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Prospective purchasers are advised that several co… Read more THE PROPERTY OF AN IMPORTANT PRIVATE COLLECTOR


In the form of a Chinese pagoda, the arched pediment with inverted sides and centred by a ruyi head-shaped finial applied with the Chinese symbol ‘shou’ for longevity set between prunus branches, above a pierced foliage scrollwork enablature filled with stylised lotuses, and a ‘D’-shaped recessed panel centred by a mythical lion mask amidst scrolling leafy tendrils, the central bevel glazed door enclosing a mirror-backed interior and two adjustable shelves, surrounded by a geometric arrangement of shelves and niches, the fixed plinth with long drawer carved with gilt Greek-key ornament, the shaped apron cornered by dragons
100 in. (245 cm.) high; 55 ½ in. (141 cm.) wide; 23 ¾ in. (60.5 cm.) deep
Property from a Southern Private Collection, Sotheby’s, New York, 28 November 2006, lot 95.
P. Thiébaut, ‘Contribution à une histoire du mobilier japonisant: Les Créations
de l´Escalier de Cristal’, Revue de l’art, 1989, N° 85, pp. 76-83.
'Édouard Lièvre', Connaissance des Arts, N° 228, Paris 2004, S. 28 ff.
Roxanne Rodriguez, Optima Propagare Edouard Lièvre. Créateur de
meubles & objets d´art, Paris, 2004.
Special notice
Prospective purchasers are advised that several countries prohibit the importation of property containing materials from endangered species, including but not limited to coral, ivory and tortoiseshell. Accordingly, prospective purchasers should familiarize themselves with relevant customs regulations prior to bidding if they intend to import this lot into another country.
Sale room notice
The arched panel to the centre of the pediment and the ruyi finial in the centre of the cresting were missing in 2006 and have since been replaced.

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Lot Essay

This étagère-vitrine is a superlative of a small group of furniture designed by Édouard Lièvre in the 1870s in ‘le style japonais et chinois’.

In 1887, following his death, a vitrine-cabinet of this description was sold from the personal collection of Édouard Lièvre:
N° 57
Très beau meuble à étagères formant vitrine au centre, tout en bois de palissandre des îles garni de glaces biseautées et richement orné de bronzes ciselés repercés et dorés. Dans le bas se détachent deux dragons en furie. Sur les côtés, des masques de chimères sur des fonds d'arabesques à jour, et le fronton est supporté par un diadème à arabesques de fleurs lobées et d'en trelacs très finement repercés. Couronné par les armes impériales.
Meuble très original de forme.
Haut., 2m. 60 cent.; larg., 1 m. 35 cent.
(Catalogue des Meubles d’Art de la Succession de feu M. Édouard Lièvre, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 21–24 March 1887).
The sale was hailed by the press: ‘It has been a long time since art lovers had the opportunity to see at auction a remarkable collection as the work of a recently deceased master. His creations will make history’ (R. Polo, Connaissance des Arts, op. cit., p.8).

In the tradition of marchand-merciers, Lièvre designed for important private clients and for editors of luxurious furniture and objects. His designs were made by the silversmith Christofle and bronzier Barbedienne, and by the ébéniste Paul Sormani, whose stamp is recorded to a number of Lièvre pieces including a ‘table à thé japonisante en palissandre’.

Lièvre is often associated with the marchand-éditeur and boutique L'Escalier de Cristal, named after the crystal staircase it housed. Established in 1802 by Madame Désarnaud, supplying clocks, lamps and other objets d'art to important European families, it became an icon of goût Parisien and luxury. Their illustrious cliental included the Queen of Holland, the Queen of Portugal, Tsar Nicolas II and the Grand Dukes Vladimir and Sergei. The business was initially located in the Palais Royal, and then moved to 6, rue Scribe followed by 1, rue Auber, in the fashionable area of L'Opéra. Acquired in 1839 by M. Lahoche, the firm passed to his son-in-law, Emile Pannier, around 1864-66. In 1885, Georges and Henry Pannier succeeded their father. From 1840, L'Escalier de Cristal were awarded medals at most of the international exhibitions: 'Toutes les fortunes, tous les gens qui ont le discernement clair viennent Paris, de tous les pays du monde pour lui [Pannier] demander son gôut régulateur' (Exposition Universelle de Londres, Catalogue de la section française, 1862, p. 175). The firm commissioned different designers and manufactures - much in the tradition of the 18th century marchands-merciers. In addition to Lièvre, L'Escalier de Cristal created ‘sinojaponais’ style furniture for Gabriel Viardot and objects with Baccarat glass.

Lièvre's sketches and their reproduction rights were sold in 1890. Some were purchased by George and Henry Pannier, owners of L'Escalier de Cristal. Lièvre's perfect design, Japanese/Chinese inspiration and excellent quality of the craftsmanship explain the high prices that his pieces commanded; according to Henry Pannier, prices for Lièvre were up to six times higher than those of other designers. Fascinatingly some pages from Henry Pannier’s account book survive which list a number of orders for L'Escalier de Cristal. They give the designer, craftsmen and clients beside an ink sketch for each piece. A number of designs are credited to Édouard Lièvre, led by the magnificent model of ‘meuble à deux corps: armoire sur table d’applique’ (made for Albert Vieillard, and now in the Musée d’Orsay OAO555) of which L'Escalier de Cristal made six versions, one for Grand Duke Vladimir (d. 1909) which is today at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. Craftsmen listed are Kroeller, for the rosewood, Liévaux for the doors and Fétu for the bronzes (Thiébaut, op. cit., fig. 2, p.78).

Three examples of the model are known:
- Lempertz, Colonge, 15 November 2013, lot 1000.
- Bonhams, London, 17 June 2009, lot 172 (lacking dragons).
- Sotheby’s, New York, 28 November 2006, lot 95: this is the present example which when sold in 2006 in unrestored condition, the then catalogue photograph showed without its finial and mythical lion mask panel (to the centre of the pediment). These elements were traced and reunited after the sale and the cabinet bought back into its present excellent and complete condition. None of these are recorded to be stamped L'Escalier de Cristal. It is probable therefore, that their production predates Pannier’s purchase of Lièvre's sketches and their reproduction rights in 1890. This is supported by the existence of the vitrine-cabinet of matching description sold from Lièvre’s collection 1887.

The distinctive gilt-bronze mount of the Chinese symbol ‘shou’ for longevity is a signature Lièvre mount (to the centre of the finial and front apron angles, beneath the dragons). It also features to a centre table (see Musée d’Orsay OAO 1162) and a magnificent ormolu aquarium by the bronzier Barbedienne, which is also ornamented with Chinese style dragon-headed salamanders.


The vogue for the orient is well-established in the history of Western art. Its resurgence however in the mid-19th century resulted from simultaneous Chinese and Japanese influences. In Paris in 1863 the display at the Tuileries of Chinese porcelain, cloisonné enamel, jade, parade arms and armour and temple garnitures, looted from the Imperial Palace in Beijing, drew huge crowds. The collection was subsequently housed in Empress Eugènie’s 'Chinese Museum' at Fontainebleau, inaugurated in 1863. Meanwhile interest in Japan was renewed from 1854 when issues of trade and naval convenience forced Japan to open its borders, which had been closed to all foreigners since 1615. Widespread interest was stimulated by displays of Japanese wares at the International Exhibitions in London, 1862, and Paris, 1867.
In the West, and particularly in France, contact with high quality Japanese and Chinese works of art had a direct impact on attitudes to the design and decoration of furniture and objets d'art. Designers and makers responded to the challenge of new Orientalist influences. They studied the forms and techniques of decoration, and began to produce cloisonné enamel, marquetry of shell and ivory, patinated bronze and carved wood using the stylised vocabulary and balanced asymmetry of the Far East. In doing so these designers created a unique new style, an amalgamation of Eastern and Western influences, which anticipated the organic forms of Art Nouveau and Aestheticism. Preeminent among these designers was Édouard Lièvre.


Édouard Lièvre (d. 1886) was one of the most talented and prolific industrial designers of the second half of the 19th century, with a broad repertoire that included ‘sinojaponais’ and neo-Renaissance style furniture, and ceramics. Enthusiastic collectors and dealers like Henri Cernuschi, founder of the Asian art museum in Paris, or Siegried Bing, importer and dealer of oriental furniture, objets d'art and engravings played a significant role in the diffusion of Japanese culture significantly influencing contemporary designers and craftsmen.

Trained initially as an artist under Thomas Couture, from 1870 Lièvre was fully immersed in decorative art providing designs for manufacturers and marchand-éditeurs; an early important work was a vase persan, designed for Christofle in 1874, exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1878, 1889 and 1900. Lièvre also had a number of private clients for whom he supplied luxurious furniture including the actress, Sarah Bernhardt (a monumental cheval mirror), the courtisane, Louise-Emilie Valtesse de la Bigne, (an impressive bed, now in the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, DO 1981-19), Albert Vieillard, director of Bordeaux's ceramics factory (a cabinet now in the Musée d'Orsay, OAO555), and Édouard Detaille, the famous military artist for whom Lièvre supplied a console d'apparat.

Saleroom Notice:
The arched panel to the centre of the pediment and the ruyi finial in the centre of the cresting were missing in 2006 and have since been replaced.

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