Edgar Brandt's display room #45 in the Salon d' Ameublement at the
1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes was a treasure trove of the Art Moderne style rendered in wrought-iron and bronze. Among the plethora of superb ironwork: a console, torchères, sconces and grilles, was the masterful screen L'Oasis.
This five-paneled screen, six feet high and eight feet long, in
silvered-iron and electroplated brass was seen by millions of people,
both at the fair, and in magazines and newspapers. Its flowing
fountain, the focal point -la source- for the luxuriant tropical garden of circular gear-like flowers scattered amongst large chevroned croton leaves, was admired and copied.
An unknown artisan, possibly a goldsmith, or a coppersmith - certainly a veritable master of repoussé, made the screen that Christie's presents in this sale. In repoussé, the design is marked on the back of thin sheet metal and placed on a bed of pitch (coal tar). The artist accomplishes the design by pounding from the back with various mallets.
Conceivably, this smaller version of Brandt's design was a backdrop
for a theatrical presentation, or part of the setting for a jazz
nightclub revue. Perhaps a decorator commissioned it for an Art Deco boudoir or salon. Whether it is American or European is secondary to the fact that it is a superior example of metalwork. Christie's
screen is not an exact copy of Brandt's L'Oasis; its smaller scale and the repouse technique give it a subtle and jewel-like presence. The
delicate folded edges of the leaves, and the overlapping of the
flowers, leaves and water lines are skillfully done. The crimped
flowers appear to be spinning in a tropical constellation. The gold
background scrolls catch the light and play off the silvered
fountain. Minute pins hold all the elements securely. In a touch of
whimsy, the artisan placed a thin line of red lacquer to eight of the
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, this screen honors its iconic model, L'Oasis, and yet retains its autonomy as a separate
work of art.