Émile Gallé, La Berce des Prés or Ombelles chair, circa 1902. Carved walnut and cane, Signed Gallé on one leg. Estimate €8,000-12,000.
20th Century Design

Three of a Kind: Chairs

By Sotheby's

M any unique and fabulous pieces of furniture, sculptures and decorative pieces go under the hammer in Sotheby's Design sale on 20 November in Paris. Here, we take a closer look at three of the chairs up for auction in that sale, at three different price points.

Donald Judd, Armchair, model n. 1, designed in 1984. Painted aluminium. Estimate €4,000-6,000.
Donald Judd, Armchair, model n. 1 , designed in 1984. Painted aluminium. Estimate €4,000-6,000.

1. Donald Judd, Armchair, model n. 1. Estimate €4,000-6,000.

Donald Judd's first furniture designs were products of necessity. He made twin mattresses for his children that were soon followed by a desk and a chair to go with them. Donald Judd produced furniture simply because he couldn't find what he was looking for.

He wrote about his philosophy often, notably in the 1993 essay: "The art of a chair is not its resemblance to art, but is partly its reasonableness, usefulness, and scale as a chair."

Like all of his furniture, this chair is closely related to Judd's minimalist sculpture. The basic form was considered ideal for mass production, but the nature of its construction required extensive handwork. Based on a perfect cube, this chair repeats the same form to make a series. Judd modulates the cube with metallic surfaces and structural changes while maintaining the basic overall shape. Of his chair designs, Judd stated, "The furniture is comfortable to me... A straight chair is best for eating or writing. The third position is standing.

Judd's furniture maintained a remarkably cohesive aesthetic, guided by a rigorous focus on materiality, proportion, and scale.

Émile Gallé, La Berce des Prés or Ombelles chair, circa 1902. Carved walnut and cane, Signed Gallé on one leg. Estimate €8,000-12,000.
Émile Gallé, La Berce des Prés or Ombelles chair , circa 1902. Carved walnut and cane, Signed Gallé on one leg. Estimate €8,000-12,000.

2. Émile Gallé, La Berce des Prés or Ombelles chair. Estimate €8,000-12,000.

Emile Gallé has always been interested in wood. As a great botanist, he knew by heart the nuances of different varieties of the material; it allowed him to create marquetry decorations that enlivened and enriched his furniture or, for the luxurious ones, directly sculpted in order to add the right ambience to his decor. The Ombelle chair is one of the most sought after models, and was presented in 1903 at the Salon de la Lorraine Artiste. The clear hue and the silky touch of the walnut are ideally suited to represent this flower.

Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Boudoir Collectionneur armchair, circa 1925. Wood, gilt bronze and fabric upholstery. Estimate €15,000-20,000.
Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Boudoir Collectionneur armchair , circa 1925. Wood, gilt bronze and fabric upholstery. Estimate €15,000-20,000.

3. Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Boudoir Collectionneur armchair. Estimate €15,000-20,000.

Often called the Genius of Art Deco, Emile-Jacques Ruhlmann was the most significant French designer of the 1920s. His reputation was consecrated at the 1925 Paris Exposition Internationale and he is still renowned today for his superior craftsmanship and the refinement that characterises his work.

This Boudoir Collectionneur armchair epitomises Ruhlmann’s style with the combination of straight lines softened by the delicate movement of the armrests and the ovoid silvered bronze feet. The silk upholstery, which was designed by Ruhlmann himself, perfectly completes and balances this exquisite piece of furniture.

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