RELEASE: The Opulent Eye - London, 10 September 2013

Christie’s sale of The Opulent Eye, which will be held on 10 September 2013, offers furniture, sculpture, works of art and clocks from the 19th century.

London

Christie’s sale of The Opulent Eye, which will be held on 10 September 2013, offers furniture, sculpture, works of art and clocks from the 19th century. Held twice annually in London and New York The Opulent Eye is the only specialist sale in Europe devoted to 19th century decorative arts. The sale reflects the eclectic and opulent styles of the period from the regal grandeur of Napoleon’s Empire to the Art Nouveau of Belle époque Paris. The sale is best understood with reference to the world fairs of the 19th century, from London’s Crystal Palace in 1851 to the Paris Exposition universelle of 1900, which attracted fifty million visitors. These exhibitions were key in promoting excellence in art and creating the international Beaux-Arts style, which was pursued by both Royalty and a new class of global bankers, industrialists and entrepreneurs. Representing the best furniture makers and sculptors of the period, the lots are united by their use of luxurious materials, their rarity and exceptional craftsmanship. Offering 218 lots, with estimates ranging from £2,000 to £150,000, the sale is expected to realise in excess of £2 million.

Leading the sale are four Italian bronze-patinated carved wood figures of Apollo, Mercury, Pallas and Peace (estimate: £150,000 – 250,000). These four sculptures are copies of the bronze statues adorning The Loggetta in Piazza San Marco, Venice. The originals are considered among the most beautiful creations of sixteenth-century Italian sculpture and an extraordinarily example of Sansovino's response to Venice and to the medium of bronze. The importance of the 'Loggetta Gods' for Venetian sculpture cannot be over-emphasised. The present statues, faithfully rendered in wood, capture their vitality and would have been commissioned by a 19th century connoisseur perhaps frustrated at not being able to buy the priceless and unique originals.

A rare marble statue by Emmanuele Caroni is entitled Schiava alla Vendita (estimate: £60,000 – 100,000). Beautifully detailed in Carrera marble, the statue was shown at the 1861 Italian Exhibition in Florence and is a rediscovered masterpiece by Caroni. It was bought in 1910 by Sir James Liege Hulett of Durban, South Africa. Hulett pioneered the country's sugar industry when he founded the Hulett Company in 1892, which had extensive cane plantations and erected the first sugar mill in 1903. Today, the Hulett Sugar Company is called Tongaat-Hulett Sugar.

Further highlights include a table made by Maison Millet of Paris in the Louis XVI ‘goût Weisweiler’ style of the late 18th century, which was revived from the 1860s by Empress Eugénie (wife of Napoleon III) who was fascinated by Queen Marie-Antoinette and an avid collector of Louis XVI items (estimate: £40,000 – 60,000). In the 20th century this table belonged to John Mills, who entertained Hollywood stars and Royalty at his club Les Ambassadeurs, 5 Hamilton Place, Park Lane.

Elsewhere in the sale is a lifesize figural torchère which once belonged to the Bardou family of Perpignan, France who made the famous ‘JOB’ brand of cigarette papers (estimate: £50,000 – 80,000). The immensely wealthy Pierre Bardou commissioned the architect Viggo Theodor Dorph-Petersen (1851-1937) to build a magnificent château for each of his children. The present torchère was probably made for the most impressive Château d’Aubiry: raised on a marble terrace, it is in the tradition palatiale française combining neo-renaissance and neo-baroque elements to create a fairy tale castle. An Art Nouveau poster advertisement for ‘JOB’ cigarette papers dating from circa 1896, by Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939) will be offered at Christie’s South Kensington, in ‘Graphic Masterworks: A Century of Design’, on Wednesday, 2 October 2013, lot 3 (estimate: £8,000-10,000).

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