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OPULENT FRENCH ART CASE PIANO SELLS FOR $253, 623 AT AUCTION

 

By Culturekiosque Staff

LONDON, 19 MARCH 2013 — An extravagant French ormolu-mounted tulipwood, kingwood, bois satiné and marquetry grand piano by Erard sold for £169,875 ($253,623) at Christie's London, King Street last Thursday 14 March 2013. The art case is attributed to Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener, Paris and the mounts designed by Leon Message, circa 1905.

Estimated at £100,000 – 200,000 ($149,300 - $298,600), the piano is in the distinctive fin de siècle style of high-rococo fused with Art Nouveau and was completed in April 1905 and sold for Fr11,400 on 5 October 1908.

The Erard piano was a highlight of The Opulent Eye - 500 Years: Decorative Arts Europe, an auction sale featuring 248 lots of sumptuous furniture and works of art from the 19th century including tables, suites of chairs, marble and bronze statuary, clocks, and lighting from international collections.

The Erard archives records this piano as:

Grand piano n°1, style Louis the XV, very rich, bois satiné, decorated with bronze doré (6 feet)

It was finished in April 1905 and sold for 11,400 francs on 5 October 1908 to Mme. Vve Th. Rivierre of 3 rue de Luynes, Paris. Marie Rivierre was the widow of Théodore Rivierre who founded the firm of Clouterie Rivierre, a leading French pre-war manufacturer of nails, pins and tacks. Following her husband's death in 1900, Marie Rivierre expanded the factory and entered new international markets to Argentina and Indochina. On the eve of the First World War, the factory employed four hundred people. She participated in the war effort, particularly by making shoe tacks for the army. She died at Chantilly in January 1937 aged 64 years.

This piano is in the distinctive fin de siècle style of high-rococo fused with Art Nouveau. This new style was formed by the artistic association of the ébénistes Joseph-Emmanuel Zwiener and François Linke with the sculptor Léon Messagé, aided by the proximity of Linke's workshop at 170 rue du Faubourg Saint-Antoine to Zwiener's at 12 rue de la Roquette and Messagé's nearby studio at 40 rue Sedaine.

Messagé was inspired by Meissonnier's asymmetrical ornament of the early 18th century to produce rococco, flowing, designs for furniture and to sculpt gilt-bronze mounts of lively, high-relief allegorical figures linked by delicate organic frames. Messagé supplied designs to Linke from circa 1885 and had worked with or for Zwiener since probably 1880 or 1881, and is also recorded to have worked for the firm of Boudet. However it was at the Paris 1889 Exposition Universelle that Messagé achieved international recognition when he, and Zweiner, received a gold medal for an important serre-bijoux cabinet, subsequently sold Christie's, London, 17 March 2011, lot 409 (£623,650).

In 1890 Messagé published his Cahier des Dessins et Croquis Style Louis XV, in which a total of thirty-six designs, ranging from furniture to table objects to silverware, were made available to the public. It is while providing sculptural designs for Zwiener's more exuberant furniture that Messagé appears to have come into contact for the first time with François Linke, with whose association he is best remembered for producing the triumphant display of furniture in 'le style Linke' at the Paris 1900 Exposition Universelle.

Following Messagé's premature death in 1901, his widow sold the rights to her late husband's designs to Linke. However not all Messagé's designs were controlled posthumously by Linke, and although it is possible that Linke made the art-case of the present piano circa 1905, the success of the Exposition Universelle stand and the publication of Dessins et Croquis Style Louis XV, meant that Messagé's influence had permeated the whole Parisian cabinetmaking community. Nor did Messagé work alone. Collaborators such as Fernand Dubois, Surbled and Adolf Sédille also worked freelance for Linke and the names of other sculptors such as Pouillon and Bruchon as also associated with Messagé. All would have continued and reworked Messagé's style (C. Payne, François Linke, 1855-1946 - The Belle Epoque of French Furniture, Woodbridge, 2003, Ch. III, pp. 71-98).

Messagé's influence is omnipresent in the sweeping casework of this piano. The serpentine and bombé curves are richly mounted with flowering acanthus encadrements. Messagé touch is especially evident in the water-spilling shells to the short sides and the rocaille and tree branch framed cartouches enclosing a concave panel set with a water-spilling urn. This urn, surround by bulrushes, compares closely to a similar mount, illustrated opposite page, top right, designed by Messageé for Linke's 'Bahut Marine' cabinet, sold Christie's, London, 9 December 2010, lot 257 (£780,450).

The exact style of the mounts which favour organic forms, as opposed to figural sculpture, together with the type of bois de bout floral marquetry used, most strongly suggest an attribution to Zwiener. The German born Zwiener was summoned to Berlin in 1895 to produce a suite of furniture for the Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941). Thus after 1895 Maison Jansen took over Zwiener's Paris atelier, renaming it Zwiener Jansen Successeur. Given that Erard records the date of manufacture to be 1905, Erard most probably therefore engaged Zwiener Jansen Successeur to make the case.

Comparable art case piano's by Zwiener include Erard serial number 80560, shown at the 1900 Exposition Universelle, sold Christie's, London, 28 September 2006, lot 150 (£243,200); Erard serial number 108641, made circa 1902-1904, sold Sotheby's, New York, 24 October 2012, lot 154 ($422,500); Eard serial number 73440, with vernis-martin decorated case by Zwiener or Linke, sold Sotheby's, 15 April 2011, lot 226 ($1,112,500).

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