‘It is unique to find a family with three generations of collectors,
each of which had different interests and chose to focus
solely on masterpieces,’ says Simon de Monicault, Director
of Decorative Arts at Christie’s in Paris, ahead of the sale
The Collection of Juan de Beistegui. ‘Art and
collecting were in the Beistegui family’s DNA.’
The collecting gene first manifested itself in Carlos de Beistegui,
who was born in Mexico City in 1863. His family had originally
migrated from Spain in the 18th century before amassing a
In 1876 the Beistegui family settled permanently in France
where Carlos, who had ambitions of becoming an artist, enrolled
as a pupil of Léon Bonnat.
Carlos de Beistegui subsequently became a passionate collector and, in 1942, he donated part
of his collection of paintings to the Louvre, including works
by Rubens, Van Dyck, Goya, Largillièrre, Nattier, Fragonard
and Ingres. The collection is still exhibited in the Beistegui Room at the museum. Two years later, The Cabinet des Médailles in Paris bought his collection of 1,227 gold coins.
Carlos’s nephew, Charles de Beistegui (known as Charlie), was born
in 1895 and went on to become the patron of Surrealists and architects and designers such as Le Corbusier,
Emilio Terry and Jean-Michel Franck. In the early 1930s,
he had a penthouse built on the Champs-Elysées. Designed
by Le Corbusier, its features included an electronically
operated hedge that parted to reveal a view of the Arc de
Triomphe, and a roof terrace designed by Salvador Dalí.
Having championed Modernism, Charles latterly turned his attention
to recreating historical decoration, and collected important
examples of the finest French furniture, some of which he
left to his nephew.
Charles was also a leading figure in international high society.
The 1951 masked ball at his Palazzo Labia in Venice, whose ballroom frescoes were painted by Tiepolo, was hailed as one of the parties of
the century. It was attended by royalty, aristocrats, socialites,
artists and designers, and helped to launch the career of
Pierre Cardin, who designed around 30 of the lavish costumes
Charles de Beistegui’s masterpiece is the Chateau de Groussay outside Paris, which he had enlarged and restored in the 18th-century manner with the help of Emilio Terry. He was praised as one of the most important figures in the history of 20th-century interior decoration.
Charles’s nephew, Juan, was the third generation of Beistegui
collectors. After marrying Annick de Rohan-Chabot in 1957, he focused on acquiring notable and exquisite pieces of French furniture with royal provenance by the very best of makers, including
André Charles Boulle,
Jean-Henri Riesener and
Among the pieces offered in the sale are two gilded stools, pictured above, made for Marie Antoinette’s apartment at Compiègne.
A Louis XIV ormolu-mounted writing table (above) by Jean-Henri Riesener from circa 1780 was also supplied to Marie Antoinette, at the Château de la Muette.
André Charles Boulle is represented by a pair of ormolu-mounted, tortoiseshell, copper and pewter marquetry pedestals (above), while
another highlight is a pair of imperial Sèvres lapis lazuli porcelain vases with gilded bronze mounts (below) — a 1782 purchase from the future emperor and Maria Feodorovna, which were later displayed at the Pavlovsk Palace.
The Louis XVI lacquered desk by Martin Carlin in the collection, pictured below, was
originally owned by Comte de Flahaut. ‘In Paris in the late
18th century, furniture was more expensive than real
estate,’ explains de Monicault, of a desk that combines exquisite
French marquetry and the very best in Japanese lacquer.
This extraordinary collection includes services of delicate
18th-century dinner plates, examples of rare imperial
Russian and Chinese objects, and the only contemporary commission
— two modern pieces by JAR, who was a close friend of Juan de Beistegui.
Juan, who died in 2017, was also a noted bibliophile and amassed
an important collection of rare and beautiful illustrated
ethnographical and botanical books.
Among the many treasures on offer is a set of original drawings
by José Luciano Castañeda (1774-1834), plus manuscripts by Captain Guillermo Dupaix (1746-1818), which together chronicle three expeditions
to Mexico ordered by Charles V of Spain and undertaken in 1805, 1806 and 1807. The
expeditions discovered important sites of Pre-Columbian art, including sculptures and pyramidal structures.