Lot 54
  • 54

Claude Lalanne

350,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Claude Lalanne
  • "Bureau Crocodile"
  • impressed LALANNE/2009 and numbered 6/8 with artist’s monogram
  • patinated and polished bronze
number six from an edition of eight


Galerie Mitterrand, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2009


Daniel Marchesseau, les Lalanne, Paris, 1998, pp. 104-105 (for a pair of related console tables)
Paul Kasmin, Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne, New York, 2012, n.p.
Les Lalanne: Fifty Years of Work, 1964-2015, exh. cat., Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, 2015, p. 103


Overall in very good condition. The bronze surfaces have been sensitively cleaned by a professional metalwork conservator. When viewed in person, the patinated bronze displays a rich gold surface and beautiful contrast between the polished top and richly textured crocodile skins. The bronze surfaces with a few minor surface scratches and minor remnants of oxidation to the recessed portions of the design, consistent with age and gentle use. This spectacular sculptural desk comes from the same collection as lots 52 and 53 and displays extraordinary detailing to the bronze cast crocodile skins. While identified by the artist as a "bureau" or desk, the scale also makes this form ideally suited for a console table.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Sotheby's would like to thank Claude Lalanne for her assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.

At midnight during a full moon in 1972, Claude Lalanne paid a visit to the zoo. It was a surreal and eagerly anticipated experience for the artist. She had made an appointment with the director of the zoo, who agreed to her request for the remains of a recently deceased crocodile. Lalanne had conceived the idea to incorporate the animal’s unique form into her bronze work, but she knew it would be impossible to realize without a model. So she waited for nature and fate to take its course. When a crocodile at the zoo died, the zoo director (who was a friend of Niki de Saint Phalle) recognized that the animal, under Lalanne’s nimble fingers and poetic imagination, would soon begin its next life as a work of art.

Since that night, Lalanne has incorporated the “Croco” into an array of her works. Either fragmented or in its entirety, the crocodile motif appears as a chandelier, small table, stool, chair, bench and, in one of the artist’s most masterful interpretations of the form, as the present desk and armchairs. Lalanne developed the technique of galvanoplastie, in which she uses a continuous electric current to apply a metal deposit on the surface of the object. Lalanne employs this technique alongside bronze casting to translate the crocodile’s rough and scaly form and additional botanical elements into the textured surfaces of the present lots.

Eulogizing his wife’s work, François-Xavier Lalanne praised, “All she has to do is persuade the elements to marry each other by soldering, hammering, and filing them.”  Indeed, Claude Lalanne manipulates her materials with incredible skill and sensitivity to combine her crocodile, which forms the chair backrests and the desktop, with an ensemble of vegetal stems which give the pieces their structure. These organic curves and counter-curves culminate into deeply poetic compositions embellished with delicate bouquets of galvanoplastic cabbage leaves from the Lalannes’ garden.

The “Crocodile” armchairs and “Croco” desk epitomize the Surrealist influence that defines Lalanne’s work. The significance of her work to the wider Surrealist dialogue of the period is eternalized in a period photograph of Max Ernst, pioneer of the Surrealism movement, sitting in one of these very chairs in the company of the artist. These lots are a unique opportunity to acquire three iconic works from the “Crocodile” series coming from the same collection.