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Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
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Rembrandt Bugatti (1885-1916)
5 More
Property from an Important Private European Collection
Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916)

Éléphant au repos

Rembrandt Bugatti (1884-1916)
Éléphant au repos
signed and stamped with foundry mark 'R. Bugatti. A.A. HÉBRARD CIRE PERDUE' (on the top of the base); numbered '(6)' (on the edge of the base)
bronze with dark brown patina
Height: 18 1/8 in. (46.5 cm.)
Length: 22 in. (56 cm.)
Conceived circa 1909-1910 and cast by 1926
Georges Philippar, Paris (1926, and then by descent); sale, Maître Joron-Derem, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 19 December 2017, lot 97.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
A. Salmon, "Rembrandt Bugatti" in Art et Décoration, July-December 1913, vol. XXXIV, p. 164 (another cast illustrated).
G.U. Arafa, “Un Grande Interprete della Fauna, Rembrandt Bugatti” in Rassegna darte Antica e Moderna, 1915, no. 8, p. 163 (another cast illustrated).
M. Harvey, The Bronzes of Rembrandt Bugatti, Ascot, 1979, p. 44, no. 43.
P. Dejean, Carlo-Rembrandt-Ettore-Jean Bugatti, New York, 1982, p. 205 (another cast illustrated in color, pp. 204-205; detail of another cast illustrated in color on the cover).
J.-C. Des Cordes and V. Fromanger, Rembrandt Bugatti: Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1987, p. 245 (another cast illustrated; titled Éléphant de l'Inde au repos).
E. Horswell, Rembrandt Bugatti: Life in Sculpture, London, 2004, p. 255 (another cast illustrated in situ at The Sladmore Gallery 1988 exhibition).
V. Fromanger, Rembrandt Bugatti, Sculpteur: Répertoire monographique, Paris, 2009, p. 315, no. 249 (another cast illustrated in color).
V. Fromanger, Rembrandt Bugatti, Sculpteur: Répertoire monographique, Paris, 2016, pp. 349-350, no. 253 (another cast illustrated in color, p. 349).

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Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco

Lot Essay

Véronique Fromanger has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

"During the last twenty years animal sculpture has tended, roughly speaking, to fall into two categories: one aiming at a faithful and sensitive representation of animal life as we see it, and the other making use of animal subjects to create a formalised and intensified reality. Bugatti’s work belongs to neither, or rather to both of these categories, for he achieves, at his best, something far subtler and more difficult – a purely abstract beauty of plastic harmony and rhythm without ever sacrificing the literal structure and vitality of the animal he portrays”. Gallery Abdy, 1929
The present offering (Lots 613 and 614) constitutes a unique opportunity for collectors to acquire these two rare bronzes standing side by side, leading the viewer to wonder about their relationship: is one a younger version of the other? Are they brothers, like the artist Rembrandt Bugatti and his brother Ettore?
This is likely the first time that Bugatti’s Éléphant au repos and Petit Éléphant au repos have stood together in public since the landmark 1929 Exhibition of Animal Sculpture by R. Bugatti organized by Sir Robert (Bertie) Abdy, 5th Baronet, at the galleries of Messrs Abdy & Co., 11 Carlos Place, Grosvenor Square, London. This famed exhibition was only the second solo retrospective organized after Rembrandt’s tragic death in 1916. Sir Robert Abdy’s fortune came from his family who owned property in the London Docklands. He later married Lady Abdy (nee Iya Grigorievna de Gay). Thirty-two sculptures were presented, and almost all of them were sold, including a Walking Panther acquired by the Tate Gallery. Arts magazine Apollo reviewed the exhibition noting that Rembrandt Bugatti was “…an intimate interpreter of animal life; a naturalist, too imbued by a fine sense of form to be a realist” (Kineton Parkes, “Rembrandt Bugatti: Modeller of animals. Exhibition of Bronzes at Abdy Gallery,” November 1929). Critics at the time noted Bugatti’s talent to instill life into art by a direct observation of nature, as well as his evolution of style, from naturalism to formalism, to achieve a “formal expressiveness of surface” (M.C., “Animal Sculptures, an exhibition of Bugatti’s work”, Country Life, vol. 66, 12 October 1929, p. 481) but also rendering the actual texture of the animal skin with surprising fidelity, considering his material. A result achieved thanks to his use of plastilina, a revolutionary new wax- and oil-based type of modelling clay, but also thanks to his special tools, specially developed for him by his brother Ettore. 
By 1904, at the age of nineteen, the younger Bugatti had shown his work in several exhibitions in Italy – in Milan, Turin and at the Venice Biennale. A member of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, he moved that same year to Paris with his family. His father, genial designer Carlo Bugatti, often referred to as “the young Leonardo” because of his energy and new ideas, opened an artisanal workshop there, after he had been awarded the Silver Medal at the Exposition Universelle, Paris in 1900 and the first prize at the Turin International Exhibition of Modern Decorative Art for his “Snail Room” in 1902. While in Paris, the young Rembrandt  spent his days at the Jardin des Plantes, where Parisians rushed to see the elephants being fed. Introduced there as early as 1798, the elephants had surnames and were extremely popular to the Parisian public. In particular, a female elephant named Rachel was one of the favorites of the zoo. She amazed crowds by balancing on her hind feet, her front legs raised. Rembrandt became fascinated by these spectacular animals, the largest of all living land mammals, yet giving a strong impression of charm and a sense of delicacy. Developing an intense and sincere dialogue with the elephants, Rembrandt would capture with deep empathy their powerful silhouettes, muscular masses, and movements, as well as their awkwardness. In 1925, Ettore and his son Jean Bugatti adopted Rembrandt’s Le Petit Eléphant dressé (initially designed by Rembrandt for his brother Ettore as a document seal) as the famous hood ornament for the most prestigious car of the era, the “Bugatti Royale”, making Bugatti’s elephant the icon of the Bugatti brand and family.
Three years older than his brother, Ettore was initially meant to become an artist, while Carlo had entertained ambitions of a career in engineering for Rembrandt. However, Ettore gave up on art when he realized that he lacked his younger brother’s talent. “There are two types of artists… those who are born artists…My brother was one of them.  The other type, to which I belong, are those who try and create art but are not as gifted...One day they should wake up and realize that they ought to do something else. If they truly respect art, they stop and choose another path."
For the eight years following 1907, Rembrandt lived on and off in Antwerp, visiting their zoo, la Société Royale de Zoologie d'Anvers (The Antwerp Royal Society for Zoology), one of the largest in Europe. There, he got more familiar with the Asian elephants, distinguishable from the African elephants with their smaller ears, and better capacity to adapt to captivity. The Antwerp zoo encouraged artists to visit, and allowed them complete freedom to set up their easels. The “Elephant House” was one of the most spectacular buildings of the zoo, a reproduction of an Egyptian temple with a majestic and architectural façade. It provided a great location for Rembrandt’s modelling of the elephants. To observe them in multiple positions, he placed himself in front of their enclosure and put food for them on the ground. He would also observe the elephants when they were taken out by their keeper for their walk and bath. By studying them he would “discover their souls” and bond with them, establishing a complicity that would lead to some of his greatest masterworks. 
Between 1907-1910, Bugatti modelled several variations of the Asian Elephants, including Elephant dAsie en marche, Elephant jouant and Elephant au repos. With a majestic attitude, spectacular musculature, impressive and calm attitude, Elephant au repos exemplifies Bugatti’s incredible ability to study and reproduce the anatomical details of the animal while depicting its inwardness and quiet expression. Elephants are one of the rare species capable of passing Gallup’s mirror test, establishing their self-awareness. Their intelligence and monumentality have made them a widely popular subject for artists and mythology, from the Pre-historic era to the surrealist, including the superb 7th Century Descent of the Ganges relief at Mahabalipuram or the mythical Elephant de la Bastille. Like these Asian elephants, Bugatti’s Elephant au repos seems imbued with wisdom and power. Remarkable by its form and technique, it is also fascinating by its presence and personality. In 1913, just before the war, Rembrandt Bugatti returned once again to the elephant subject with his Petit Elephant au repos, one of his last creations.
The large Elephant au repos was initially meant to be cast in bronze as a unique piece, but later Hébrard decided to produce several casts which were acquired, amongst others, by Mr. David Weil (cast no. 2), Louis Comfort Tiffany (cast no. 4) and Monsieur Phillipar (the present work, cast no. 5, no. INV. 4253 in the Hébrard archives). Eleven examples of the model are known to exist today, according to the catalogue raisonné. Hébrard’s archives indicate that the present work was acquired by Monsieur Chouanard for Monsieur Philippar in 1926.
Emile Chouanard was a Patron of the Arts and the successful director of the Forges de Vulcain, a “machine-outil” company. He collected bronzes and advised Monsieur Philippar about his collection. Georges Philippar was a reputed shipbuilder, who became Chief Executive Officer of the company Messageries Maritimes in 1925. He is known thanks to the ocean liner named after him, which sadly sank on her maiden voyage in the Gulf of Aiden in 1932. Philippar had a passion for elephants, whose effigies he avidly collected. The jewel of his collection, Elephant au repos, was kept in his castle of Sucinio, in Ploujean (near Morlaix, Finistère) until his death. Messageries Maritimes had acquired another Bugatti Elephant, Eléphant d'Asie au feuillage, later in the collection of Claude and Simone Dray (sold at Christie’s Paris, June 8, 2006, lot 293). The smaller Elephant au Repos was initially in the collection of Madame Arlette, as indicated by the Hébrard archives. Eighteen examples of the model are known to exist today according to the catalogue raisonné

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