The pick of Paris: highlights of six superb collections offered in a single sale
Treasures from the 18th-century château of the Duchess of Talleyrand are the icing on the cake in a sale that spans 18th-century furniture, drawings, Old Master paintings, chinoiserie, jewellery, items of military historical interest and more
The collection of Violette de Talleyrand-Périgord at the Château du Marais
The story of ‘Boni’ de Castellane and Anna Gould is well known — a tale of Old World taste and New World money befitting a novel by Henry James or Edith Wharton.
After marrying the American heiress in New York in 1895, the dapper French count wasted no time relieving his wife of her fortune — not least by commissioning a Grand Trianon-style ‘Palais Rose’ in Paris and persuading her to buy the Château du Marais, an elegant lakefront property in Essonne by a master of Louis XVI architecture, Jean-Benoît-Vincent Barré.
‘I fell in love with Le Marais,’ said Anna, as she and Boni set about restoring the château to its former glory and raising their five children at the same time. Anna soon grew tired of her husband’s spending and affairs, however, and in 1906, she divorced him, marrying his cousin, Hélie de Talleyrand-Périgord, the Duke of Sagan, and having two more children with him.
While Boni wrote his memoir, The Art of Being Poor, the Duke and Duchess refurbished the château, filling it with yet more beautiful things. And after her parents died, their daughter Violette kept it on, entertaining a constant stream of visitors among the 18th-century paintings, furniture, chandeliers and Meissen porcelain.
Two decades after Violette’s death, the château has been split between the families of her two daughters, and its contents divided for sale. These include such beautiful and storied items as a set of Louis XVI gilt-walnut seat furniture crafted by Georges Jacob (1739–1814), supplier to Marie Antoinette, and a screen fashioned from four late-17th century panels, probably from Beauvais, the historic tapestry manufactory founded under Louis XIV.
‘There have been several sales of the collection of Boni de Castellane and Anna Gould, one at Christie’s in 2017,’ says Lionel Gosset, Head of Collections at Christie’s Paris. ‘This one is probably the last.’
The collection of Robert Preslier
Impressive as they are, the 94 lots from the Château du Marais are only a part of the upcoming sale of six Collections on 28 October at Christie’s Paris.
Previewed at Christie’s Paris showrooms from 26 October, the auction will also feature the collection of Robert Preslier, a French entrepreneur behind a group of shopping centres in southeast France, who is now selling his hunting lodge in Sologne and retiring to Switzerland.
‘The collection is similar in spirit to that of the Château du Marais, but slightly more luxurious,’ says Gosset of the 74 lots of drawings, paintings and objets. ‘Preslier is well known among the big French and European antiques dealers and fairs, and his hunting lodge was a showcase for his 18th-century art and antiques. He has excellent taste.’
Highlights include an opulent Louis XV jardinière in Rance des Flandres marble as well as an atmospheric still-life by Verrocchi — a Caravaggesque composition in which the overripe fruit, fading flowers and play of light and shadow are reminiscent of vanitas paintings.
Another top lot is a Korean Sipjangsaeng screen, decorated with the 10 symbols of longevity — the sun, clouds, water, mountains, rocks, pine trees, the ‘mushroom of immortality’, cranes, deers and turtles.
Screens such as this, and others at the Dayton Art Institute and Honolulu Museum of Art, were produced during the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897) for use by the royal family during official ceremonies.
Like the buddha head and commode, below, they exemplify the historic fascination in the West for exotic objects from the East.
In fact, European varnish, as featured on this extremely rare 18th-century commode by German-born cabinet-maker Jean Holthausen, was invented expressly to imitate Oriental lacquer.
The collection of the Count and Countess Jean-Jacques de Flers
The Count and Countess de Flers shared this passion for the East; their collection of contemporary art, sold on 21 September at Christie’s Paris, was notable for its Chinese works.
However, their Neuilly townhouse also housed a selection of Old Master paintings and 18th-century furniture, and it is these that make up the third collection in the sale.
Displayed in their dining room, the Flers’ artworks include this beautiful Italian primitive painting by Domenico di Zanobi — an artist active in Florence between 1467 and 1481 — that is similar to one sold in 2007 at Christie’s New York.
The collection of Marshal Augereau
The fourth collection in the sale is different in that it was largely assembled by the descendants of the person after whom it is named, and is primarily of interest due to its connection with Napoleon — shown here in this superb portrait by Baron Antoine-Jean Gros (1771–1835), a sketch for a larger work now at the Musée National des Châteaux de Malmaison et de Bois-Préau.
Charles Pierre François Augereau (1757–1816) was a French general who was later appointed Marshal of the Empire and Duke of Castiglione, and a series of paintings of Napoleon’s campaigns include two of Augereau himself leading his troops to victory.
Other items of historical interest include this Marshal’s baton, above, engraved with Terror Belli Decus Paris (‘Terror in war, ornament in peace’). It is thought to have been made for Augereau during the Bourbon Restoration (1814–30), when Louis XVIII and Charles X, brothers of the executed King Louis XVI, ruled as constitutional monarchs.
‘Napoleon gave him the titles, but then cast him aside somewhat, and he only returned to prominence under Louis XVIII,’ explains Gosset. ‘So it is thought the King gave him the baton, even if it is not stamped as it should be.’
A selection of sabres, fine furniture and art objects round out this collection, while specialised collections of expertly crafted late 19th- and early 20th-century staircase models and jewellery complete the 299-lot sale as a whole.