Lot 449
  • 449

François-Xavier Lalanne

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • François-Xavier Lalanne
  • "Sauterelle" Bar
  • impressed FRANCOIS-XAVIER/LALANNE/70 with artist's monogram
  • porcelain, polished brass, steel
  • 25 7/8  x 33 1/2  x 68 3/4  in. (65.7 x 85.1 x 174.6 cm)
from an edition of two


Paul Facchetti Gallery, Zurich
Private Collection, Geneva, 1972
Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris
Private Collection, Paris, 2005
Sotheby's Paris, May 27, 2009, lot 9
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Les Tirages restreints de François-Xavier et Claude Lalanne, Galerie Alexandre Iolas, Paris, 1970
9ème Pavillon des Antiquaires, Galerie Hopkins-Custot, Paris, April 2005
Les Lalanne, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, March 17-July 4, 2010


"Pas en cage," Connaissance des Arts, no. 225, November 1970, p. 130 (for the present lot illustrated)
France Bertin, "Un bestiaire pour l'environnement," Votre Maison, no. 135, August-September 1970, p. 48 (for the present lot illustrated)
John Russell, Les Lalannes, Paris, 1975, p. 66 (for a related Sauterelle executed in steel and polished brass, 1967)
Daniel Marchesseau, Les Lalanne, Paris, 1998, p. 71 (for a related form titled Sauterelle I executed in painted brass, 1967)
Alan Hamilton, "A Queen's ransom from across the globe," The Times, April 27, 2002 (for the example from this edition in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II)
Pauline Simons, "Un Pavillon dans l'air du temps," Le Figaro, April 2, 2005, p. 98 (for the present lot illustrated)
Daniel Abadie, Lalanne(s), Paris, 2008, pp. 92 (for the above mentioned related Sauterelle I and a related design drawing) and 93 (for the present lot illustrated)
Les Lalanne, exh. cat., Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, 2010, p. 73 (for the present lot illustrated)

Catalogue Note

Over the course of his multi-decade career, Francois-Xavier Lalanne inspired and delighted viewers with his sculptural interpretations of the natural world. In his extensive and diverse body of work, much of which he co-created with his wife, Claude, Lalanne experimented with imagery, aesthetics, material, and functionality to ignite curiosity and endear his whimsical sculptures. Flora and fauna become cleverly stylized. Animals cast in metal are depicted with soft, expressive features. The scale of his subjects is unexpectedly expanded or reduced. Unlikely plant, animal, and human forms coalesce into charming creatures drawn from fantasy. Never quite what they seem, Lalanne’s creations are brought to life through the artist’s incorporation of an imaginative element of surprise.

In some of his most exciting work, Lalanne exercised his incredible technical ingenuity to surprise us with transformation and utility. Lalanne rejected that art and decoration are mutually exclusive—both he and Claude preferred their works to be enjoyed in the intimacy of the home or to exist freely in a public garden, not beyond the viewer’s reach in a museum or gallery. Governed by this philosophy, the thoughtfully conceived functionality of Lalanne’s sculptures both bewilders and domesticates what might otherwise be a fantastic or supernatural form. With a simple movement, a bird spreads its wings and transforms into a table. A wooly sheep provides comfortable seating. A gorilla pulls open its chest to expose a safe.  Nature is transformed into sculpture and sculpture physically transforms into utility.

The present lot, Lalanne’s exquisite Sauterelle, is at one moment a wild, oversized sculpture of a grasshopper, and the next instant its body opens to function as a bar. Executed in 1970, Sauterelle made its public debut in the same year at an exhibition dedicated to the work of Les Lalannes at Galerie Alexandre Iolas in Paris. It is one of only two examples made with luxurious Sèvres porcelain; the other was presented as a gift by President Georges Pompidou to Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh in 1972, where it remains in their collection today.

The bar furniture piece is one that Lalanne explored in multiple animal forms—hippopotamus, carp, a polymorphic cat. He created sculptures with similar mechanisms to transform into desks, wash basins, even a fireplace within the belly of a baboon. Though his work is wonderfully witty and original, it is not without the influence of history. It is apparent the ways in which Lalanne was inspired by the Surrealist movement and the innovation of convertible 18th century French furniture.  The often massive scale of his sculpture, including that of Sauterelle, references Lalanne’s personal experience working as a guard in the Egyptian and Assyrian galleries at the Louvre. There, alone in the galleries during closed hours, Lalanne had the ancient monumental stone sculptures to himself to revel in their quiet yet overwhelming power and dignity.

With its hinged porcelain plates closed, the larger-than-life Sauterelle has striking sculptural presence. The sharp angles of its welded steel legs bring energy and dynamism to the work, almost making us believe it might suddenly spring into the air. When opened, the revelation of its utility tames the imposing yet charismatic beast by inviting viewers to approach and interact. Its wings rise up and outward to offer a surface to rest your drink. It is this clever synthesis of art and function, fantasy and familiarity, that makes Sauterelle a quintessential work within Lalanne’s oeuvre. It is exemplary of what art critic John Russell described as “a complex art: one which mates Ancient Egypt with Alice in Wonderland, zoology with cabinet-making, metaphysics with personal adornment. It is also an art of psychic equilibrium. Its basic temper is inquisitive, undiscouraged, resourceful. It is there to work for us, yet it is not at all servile. It has its own life, and it leads it, and we are the richer for its being around.”