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JEAN PROUVÉ (1901-1984)
JEAN PROUVÉ (1901-1984)
JEAN PROUVÉ (1901-1984)
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JEAN PROUVÉ (1901-1984)
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ULTIMATE PROUVÉ: A MASTERPIECE OFFICE
JEAN PROUVÉ (1901-1984)

IMPORTANT 'PRÉSIDENCE' DESK, MODEL NO. 201

Details
JEAN PROUVÉ (1901-1984)
Important 'Présidence' Desk, model no. 201
from the Palais du Gouverneur, Niamey, Niger, circa 1955
lacquered sheet steel, oak, stainless steel sabots
29.¼ in. (74.2 cm) high; 97 in. (246.3 cm) wide; 57.¾ in. (144.7 cm) deep

Rare Potence' Adjustable Wall Light, circa 1952
painted steel tube, sheet steel, steel cable, aluminum
94.¾ in. (238.7 cm) high; 61 in. (154.9 cm) wide

Swivel Chair, model no. FP 11, circa 1946
painted steel tubes, painted folded sheet steel, aluminum, wood, fabric upholstery
31.¾ in.(78.7 cm) high; 26.½ in. (66 cm) wide; 22 in. (55.8 cm) deep
Provenance
Provenance For the Desk
Governor of Niamey, Niger
Eric Touchaleaume, Paris
Robert Rubin, New York
Sotheby’s, Important 20th Century Design, New York, 9 December, 2005, lot 168
Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris

Provenance For the Wall Light
Galerie Downtown/François Laffanour, Paris

Provenance For the Chair
Jousse Entreprise, Paris
Private Collection, New York, 2006
Christie’s, Design, Paris, 21 May 2019, lot 11


Literature
Select Literature for the Desk
P. Seguin et al., Jean Prouve´ Vol.1, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, 2007 pp. 104-105 for the present lot illustrated
P. Seguin et al., Jean Prouve´ Vol. 2, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, 2007, pp. 344-345 for the present lot illustrated
P. Seguin, Jean Prouvé Vol. 1, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, 2017, p. 202 for the present lot illustrated

Select Literature for the Wall Light
P. Sulzer, Jean Prouvé-Oeuvre Complète/Complete Works Vol. 3: 1944-1954, Bâle, 2005, pp. 228 for a drawing of an earlier variant 105, 168-169 for related models
P. Seguin, Jean Prouvé Vol. 1, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, 2017, pp. 338-341 for related models

Select Literature for the Chair
P. Sulzer, Jean Prouvé-Oeuvre Complète/Complete Works Vol. 3: 1944-1954, Bâle, 2005, pp. 64, 215
P. Seguin, Jean Prouvé Vol. 1, Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris, 2017, pp. 144, 152

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

The present lot, comprising three iconic works by French designer Jean Prouvé (1901-1984), includes an important ‘Présidence' Desk, model no. 201, circa 1955; a Swivel Chair, model no. FP 11, circa 1946; and a rare Potence' Adjustable Wall Light, circa 1952. The seller of these assembled works, who until now has lived with them as they appear here, has agreed to present to the market the rare opportunity to bid for the very best of Prouvé in one unprecedented lot.

Born in Paris in 1901, Jean Prouvé spent his childhood in Nancy, France, where his father was co-founder of the École de Nancy, the famed school of Art Nouveau artisans and designers. The younger Prouvé grew up surrounded by artists who tested the limits of their materials, including Louis Majorelle and Émile Gallé. Although as a teenager Prouvé longed to train as an engineer, his family could not afford the tuition. Instead, he underwent an apprenticeship with a local blacksmith. In a stroke of luck, Prouvé apprenticed under one of the great Art Nouveau designers, Adalbert-Georges Szabo, who created technically complex grilles and gates in iron. After being called to service during World War I, Prouvé founded his own metalworking atelier. However, it was not until 1929 that Prouvé began experimenting with utilizing industrial materials to craft refined metal furniture, and he opened his own small factory. Seminal modernist architects like Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret noted the skill and talent of Prouvé’s contemporary works, and began to utilize his designs in their creations. Le Corbusier believed that Prouvé was neither an architect nor an engineer, but rather a genius hybrid of both disciplines.

With a seamless melding of the biomorphic and the industrial, Jean Prouvé’s Présidence' Desk, model no. 201 is an unmistakable sculptural creation. This rare desk is evidence of the exhaustive design forethought of Prouvé. Wanting a pure expression of material, Prouvé complemented the delicate soft sand color of the lacquered steel with simple yet elegant lines, enhancing the overall beauty of the design. The organic desktop highlights the natural splendor of the wood graining, adding to the deep power of the form. Even the simplest elements of this desk are imbued with the greatest refinement, evincing the utopian purity and exquisiteness of the design.

This desk is from one of Prouvé’s most significant design projects in Niamey, Niger. Similar to Le Corbusier’s and Pierre Jeanneret’s post-war design of Chandigarh, the capital of India’s Punjab and Haryana states, Prouvé was invited by the French government to create buildings for the French-occupied country of Niger during a housing shortage. The French administration tapped Prouvé to create prefabricated structures of a modern design. Utilizing raw materials from the colonies like steel and aluminum, Prouvé designed prefabricated buildings known as ‘Maisons Tropicales’ that could be easily assembled in situ in Africa, including in Brazzaville, Congo, and Niamey Prouvé also created a ‘Maison Tropique’ for Paul Herbé, the architectural director of the college in Niamey. For these tropical locations, Prouvé sought to create pieces that were streamlined and cooling, and that would also blend in with the desert region. Hence, the use of sand coloring in the lacquered steel of the desk.

Prouvé relied more heavily on wood veneer in prior models of the Bureau Présidence. In contrast to earlier desks, Prouvé used equal parts steel and wood veneer for the present desk. Steel was a material he experimented with more fully after rationing had ceased following the end of World War II. Applying his love of engineering to designing, Prouvé would first sketch a piece, which became a prototype subject to extensive testing for stability, durability, and comfort. For this desk, Prouvé ingeniously created a design that could be used both as a single desk and also as a conference table for impromptu meetings.

In addition to this ‘Présidence' Desk, model no. 201, this lot also encompasses two other masterworks: a Rare Potence' Adjustable Wall Light, circa 1952, and a Swivel Chair, model no. FP 11, circa 1946. These works fully display the ingenuity of Prouvé, and his ability to see design as a means of improving everyday life. The ‘Potence' Adjustable Wall Light, was originally designed by Prouvé for his own interior. This design is an improvement on an earlier swinging lamp that Prouvé created for the SCAL (Société Centrale des Alliages Légers) Engineer’s Pavilion at Issoire, which he designed in collaboration with Pierre Jeanneret and Charlotte Perriand. Prouvé later decided to produce this innovative and adjustable light, which provides an easily movable and elegant source of light.

In the Swivel Chair, model no. FP 11, the simplified sheet steel frame is stabilized by the ‘X’ base, creating a fluid, yet sophisticated form. Materials were paramount for Prouvé, and when he sat down to design, he often asked “what is the material thinking?” Prouvé was one of the first designers to pioneer the use of industrial products in furniture. He discovered that the more stress he placed on a metal, the thinner and stronger it would become, allowing him to create sleek forms like the present lot using sheets of steel. Not satisfied with the dominant method of making sheet steel, Prouvé acquired machines to manufacture folded steel in-house in his factory according to his high standards. All of the pieces in the present lot combine purity of material with a sophistication of form, and they provide a veritable showcase of Prouvé’s immense talent.

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