• Historical Design Reflects: Th auction at Christies

    Sale 2392

    Historical Design Reflects: The East 61st Street Years

    8 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 363



    Price Realised  

    A Hand-Repoussé Brass and Nickled-Metal Five-Panel 'Oasis' Screen, 1920s
    with lacquered details, nickeled-bronze feet, the reverse fabric upholstered
    each panel: 55½ in. (141 cm.) high, 18 7/8 in. (48 cm.) wide

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    Edgar Brandt's display room #45 in the Salon d' Ameublement at the
    1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes was a treasure trove of the Art Moderne style rendered in wrought-iron and bronze. Among the plethora of superb ironwork: a console, torchères, sconces and grilles, was the masterful screen L'Oasis.

    This five-paneled screen, six feet high and eight feet long, in
    silvered-iron and electroplated brass was seen by millions of people,
    both at the fair, and in magazines and newspapers. Its flowing
    fountain, the focal point -la source- for the luxuriant tropical garden of circular gear-like flowers scattered amongst large chevroned croton leaves, was admired and copied.

    An unknown artisan, possibly a goldsmith, or a coppersmith - certainly a veritable master of repoussé, made the screen that Christie's presents in this sale. In repoussé, the design is marked on the back of thin sheet metal and placed on a bed of pitch (coal tar). The artist accomplishes the design by pounding from the back with various mallets.

    Conceivably, this smaller version of Brandt's design was a backdrop
    for a theatrical presentation, or part of the setting for a jazz
    nightclub revue. Perhaps a decorator commissioned it for an Art Deco boudoir or salon. Whether it is American or European is secondary to the fact that it is a superior example of metalwork. Christie's
    screen is not an exact copy of Brandt's L'Oasis; its smaller scale and the repouse technique give it a subtle and jewel-like presence. The
    delicate folded edges of the leaves, and the overlapping of the
    flowers, leaves and water lines are skillfully done. The crimped
    flowers appear to be spinning in a tropical constellation. The gold
    background scrolls catch the light and play off the silvered
    fountain. Minute pins hold all the elements securely. In a touch of
    whimsy, the artisan placed a thin line of red lacquer to eight of the

    If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this screen honors its iconic model, L'Oasis, and yet retains its autonomy as a separate
    work of art.

    Joan Kahr


    Private collection, Detroit