One of the perks of getting the digital subscription of Architectural Digest as opposed to the printed version is that you get bonus photos and sometimes an accompanying video of the article you are reading. As he was sliding the pages of the latest issue on his iPad, A-Gent of Style came across the astonishing spread of Pierre Bergé’s secret paradise in Normandy, completely unbeknownst to him to this day.
With residences in Paris, Manhattan, Marrakech and Tangiers, Pierre Bergé and
Yves Saint Laurent (don’t miss the brilliant biopic on their life when it is released in the UK at the end of March) had this fairy-tale country retreat built not far from Château Gabriel, the late 19th C mansion the fashion power couple purchased in 1980 on an 120-acre estate.
After the death of the couturier in 2008, the business mogul sold their storied
Paris apartment and the chateau (as well as most of their museum-quality art and antiques collection that famously sold at Christie’s for an astounding $484 million in 2009) but kept ‘La Datcha’ (the French spelling for the Russian word dacha meaning holiday home). This chic log house is truly unique and can boast many influences and inspirations. To A-Gent of Style, it is a kaleidoscopic fusion of a gingerbread house, Les Ballets Russes, Matryoshka dolls, Renzo Mongiardino and is slightly reminiscent of the Bloomsbury Group’s Charleston House and the works of their descendant
Cressida Bell. What La Dacha is not is polite, pared-down and minimalist.
This 19th C flamboyant country cottage was decorated by Jacques Grange, a long-standing friend of the couple who had worked his magic on many of their residences over the decades. It was built as a multi-purpose living area with a main room and only a small kitchen and powder room. It has no bedrooms. Bergé asked Grange a few years ago to build an outhouse, with a covered walkway, that would be linked to the cabin and that would serve as a sleeping annex containing a guest suite and a master bedroom.
The picturesque folly, supported by stilts, is replete with lacy wood, intricate fretwork, arches, carving, pine panelling and colourfully painted joinery. Textures and layers are predominant especially in the main room with soaring ceiling, alternating beams and red bricks. Kilims are not only used as floor rugs but also upholstered on some of the Austrian horn chairs and chaise longue. There is a stunning 19th C Orientalist panel above the fireplace and many taxidermic animal heads adorning the walls that would make Les 3 Garçons look butch. Apart from the many nooks, A-Gent of Style‘s favourite room has to be the jewel-box kitchen adorned with antique French tiles and Moorish stained-glass windows and doors.
Outside, in the lush garden designed by American Maddison Cox bursting with hydrangeas, Bergé had an additional guest house created. This time a vintage Romanu-style caravan was redesigned to sleep two additional guests which Grange filled with two single, painted pine beds, an antique geometric kilim rug and original William Morris fabric on the curtains.
A-Gent of Style hopes you like ‘La Datcha’ as much as he does.
– Photo by Pascal Chevallier/Architectural Digest –
Away from the buzz of Paris Déco Off and Maison & Objet, the only evening off
A-Gent of Style managed to get was on Sunday when he, like one million or so French cinema-goers in the last fortnight, went to see the Yves Saint Laurent movie, the first of two French biopics to be released this year. And A-Gent though it was
un chef d’oeuvre. Do see it when it is released in your country or on DVD.
Loosely based on the Laurence Benaim’s biography and approved by Pierre Bergé, Yves Saint Laurent, directed by Jalil Lespert, recounts the passionate and turbulent life of one of the most famous French couturiers, whose work was heavily influenced by his personal life and traces the events of the precocious talent who took over from his mentor, Christian Dior, in 1957, when he was only 21 from the beginning of his career in 1958 when he met his lover and business partner, Pierre Bergé until the designer’s death in 2008 (the movie focuses mainly though on the 1950s, 60s and 70s). Their relationship somehow mirrors Valentino Garavani and Giancarlo Giammetti’s who together also created an iconic fashion house, amassed an incredible art collection and sustained a personal relationship for over 50 years. You can see A-Gent of Style‘s feature of Giammetti’s latest New York apartment here.
Actor Pierre Niney, boundless talent of the Comédie française (the French equivalent of the RSC, more or less) doesn’t play Yves Saint Laurent so much as embody him.
His performance is riveting and impeccable. The movie is intimate, insightful and entertaining. Wait to see a young Karl Lagerfeld mingling with Saint Laurent’s muses, Loulou de la Falaise and Betty Cattroux (interestingly enough, Catherine Deneuve is not featured). And the physical similarities between the actors and the actual persons are sometimes uncanny (Now, A-Gent of Style is very much aware that his adoration for Hamish Bowles – see the last post – is worryingly turning into an obsession but don’t you think he looks very much like Monsieur Saint Laurent?! The lanky figure, the floppy hair, the black-rimmed spectacles and of course la mode??).
The other show-stopping factors of the film are the visually sumptuous interiors.
Be it Saint Laurent’s childhood mansion in Oran, Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s Paris apartment or their villa in Les Jardins de Majorelle in Marrakesh, the décors are ravishing and breathtaking. Whilst they are not faithfully accurate, they certainly capture the spirit of the museum-quality objets d’art the A-Gay couple surrounded themselves with over five decades.
AD France has just featured new photographs of the arts patrons and aesthetes’s nine-room duplex apartment at 55 rue de Babylone, on Paris’s Left Bank,
one of the superlative interiors of the 20th century. After Saint Laurent’s death,
his and Bergé’s interiors were auctioned and sold at Christie’s in 2009 for an astounding $484 million—the Eileen Gray ‘Dragon’ chair alone brought just over
$28 million. It is still referred today as ‘the sale of the century’.
You can judge by yourselves here:
– Photos of interiors by AD France –
Today’s post, the first of a few exciting projects and events
A-Gent of Style will be involved in at the beginning of this year, is about Art Deco. The French Art Deco. The high-end kind of Art Deco. The iconic kind of Art Deco.
So, as some of you might have surmised by now, working on this topic has sent A-Gent of Style, a self-confessed Art Deco fan-atic, in a state of stratospheric exaltation and elation in the last few days. Actually, it all started around a month ago, back in December last year, when the January issue of World of Interiors came through the door. The tantalising cover was the promising sign its readers were in for something very special – if you like Art Deco, of course.
The distinguished British interior design magazine featured over eight delectable pages the spectacular interiors of a home replete with some of the most iconic and sought-after masterpieces of 20th C Decorative Arts, mostly Art Deco, collected by one single man over his life and remarkable career.
Sotheby’s, in association with Artcurial, has the privilege to present and sell the private collection of the illustrious French dealer, expert valuer, art historian,
Art Nouveau and Art Deco pioneer Félix Marcilhac which will be go under the hammer on 11 and 12 March 2014 at Sotheby’s Paris. This spectacular sale,
Félix Marcilhac Collection Privée, with its accompanying exhibition, represents therefore the distillation of this highly respected connoisseur‘s personal and museum-quality collection he and his family lived with over a few decades in the very same house featured in The World of Interiors.
To complement what will most probably be a seminal sale in the history of
20th C Decorative Arts, a visiting exhibition of selected but important pieces has been touring the world, first in New York and then Hong Kong at the end of last year, and has now arrived in London at Sotheby’s, New Bond Street, running
until 21 January before it reaches its final destination in Paris, first at Artcurial and then at Sotheby, Faubourg Saint-Honoré. The entire collection – more than
300 lots dating back to 1900 up to 1935 – will be on show there 3-11 March culminating on the much-anticipated auction on 11-12 March.
A-Gent of style is privileged and ecstatic to have collaborated with the wonderfully helpful and passionate team at Sotheby’s London on reviewing and publicising the beautifully curated exhibition and actual sale, and to have been given a private tour of the collection on Tuesday morning as the exhibition opened to the public.
This unique collection, amassed over the course of more than forty years, features a series of Art Deco masterpieces not seen in public for decades boasting a provenance of illustrious names such as Vicomtesse Marie-Laure de Noailles, Elsa Schiaparelli, Jeanne Lanvin, Paul Cocteau and Jean-Michel Frank. The ensemble regroups pieces from illustrious artists such as Frank himself, Pierre Legrain,
Pierre Chareau, Jean Dunand, Jean Goulden, Paul Iribe, Marcel Coard, Emile Gallé, Gustave Miklos, Edouard-Marcel Sandoz, Josef Csaky,
Ossip Zadkine, François-Louis Schmied and Jacques Majorelle – which altogether sounds like calling illustrious 20th C designers on the red carpet – all of whom worked with luxurious materials such as parchment, vellum, shagreen, lacquer, mother-of-pearl, rosewood, bronze and eggshell.
Félix Marcilhac has enjoyed an exceptional career and has gained a worldwide reputation as one of the world’s top dealers and experts in the field of
20th C Decorative Arts and, having devoted much of his activity to writing and research, stands out for his academic background and art historian’s approach.
He has written a host of authoritative reference works on inter-war painters, sculptors and architect-decorators including René Lalique, Edouard Sandoz,
Chana Orloff, Joseph Csaky, Gustave Miklos, Jean Dunand, Paul Jouve,
Jacques Majorelle, André Groult and the design firm Dominique, which monographs contributed to the rediscovery of many of them.
Marcilhac’s passion for 20 th C Decorative Arts began when he bought a sculpture by Gustave Miklos in Paris in 1967. Two years later he opened his namesake gallery at 8 rue Bonaparte in Paris now run by his son, Félix-Félix Marcilhac. He has worked as an advisor to the most important collectors of the genre and also organised the sales of a number of high-profile private collections, including those of Karl Lagerfeld in 1975, Marcel Tessier (devoted to Art Nouveau) in 1978, Madeleine Vionnet in 1985 and Nouran Manoukian in 1993. His clients have included Hélène Rochas,
Yves Saint-Laurent, Pierre Bergé, Andy Warhol, Catherine Deneuve and Alain Delon along with prominent French public figures and many private clients.
Now, 71, the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur Marcilhac, is retiring to Marrakesh and, eager to downsize, has “decided that he would sell his treasures during his lifetime in order that he could share the passion which has motivated him throughout his life and also to pay homage to the people and the time which has so captivated him” explains Cécile Verdier, Senior Director Europe and Head of Department
20th C Decorative Arts & Design. Discover the highlights of the exhibition here in a video with Madame Verdier.
The World of Interiors special feature was therefore the last time these masterpieces were seen together in situ before the dissipation of the sale.
A lacquered and eggshell desk by Jean Dunand and Jean Goulden with a rock crystal and obsidian sculpture ‘Paon’ by Joseph Csaky (€60-80,000) next to a unique cubic armchair ‘Fauteuil Cubique’ (c.1920) in rosewood, vellum and mother-of-pearl by Marcel Coard (€200-250,000) and ‘Chaizch Endormi’,
a painting by François-Louis Schmied (1937) (€40-50,000).
A gold leaf and brown painted plaster sculpture ‘Jeune Fille à la Colombe’ (1928) by Ossip Zadkine (€150-200,000) and on the table in the middle of the room a statue, ‘Femme’ (1926) by Gustave Miklos that belonged to Jeanne Lanvin. This very objet played a central role and became a benchmark in the collection as this was the first important piece Marcilhac bought which inspired him to become a collector and subsequently a dealer. In front of the pair of curved, lacquered doors with two oriental women, possibly by Jean Dunand, that lead onto the private study, you can just about see the Pierre Legrain console table (c.1924) in perforated nickel and plated brass with a glass top (€100-120,000).
Two iconic armchairs (c.1928) by Jean-Michel Frank upholstered in shagreen and made of oak with seats covered in a vibrant green velvet (€250-300,000),
an Orientalist painting by Marcelle Ackhein from around 1935, a serpentine fire surround by Eugène Gaillard, a sculpture by Etienne Béothy on top of the plinth and a unique black and gilt patinated bronze ‘Lampadaire Deux Serpents’ floor lamp (1931) by Edouard-Marcel Sandoz (€100-120,000).
Clockwise from top left: a gypsum chest of drawers by Jean-Michel Frank,
a Rose Adler notebook on top of a drawing by Christian Bérard and a music sheet by Francis Poulenc, a table by Marcel Coard with a parchment top above an
Ernest Boiceau carpet, and finally a drawing by Etienne Béothy, photos of interiors by Jean-Michel Frank and a shagreen notebook.
The study’s rosewood bookcase was designed by Jacques Grange. The geometric rug in wool (1927) is by Jean Dunand (€40-60,000) and the desk by Pierre Chareau dating from the seminal 1925 ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes’ in Paris. The lacquered doors, leading to the aforementioned study, with the stylised landscape is probably too by Dunand .
A beautiful collection of perfume bottles (some with stoppers) by Maurice Marinot from 1928 in various shapes and colours, made of clear glass and internally decorated, some with bubbling (€6-10,000).
The timeless Paul Iribe ‘Nautile’ tub-shaped armchair from 1913 with oversized carved scrolls, a low seat and a high back in walnut covered in a leopard print fabric reminiscent of Madeleine Castaing (€150-200,000). And an Orientalist painting
‘Le Vanneur’ (1936) by François Louis Schmied (€60-80,000).
Bought in 1980 in Boulogne-Billancourt, the chic Art Deco district in west Paris,
this private repository was only accessible to Marcilhac family’s and close relations, and was designed over the years by his long-standing friend, the renowned
French interior decorator Jacques Grange. To think that Marcilhac and his family lived in a house surrounded by exceptional pieces of furniture is almost beyond belief especially when you imagine his children running around such valuable – and for some of them – fragile objects.
He explains in the World of Interiors (January 2014) “…but on top of being highly refined, these objects were made to be used. So you live with them, you put water in the vases, you walk on the rugs, you put things in the chest of drawers, you sit in the armchairs. In short you make them ordinary by daily use. One day my children were dazzled by a Csaky sculpture in a museum. They hadn’t realised that there was one at home and that they lived amongst works of art. It was so much a part of their daily experience that they didn’t realise how unusual and how wonderful the objects were”. Envious doesn’t even start to cover it.
Needless to say it was an unbelievable experience for A-Gent of Style to be allowed to scrutinise up close, touch, open, pull and even sit on some of those pieces of the exhibition and to engage in fascinating conversations with a specialist of 20th C Design. However, the ophidiophobic A-Gent did stand the furthest he possibly could from all the snakes on show – a popular symbol in Art Deco representation –
so please show your appreciation when you get to the close-up shots of the objects represented with snakes (the things you’d do for love!). And since you ask, yes, the iconic Jean-Michel Frank’s fauteuil upholstered in shagreen is very comfortable.
What was revelatory and astonishing was that most of these pieces – eighty to one hundred years old – look incredibly modern and contemporary and showed no age of ageing or being passé. On the contrary, they have stood the test of time and, like a good old wine, have grown old gracefully and even developed over one century a patina and vintage look that are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Pulchritudinous and timeless are the two qualifiers that came to mind when A-Gent of Style walked through the three rooms of the exhibition and saw for the first time the 50-odd gems in real life. The anticipation for and buzz around the entire collection in Paris and sale which will regroup more than another 250 objects – undoubtedly a monumental feat to put together for Sotheby’s – are simply thrilling.
Whether you are an art collector, a discerning aesthete or simply an Art Deco enthusiast, Félix Marcilhac Collection Privée is a must-see. You have until
21 January in the evening to visit Sotheby’s in London for a taster, or
amuse-bouche, of the sale, or see the crème-de-la-crème ensemble in Paris mid-March. And if you would like getting your hands on a piece of history, why not bid! The lowest estimate for the sale has been set at 8 million euros. Going, going…gone!
The catalogue, with a contribution from Karl Lagerfeld, of this exceptional sale will be available early February and will be accompanied by an art book
by Jean-Louis Gaillemin (published by Editions Le Passage) charting
Félix Marcilhac’s career and taste, and containing interviews with
Monsieur Marcilhac himself and key figures from the worlds of fashion and decoration who count among his friends and clients.
But for now, follow A-Gent of Style in this decorative odyssey.
Hallway & Second Room:
And finally, if all of this hasn’t satiated your appetite for Art Deco, have a look at the post A-Gent of Style published last summer about the collection of books, ‘Bibliothèque Félix Marcilhac’, belonging to Marcilhac himself, with dazzling Art-Deco bound covers which was auctioned in December 2012
by Binoche et Giquello. You can view it here.
– Photos by The World of Interiors, Sotheby’s (plus video), Gallery Marcilhac,
The National Portrait Gallery and A-Gent of Style –