburg and delivered to Steinway & Son in London on 30 November 1906 and was subsequently sold to James Co. of Nottingham on December 31st of the same year. The piano did not reappear until 1926 when the case arrived at Steinway & Son's New York factory on October 25th for interior repairs, though the extent of the repairs performed and the responsible party were not fully detailed. The piano resurfaced once again at Parke- Bernet Galleries (now Sotheby's) in New York on 14 December 1940 and sold to an anonymous bidder for $1,250.

    Little is known of its history between the sale at Parke-Bernet in 1940 and its acquisition by the current owner's father during a European excursion during the early 1950s. As the modifications took place during some of the most tumultuous years of the 20th century, it is almost certain that the case was acquired by an affluent patron with ample funding for the project. During this undocumented decade, the case was liberated from the restrained lines of the Louis XVI style and set on sinuous cabriole legs and profusely mounted with scantily-clad figures and cavorting putti. Additionally, the music rest and keyboard were adapted to fit the selected ormolu mouldings and mother-of-pearl keys.

    Whilst the mounts are a mélange of styles and qualities, the overall design is punctuated by the pair of prominent putto-form candelabra by the renown ébéniste Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener. The candelabra, likely repurposed from a bureau or other meuble, are almost certainly based on a Léon Méssagé design and also bear a rarely-seen and elaborate signature for Zwiener. Though the intended purpose of these mounts has not been fully established, it is widely known that Méssagé's influence was prevalent in both Zwiener's and François Linke's creations. It is not surprising that some mounts were strikingly similar, if not of the same design provided to the cabinetmakers by the sculptor (see C. Payne, François Linke: The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, 2003, p. 73). A pair of candelabra resembling those on the present lot are illustrated in a preliminary watercolour drawing for Linke's 'Figaro' piano (Index No. 1400), though the candelabra were ultimately omitted in the final design (C. Payne, p.452, pl. 537).

    Provenance

    Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 12-14 December 1940, lot 631


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, HOUSTON, TEXAS