LOUIS MAJORELLE (1859-1926) AND VICTOR PROUVÉ (1858-1943)
LOUIS MAJORELLE (1859-1926) AND VICTOR PROUVÉ (1858-1943)
LOUIS MAJORELLE (1859-1926) AND VICTOR PROUVÉ (1858-1943)
LOUIS MAJORELLE (1859-1926) AND VICTOR PROUVÉ (1858-1943)
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PROPERTY FROM THE GARDEN MUSEUM: A PRIVATE COLLECTION
LOUIS MAJORELLE (1859-1926) AND VICTOR PROUVÉ (1858-1943)

'LA MORT DU CYGNE' GRAND PIANO, 1903

Details
LOUIS MAJORELLE (1859-1926) AND VICTOR PROUVÉ (1858-1943)
'La Mort du Cygne' Grand Piano, 1903
mahogany, fruitwood, ivorine, gilt bronze
39 5⁄8 x 84 x 58 in. (100.5 x 213.5 x 147.5 cm)
signed and dated V. Prouve, 1903, numbered 88354
Provenance
John and Katsy Mecom, Houston, Texas
John Mecom, Jr., Houston, Texas
Minami Art Museum, Tokyo
The Garden Museum Collection, Matsue, Japan
Allen Michaan, California, acquired from the above, 2012
Literature
L'Art décoratif aux expositions des Beaux-Arts 1904, 4e série, Le mobilier, Paris, 1904, pl. 35-38 (for a related piano with the theme "La chanson de l'homme au sable" at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs)
Société des Artistes Décorateurs, Le Mobilier aux Expositions des Beaux-Arts Au Salon des Artistes Décorateurs, Paris, 1906, pl. 37
E. Mannoni, Meubles et ensembles style 1900, Paris, 1968, pp. 43 and 59 (for the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy example)
Laurence Buffet-Challié, Le Modern Style, Paris, 1975, pp. 36-37 (for the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy example)
L.-V. Masini, Art Nouveau, Seaucus, 1984, pp. 89-90, no. 226 (for the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy example)
F. Mathey, et al., Chefs d'oeuvre du musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 1985, pp. 160-161
A. Duncan, Fin de siècle, Masterpieces from the Silverman Collection, New York, 1989, pp. 103-109
A. Duncan, Louis Majorelle, Master of Art Nouveau Design, New York, 1991, pp. 92-93, no. 83, 85-86
C. Heller, Art Nouveau Furniture, New York, 1994, p. 11
A.-M. Quette, Le Mobilier Français, Art Nouveau 1900, Paris, 1995, p. 41 (for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs example)
A. Duncan, The Paris Salons 1895-1914, Volume III: Furniture, Woodbridge, 1996, cover, pp. 28, 31 (for a period photograph of the 1906 Salon des Artistes Décorateurs), 393 (for the Musée des Arts Décoratifs example)
A. Duncan, Louis C. Tiffany: The Garden Museum Collection, Suffolk, 2004, pp. 628-630 (present lot illustrated)
Le Musée de l'Ecole de Nancy, oeuvres choisies, Paris, 2012, pp. 12-13

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Lot Essay

Louis Majorelle was referred to as the “Cressent of Art Nouveau”, in reference to the great ébeniste of the French Régence Charles Cressent (1685-1766). Majorelle’s virtuosity with wood and his sensitivity to nature allowed him to create masterworks of superb volume, in which dynamic forms and intricate decoration are in perfect harmony, a true epitome of luxury in the Art Nouveau.

After spending his childhood in Nancy, in his father’s furniture workshop, Majorelle entered the paintings academy of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he met Victor Prouvé. Upon the death of his father in the late 1870s, Majorelle became, at only twenty, the artistic director of his family business. He began to experiment with the naturalistic forms, influenced by Emile Gallé, until the success of his presentation at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900, where he clearly defined his very own style, which would then be imitated by many furniture-makers. In 1901, Majorelle became one of the official founders of the Ecole de Nancy.

Majorelle ran a substantial atelier, with a production that ranged from standardized designs for a broad market to sumptuous works, such as the ‘La Mort du Cygne’ Grand Piano, that fulfilled the most prestigious commissions. These creations brought together the finest materials and craftmanship, in works of exceptional designs and elegant lines, with carefully selected and beautifully figured woods, married with fine wrought gilt bronze.

For the decoration of this piano, Majorelle collaborated with Victor Prouvé, another leading figure of the Ecole de Nancy and famous also for his work with Emile Gallé. The theme of ‘La Mort du Cygne’ (the death of the swan) is a reference to renown poet Baudelaire’s writings, as well as to Tchaikovsky or Wagner’s composition of 1882, Parsifal, where the knight Parsifal shoots a sacred swan. It is also inspired by Greek mythology: at the time of its death, the swan sang a paroxysmal song of incredible beauty, dedicated to the glory of Apollo, god of the sun, grace, beauty and music.

The present lot is one of only four ‘La Mort du Cygne’ pianos known to exist today: one in the collection of the Virginia Fine Art Museum (inv. 2016.136), another one, commissioned by Eugène Corbin, is in the collection of the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy and the third one, unsigned, is not located.

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