Exquisite craftsmanship and ‘perfectly beautiful objects’

Specialists Casey Rogers and Giles Forster present highlights from A Golden Age, a sale of fine furniture and works of art from the top Parisian ateliers of the 19th century

‘What connects the pieces in this exceptional group is the exquisite craftsmanship of these top makers,’ explains Casey Rogers, Christie’s specialist, of the works offered in A Golden Age: An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art  on 16 October in New York.

The auction presents furniture by the top Parisian cabinet makers of the 19th century, including works by the Beurdeley dynasty, Paul Sormani, Henry Dasson, Lexcellent, and Françios Linke.

‘The best Paris-made furniture is so exquisitely crafted,’ notes Giles Forster, Decorative Arts specialist at Christie’s. ‘It combines rare materials and precious materials to create perfectly beautiful objects.’

A fine French ormolu and lapis lazuli-mounted mahogany, amaranth and burr-amboyna bonheur du jour in the manner of Adam Weisweiler, by Henry Dasson, Paris, circa 1880. 43 12 in (100.5 cm) high, 30 34 in (78.1 cm) wide, 16.12 in (41.9 cm) deep. Estimate $25,000–35,000. Offered in A Golden Age An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christies in

A fine French ormolu and lapis lazuli-mounted mahogany, amaranth and burr-amboyna bonheur du jour in the manner of Adam Weisweiler, by Henry Dasson, Paris, circa 1880. 43 1/2 in (100.5 cm) high, 30 3/4 in (78.1 cm) wide, 16.1/2 in (41.9 cm) deep. Estimate: $25,000–35,000. Offered in A Golden Age: An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christie's in New York

The first piece the specialists look at is a writing desk by Henry Dasson (1825-1896), who specialised in the production of Louis XIV, XV and XVI-style furniture using the finest gilt-bronze mounts. ‘What I really love about this piece is just how deluxe it is in the use of exotic materials,’ enthuses Rogers. ‘Be it in the timbers or the hard stones, with the lapis lazuli, or the burr-amboyna with plum pudding mahogany drawers that are so representative of Dasson’s work.’

Made at the beginning of the Belle Époque — a time of prosperity and success, the stunning use of materials in this desk is indicative of the optimistic, pre-World War period that witnessed the Great Exhibitions of the 19th century, such as the Paris Exposition Universelles  of 1878, 1889 and 1900, and the American World’s Fairs of 1893 in Chicago and 1904 in St. Louis. ‘It was the last time,’ says Forster, ‘that works of this quality could be made.’

Benoît (known as Bénédict) Rougelet (French, 1834–1894), Le bacchanal, circa 1880-1890. Marble on an ormolu-mounted rouge marble plinth. La bacchanal 28 12 in (72.4 cm) high, 24 in (61 cm) wide. Estimate $40,000–60,000. Offered in A Golden Age An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christies in New York

Benoît (known as Bénédict) Rougelet (French, 1834–1894), Le bacchanal, circa 1880-1890. Marble on an ormolu-mounted rouge marble plinth. La bacchanal: 28 1/2 in (72.4 cm) high, 24 in (61 cm) wide. Estimate: $40,000–60,000. Offered in A Golden Age: An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christie's in New York

This pair of drunken putti by Benoît Rougelet (1834-1894), who first showed at the Salon of 1868, is carved from imported Italian Carrara marble

This pair of drunken putti by Benoît Rougelet (1834-1894), who first showed at the Salon of 1868, is carved from imported Italian Carrara marble

Rogers and Forster move on to admire a group of drunken putti  by Benoît Rougelet (1834-1894), who first showed at the Paris Salon of 1868. Carved from imported Italian Carrara marble, the most precious medium for sculpture, the works reference classical antiquity, and specifically the story of Bacchus. ‘It’s done in a very late 19th-century treatment of the marble,’ says Rogers, who points out the skill involved in achieving the movement and playfulness of the drunken figures.

A French ormolu-mounted ebony, ebonized, and gilt-decorated lacquer commode after the model by Martin Carlin, by E. Guillaume-Edmond Lexcellent, Paris, late 19th century. 39.12 in. (100 cm.) high, 73 in. (185.5 cm.) wide, 22.14 in. (56 cm.) deep. Estimate $40,000–60,000. Offered in A Golden Age An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christies in

A French ormolu-mounted ebony, ebonized, and gilt-decorated lacquer commode after the model by Martin Carlin, by E. Guillaume-Edmond Lexcellent, Paris, late 19th century. 39.1/2 in. (100 cm.) high, 73 in. (185.5 cm.) wide, 22.1/4 in. (56 cm.) deep. Estimate: $40,000–60,000. Offered in A Golden Age: An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christie's in New York

Lexcellent was a contemporary of Dasson and exhibited successfully at a number of exhibitions. The cabinet on offer in the sale features lacquer panels with ‘crazing and craquelure to look as if they’ve been aged,’ says Rogers, and made ‘bowed to fit like a glove’. Forster, meanwhile, marvels at the fact the drawer still closes with nothing more than ‘a swoosh of air’ some 150 years later.

A French carved mahogany étagère by Escalier de Cristal, Paris, last quarter 19th century. 53 12 in (136 cm) high, 20 in (51 cm) wide. Estimate $8,000–12,000. Offered in A Golden Age An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christies in New York

A French carved mahogany étagère by Escalier de Cristal, Paris, last quarter 19th century. 53 1/2 in (136 cm) high, 20 in (51 cm) wide. Estimate: $8,000–12,000. Offered in A Golden Age: An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christie's in New York

A French ormolu-mounted tulipwood cartonnier-cabinet by Escalier de Cristal, Paris, last quarter 19th century. 42 in (107 cm) high, 40 in (101.5 cm) wide, 11 14 in (28.5 cm) deep. Estimate $5,000–8,000. Offered in A Golden Age An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christies in New York

A French ormolu-mounted tulipwood cartonnier-cabinet by Escalier de Cristal, Paris, last quarter 19th century. 42 in (107 cm) high, 40 in (101.5 cm) wide, 11 1/4 in (28.5 cm) deep. Estimate: $5,000–8,000. Offered in A Golden Age: An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christie's in New York

Though wildly different in design, the two pieces shown above — a carved mahogany étagère  and an ormolu-mounted tulipwood cartonnier-cabinet — are actually by the same maker and foremost retailer, Escalier de Cristal. ‘Their variety was unmatched in the Paris market,’ says Rogers.

A large French ormolu mantel clock by Alfred-Emmanuel (known as Alfred II) Beurdeley, Paris, late 19th century. 40 in (101.5 cm) high, 19 12 in (49.5 cm) wide, 9 14 in (23.5 cm.) deep. Estimate $10,000–15,000. Offered in A Golden Age An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christies in New York

A large French ormolu mantel clock by Alfred-Emmanuel (known as Alfred II) Beurdeley, Paris, late 19th century. 40 in (101.5 cm) high, 19 1/2 in (49.5 cm) wide, 9 1/4 in (23.5 cm.) deep. Estimate: $10,000–15,000. Offered in A Golden Age: An Important Collection of 19th Century Furniture & Decorative Art, 16 October at Christie's in New York

Finishing with a magnificent mantle clock by one of the greatest makers of the period, the Beurdeley dynasty, Forster stresses the importance of signed works, which illustrate how ‘great makers were competing with each other to make the most exquisite furniture and works of art.’ The specific hallmarks for each specific maker continue to be a stamp of quality, letting modern buyers know they are investing in something of lasting value in the same way as they did for their contemporary clients.

‘What I love about this category,’ Rogers says in summary, ‘is that you see objects that transcend time and space and could be seen in any contemporary interior today.’