Lot 200
  • 200


150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann
  • "Lit Soleil"
  • branded Ruhlmann
  • macassar ebony
  • 77 x 83 x 90 3/4  in. (195.6 x 210.8 x 230.5 cm)
  • designed 1923, executed 1930
model no. 542ar and 807nr


Commissioned directly from the artist by actress Jane Renouardt, St. Cloud, France, 1930
Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Collection Jane Renouardt, St. Cloud, May 26, 1972
Didier Aaron, Paris
Collection of William McCarty-Cooper and Douglas Cooper, Los Angeles, California
Christie's New York, Important Furniture, Silver, Books and Decorative Arts from the Collection of William A. McCarty-Cooper, January 25, 1992, lot 163
Private Collection
Christie's New York, December 10, 1994, lot 475


Florence Camard, Ruhlmann: Master of Art Deco, New York, 1983, pp. 180 (for a gouache showing the model) and 181
Diane Von Furstenberg, Beds, New York, 1991, p. 132
Pierre Kjellberg, Le Mobilier du XXeme Siecle, Paris, 2000, p. 569
Ruhlmann: un génie de l'Art déco, exh. cat., Musée des Années 30, Paris, 2002, p. 25 (for a gouache showing the model)
Emmanuel Bréon, Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann: furniture, Boulogne-Billancourt, 2004, pp. 74-75 (for a sketch and a gouache showing the model) and 105 (for the model in the artist's référenciers)
Emmanuel Bréon and Rosalind Pepall, Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco, Paris, 2004, p. 25 (for a gouache showing the model)


Overall in very good original condition. The scale and overall presence of this rare work is all the more impressive when viewed in person. The outer two rings of the headboard have a gentle undulating curve that add another dimensional quality to the work, inherent in the design and are not visible in the catalog illustration. The textural quality of the Macassar ebony more pronounced when viewed in person. The wooden surfaces with minor scattered scuffs, scratches, nicks and bumps as is typical with age. The front of the footboard with a gentle and uniform faint fading that is not visually disruptive and retains scattered scuffs, scratches and darker marks visible in the catalogue illustration. The proper front left side of the footboard with an area of fine hairline cracks which have been professionally and sensitively stabilized, partially visible in the catalogue illustration. The upper proper left corner with a minor chip measuring approximately 3/4 in. The lower inside proper left edge of the proper left front foot with an area of veneer loss measuring approximately 4 3/4 in., visible in the catalogue illustration but not immediately visible in person. The frame rails with minor scattered chips and losses to the veneer, concentrated to the inner edge, the largest to the front proper right rail, measuring approximately 3/8 x 6in, and was professionally and sensitively repaired at some point. The rectangular portion beneath the radial element of the headboard with minor scattered scuffs, nicks and scratches. The lower left and right sides of this section with minor hairline cracks and a few isolated minor losses to the veneer, measuring approximately 15 in. each and not immediately visible. The proper left carved oval located where the "sunburst" headboard terminates with a hairline crack running vertically approximately 4 in. and is stable. The radial portion of the headboard with minor shrinkage to the veneer, is stable and visible on close inspection. Carefully preserved, all of the above are consistent with age and gentle use and a testament to its unique history. An extraordinary masterwork by Ruhlmann, the Lit Soleil displays France's most accomplished ébeniste of the Art Deco period at the height of his powers. The labour intensive production and extreme quality radiate throughout the work.
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

By the end of the 1920s, Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann (1879-1933) had established an unparalleled reputation as a decorator and furniture designer in France and overseas. His pieces recognizably combined neoclassical elements with modernist elegance, and incorporated only the rarest and most refined materials available. Ruhlmann’s presentation at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, which showcased his furniture in highly curated interiors, made him an overnight success and solidified his stature as the country’s leading furniture designer. The public exposure that resulted from the fair brought in a growing number of private, high-end commissions from the Parisian elite. One of such clients, silent film star Jane Renouardt, commissioned this “Lit Soleil” (or “Sun Bed”) from Ruhlmann in 1930. The present piece is one of two models made for the actress, the other one being held in the Sydney and Frances Lewis Collection at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This extravagant creation stands out from other contemporaneous pieces from the designer. The dramatic, crescent-shaped headboard, whose sunburst effect is heightened by the radiating veneers, demonstrates Ruhlmann’s extraordinary craftsmanship and unique sense of theatricality. The slight elevation of the footboard and raised side rails, technical devices that the designer often relied on, further indicate that the piece was not simply conceived as a bed, but as a complete work of art. 

Made of white oak and veneered in Macassar ebony, the piece reportedly required over 252 hours of work from Ruhlmann’s craftsmen and cost 11,375 Francs, the equivalent of half of the designer’s annual salary. Ruhlmann applied the highly polished veneer onto over-poplar battens, a technique often used among Art Deco furniture makers. The veneer additionally laid over a backing of laminated softwood slats, which helps in reducing warping. Such attention to technique speaks to the designer’s concern for the durability and posterity of his furniture.

The “Sun Bed” reflects Ruhlmann’s stylistic shift towards the end of the 1920s, a period during which he favored a modernist approach to lines and forms. As opposed to his earlier, more ornamental designs, the bed displays well-defined outlines and simplified geometric elements. Together with its extravagant scale and valuable materials, the “Lit Soleil” is widely considered one of Ruhlmann’s most ambitious pieces and the finest expression of Art Deco design.