• The Steven A Greenberg Collect auction at Christies

    Sale 2651

    The Steven A Greenberg Collection Masterpieces of French Art Deco

    12 - 13 December 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 20

    JEAN DUNAND (1877-1942)

    AN OCCASIONAL TABLE, 1923

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    JEAN DUNAND (1877-1942)
    AN OCCASIONAL TABLE, 1923
    lacquered wood, inlaid with eggshell
    15 in. (38 cm.) high, 27 3/8 in. (70 cm.) square
    branded Jean Dunand Laqueur


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    This remarkable table is the perfect expression of the vision of Jean Dunand, in terms both of its concept and of its execution. An exquisitely crafted piece, deploying the lacquer techniques in which Dunand had proved himself an unrivalled master, the table also illustrates the artist's great skill in devising forms and motifs that draw inspiration from multiple sources and constitute an impressive lexicon of avant-garde imagery through the Art Deco years.

    The seeming simplicity of the design is deceptive, for the form and its decoration are carefully and subtly considered. The legs of the near-square table in fact have angled corners that echo the diagonal placement of the geometric decoration extending from the tabletop down these faceted legs. The decoration incorporates areas of lacquer inlaid with minute particles of crushed eggshell, a painstaking process that became a signature feature of Dunand's work. The decoration, faultlessly integrated with the structure, is rendered with an elegant restraint in a near-monochrome palette, the eggshell and silver-grey areas providing the necessary contrast with the black ground.

    The table was first exhibited at the Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, in 1923. A contemporary photograph (see illustration) shows it supporting a lamp and set before a fine screen, both executed by Dunand to designs by his collaborator Jean Lambert-Rucki. The screen, decorated with highly stylized animal subjects is another highlight of the Steven Greenberg collection (see lot 9). The early 20s date of execution confirms that Dunand was ahead of his time in developing such crisp geometric motifs to decorate his creations, for it was not until the latter years of the decade that such styles became widely fashionable. Jean Dunand proved himself a kind of artistic conductor rod, adapting to the mood of the moment and seemingly able to anticipate and perfectly express progressive stylistic directions. The decorative motif that Dunand has conceived for this table calls to mind the work of key artists revolutionizing the world of painting. We are reminded most notably of the experiments in a rigorous yet expressive abstraction of the Russian Suprematists, and particularly of certain paintings by Kazimir Malevitch (see illustration).

    Lost from view for over half a century, the table came to auction in Monte Carlo in 1987. It had been in the distinguished Wittgenstein family in Vienna, celebrated patrons of the Viennese avant-garde in the early years of the century and evidently responsive to the artistic messages implicit in this exceptional piece.

    Provenance

    Wittgenstein Family, Vienna;
    Sotheby's, Monaco, 5 April 1987, lot 264.


    Literature

    Mobilier et Décoration, February 1926, pp. 38, 42;
    Exhibition catalogue, Jean Dunand Jean Goulden, Galerie de Luxembourg, Paris, 1973, p. 12 for a period photograph of a group of works by Jean Dunand including the present table;
    F. Marcilhac, Jean Dunand: His Life and Works, New York, 1991, p. 247, cat. no. 428.


    Exhibited

    Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, 1923, no. 6.