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‘Troupeau d'Éléphants dans les Arbres’ Table, 2001

‘Troupeau d'Éléphants dans les Arbres’ Table, 2001
executed by Deroyaume Fondeur, Villers-sur-Port, France
comprising seven free-standing elephant sculptures and an octagonal center table
gilt bronze, glass
table and each elephant impressed FxL LALANNE 1/8 2001
table: 33 ½ (85.1 cm) high; 63 in. (161.3 cm) diameter
largest elephant: 20 ¼ in. (51.5 cm) high; 20 ¼ (51.5 cm) deep; 8 in. (20.3 cm) wide
Special notice
Please note this lot will be moved to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services (CFASS in Red Hook, Brooklyn) at 5pm on the last day of the sale. Lots may not be collected during the day of their move to Christie’s Fine Art Storage Services. Please consult the Lot Collection Notice for collection information. This sheet is available from the Bidder Registration staff, Purchaser Payments or the Packing Desk and will be sent with your invoice.
Further details
Four other examples of this model are known, all of which are in private collections.

When the animal world and the design world interface, magical things happen. Human hands take to natural forms and create something that is both referential and brand new. François Xavier Lalanne’s ‘Troupeau d' Éléphants dans les Arbres’ Table highlights the crossroad of fine art and design, familiarity and fantasy. François’ playful animal forms and dream-like designs mark him as one of the most prolific surrealist sculptors of the 20th and 21st centuries. In 1945, at age 18, François made his way to Paris to study art at the Académie Julian in Paris. Serendipitously, he was neighbors with modern sculptor Constantin Brâncuși with whom François would often share vodka and cigarettes. Brâncuși introduced François to surrealist artists like Man Ray, Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp. These meetings and conversations would end up shaping his life’s work and cementing his place in the firmament of surrealist sculptors. In addition to being a student of surrealism, François also gained great inspiration during his time spent working as a guard at the Louvre. He was particularly enraptured by the stone reliefs of ancient animals and idolic sculpture of the Egyptian and Assyrian collections as well as that of Hindu deities. François went on to exhibit his paintings and worked as a scenery designer in various theatres around Paris. In 1952, François was introduced to fellow scenery designer and sculptor, Claude, who would eventually become his wife and artistic partner. Claude was “seduced immediately by his personality, his charm, and his intelligence” and after their marriage in 1962 the duo gave themselves the moniker Les Lalanne.
Their first joint show took place in 1964 at the Salon de la Jeune Peinture and was a smashing success. The show was aptly named Zoophites and featured 24 life-sized sheep (known as ‘Moutons de Laine’) made of bronze and covered in sheepskin. Not only was this flock irreverent and humorous but they also served as seating. François commented, “I thought that it would be funny to invade that big living room with a flock of sheep, “It is, after all, easier to have a sculpture in an apartment than to have a real sheep. And, it’s even better if you can sit on it.” This marked the beginning of Les Lalanne’s marriage of sculptural and functional design. Soon after the success of Zoophites Les Lalanne received commissions from many famous patrons especially those in the fashion world. Yves Saint Laurent was one of their first well known clients and from there they received commissions from the likes of Hubert de Givenchy and Karl Lagerfeld. Les Lalanne was eventually introduced to the United States by Greek dealer Alexander Iolas who can be credited for mounting Andy Warhol’s first gallery exhibition. Their work was well received and even experienced a resurgence in popularity in 2007 when Paul Kasmin represented them in New York City. Collectors of Les Lalanne span the globe and their work is highly cherished and coveted.
Although François and Claude shared a workshop and home, they seldom collaborated together even though as co-creators their work bore a similar aesthetic. François favored animals while Claude favored vegetation and they often critiqued each other’s designs and shared different tasks in the fabrication of their pieces. For example, he would hammer and rivet and she would mold the piece. They built their studio and home in the quiet village of Ury, France where they would both gather inspiration from their gardens and the quiet French countryside teeming with life. François believed that, “the animal world constitutes the richest and most varied forms on the planet.” He turned his fascination with the hidden inner-life of animals into conceptual and evolved sculptural forms that often concealed practical functions. Of François’ work, Gallerist Jean-Gavriel Mitterrand said, “He was someone with references beyond our era. His work had something of the Renaissance and ancient Greece and Rome. He admired Nicolas Poussin and Bach. There was a surrealistic touch in the way he transformed sculpture into everyday objects” In François’ world Hippos became bathtubs, frogs became chairs, and giant grasshoppers became wine coolers. The impossible felt real.
Incredibly, François’ work transformed animal and mythological imagery into unique furniture pieces. Those who have the pleasure of experiencing the ‘Troupeau d' Éléphants dans les Arbres’ Table find themselves witness to a moment: a parade of gilded elephants, of various sizes, gather with trunks raised in jubilation all under the protective grove of Acacia trees on the open savanna. The scene remains frozen in a stillness that François understood well. He once said, “No creature on earth has so great an aptitude for stillness as a wild animal. Its stillness is so absolute that, in its natural environment, it can become invisible.” As the eye travels over the scene it catches on the twisted arms of the trees that effortlessly suspend the octagonal glass top canopy of the table. The gilt bronze irradiates a warm muted glow, highlighting the unique texture of each piece. The seven freestanding elephants can be placed in any configuration whether under the table or on top of it, allowing the user to customize and enter the fantasy that François created. By allowing one to participate in the arrangement of the elephants, the table moves beyond a static object and into one that becomes a living tableau. Setting the scene for this herd of elephants makes this table endlessly customizable and an exploratory treasure.
Elephants are Sydell Miller’s favorite animal and with this in mind, the table was especially commissioned for her Palm Beach home fondly called, ‘La Rêverie.’ Only four examples of this table are known to exist today, all of which are in private collections, making this a rare and important example. The ‘Troupeau d'Eléphants dans les Arbres’ Table seamlessly fit into Miller’s multi-century collection of decorative and fine art. Lalanne’s elephants bridge the ever-shrinking gap between fine and decorative art making this piece both a statement and a transitional work in the oeuvre of the artist. ‘La Rêverie’ translates as ‘The Dream’ and this table truly embodies that magical feeling.
– Amanda Kogle, Associate Professor, Parsons School of Design

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Csongor Kis
Csongor Kis AVP, Specialist

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