cf. B. Foucart et al., Normandie: Queen of the Seas, New York, 1985, p. 67 for a complete view of the Normandie mural now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, p. 71 for the mural in situ on board the ocean liner in the Grand Salon;
J. Maxtone-Graham, Normandie: France's Legendary Art Deco Ocean Liner, New York, 2007, p. 93 for a detail of the Normandie murals featuring the section represented in the current lot.
This allegorical subject, incorporating a bearded figure, a Pegasus, the bulging eyes of a sea monster, and a siren against stylized waves, is constituted from two panels that duplicate two central panels from the section 'The Chariot of Poseidon' from the suite of four murals conceived by Jean Dupas in 1934 for the Grand Salon of Normandie, launched in 1935, the greatest luxury liner of its day, and perhaps of all time.
This magnificent vessel was in effect a floating museum, the last great testament to the glories of French Art Deco, incorporating designs commissioned from leading artists of the day, notably such figures as Jean Dunand and Jean Dupas, who had earned considerable acclaim at the Paris ehibition of 1925. The Normandie mural was a total of four hundred meters square. The most substantial surviving elements are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Normandie traveled between France and New York and served as an impressive ambassador for French talent with its American passengers.
The present mural is an exceptionally rare version, on a scale that can be presented in a domestic context, of a key element from what might be described as Dupas's most visible and most important commission; and, by virtue of the trans-Atlantic dimension of the original context, this work might be seen as a perfect metaphor for Steven Greenberg's New York perspective on French Art Deco.
Expert and Bouvens, the architects of Normandie, had stipulated that the materials for decorative elements be resistant, smooth and reflective. These were to include Dunand's lacquer, glass by Lalique, and of course the spectacular use of verre églomisé by Jean Dupas, who responded with a determination to 'make something bountiful and grandiose'. To this end, he enlisted the help of master glassworker Jacques-Charles Champigneulle, who translated his drawings into panels that shimmered with gold, silver and palladium. And so the artist's reflective glass murals harmonized with the reflecting columns of glass by Lalique and the lustrous lacquer of Dunand's doors - decorated with motifs by Dupas on the theme of the winds, the aurora and night. The result was an environment of overwhelming luxury.
This work will be included in the Jean Dupas catalogue raisonné
currently being prepared by Romain Lefebvre.