• Press release
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  • Paris
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  • For immediate release
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  • 15 September 2022

From Beijing to Versailles, The V.W.S. Collection

A family's odyssey in the 20th Century

Auction in Paris on 13 - 14 December 2022

Touring exhibition to New York, London and Paris

Paris   A breath-taking set of exceptional white and yellow jade artefacts, classical European furniture with some masterpieces of the French 18th century and a selection of Haute-Couture dresses, will be offered on December 13 and 14 by Christie's, with an overall estimate in excess of €7 million. Through the nearly 300 objects, the V.W.S. collection tells the extraordinary story of a family fleeing persecution under the Tsarist Empire in Russia. Spanning styles, geography and historic periods, the collection offers surprising connections between cultures and civilizations, between East and West. Extreme refinement is at the core of a collection seemingly responding to the violence and the countless upheavals of the 20th Century with a display of elegance and sophistication.

This family journey began in 1903 as the Chinese Eastern Railway, the eastern branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway wanted by Russia, was completed. Fleeing, like others, a climate of political persecution and anti-Semitism in the Tsarist Empire, the family settled in Harbin, the most northerly city in China and started to develop its businesses from 1906 onwards. Like many others, the family was attracted to Harbin then a major economic and cultural centre in Manchuria. The cosmopolitan city was already home to a large Jewish community. In Harbin, the father, a cultured, open-minded and multilingual man, felt at home and his early successes in business earned him respect. By 1932, he and his family were forced to flee like many others following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and found a new home in Shanghai. From there, his businesses took him to Hong Kong, North America and other Asian countries where the family would remain for many years. They began collecting art in China during the 1930s. These artworks have remained with the family heirs ever since. Rescued from historical events, these objects are like a bridge between the East and the West. Heirs of a century they bear heritage and spirit. Seemingly following historians, the collector goes back to the sources of the discipline as listed by historian Yvan Jablonka: "investigating, journeying, discovering, crossing, wandering, meeting, collecting testimonies and documents, the desire to devote oneself and to learn how to look at things"(1). Highly symbolic the proposed collection is made iconic by the exceptional quality of the works and objects that make it up.

“To want to make something complete, to need to bring things back together, you have to know what separation feels like, feel dispersion.”
(Edmund de Waal, Letters to Camondo, page 81 Penguin Random House Vintage Musée des Arts Décoratifs Paris – Film by Anna-Claria Ostasenko)

Since the most ancient times, jade has been a cornerstone of Chinese culture, representing many virtues, such as nobility, perfection and immortality, it is intimate to the very core of Chinese spirit. It was in Shanghai in the 1930s that our collector began to collect Chinese porcelain, snuff boxes, and a breath-taking collection of exceptional jades. The collection is characterised by the extraordinary quantity and magnificence of the white, yellow and pale celadon jades, whose imperial quality testifies to his particularly discerning and knowledgeable eye. Many of the jade pieces in this collection date from the Qianlong period, a highpoint of Chinese culture. With so many masterpieces, the collection on offer will potentially impress even the most demanding connoisseurs. In 1963 and 1964, a few pieces from the collection were offered at auction in London. This December in Paris, the entire collection will be offered for the very first time on the market.

« Discovering the collection was a moment of rare intensity. I had never seen so many jades of museum quality, absolutely unknown to the market»
Camille de Foresta, Senior Specialist-Art of Asia-Christie’s

This treasure of extraordinary Chinese art objects always cherished by the family adorned masterpieces of French furniture, in a sumptuous mise en scène created by Daniel Pasgrimaud. Working for both Le Louvre, discerning collectors and demanding aesthetes, Daniel Pasgrimaud is one of the most talented and discreet decorators of the second half of the 20th century. Mixing masterpieces from both East and West, he designed an extraordinary setting for the family’s collection and achieves his most beautiful décor ever. In the overwhelmingly celadon green Grand Salon, one’s eye is drawn irresistibly to an exceptional Coromandel lacquer screen. Taking inspiration from the warm colours of monochrome Chinese porcelain, Daniel Pasgrimaud created a warm, delicate and intimate atmosphere for the dining room. Whether it is a small dining room with a pure Japanese décor, a hall recreating the splendour of Pompeii or a neo-Etruscan lounge, all other rooms were a display of creativity and elegance. Mixing masterpieces and rarities, Pasgrimaud brings to life an ensemble of exceptional pieces including a spectacular pair of marquetry pedestals by André-Charles Boulle – Louis XIV's cabinetmaker, a desk by Adam Weisweiler, a cabinet by Pierre Macret and a masterpiece by David Roentgen, who worked for both the Empress of Russia and Louis XVI. The collection features some of the greatest names in classical decorative arts. These names are reminiscent of the taste of Hubert de Givenchy, whose passion for classical furniture was recently celebrated at a memorable sale at Christie's. The couturier and collector have been a long-term friend of our collector's family. A friendship based on common tastes, a certain art de vivre and fashion.

Daniel Pasgrimaud « was one of the greatest decorators of our time. »
(Daniel Alcouffe, Director of the Works of Art Department of the Louvre. Une collection privée européenne mise en scène par Daniel Pasgrimaud, Christie’s)

Reflecting a sophisticated and refined lifestyle, the collection also features many Haute-Couture pieces from the 1980s and 1990s. This section of the collection is rooted in personal relationships and longstanding friendships with the greatest fashion designers, including Hubert de Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent and Jean-Louis Scherrer. A selection of some 40 dresses will be offered for sale at Christie's in December, including an exceptional embroidered Chanel coat from the "Coromandel" series. From the Autumn/Winter 1996 Haute Couture collection, this model could be seen as a tribute to the spirit of a family of collectors harmoniously blending the best of East and West. Sumptuously embroidered by Lesage, a jacket made by Yves Saint Laurent directly inspired by Georges Braque is another highlight in this exceptional wardrobe. It was created for the Spring Summer 1988 collection, in which the couturier paid tribute to some of his favourite artists. In November 2019, at Christie's in Paris, the Yves Saint Laurent sunflowers jacket, a reference to Van Gogh, also embroidered by Lesage, reached a record price.

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