Rare Sofa and Side Table
What is guaranteed?
Property from a Distinguished Private Collector, New York
Rare Sofa and Side Table
model no. MB960
mahogany, patinated wrought-iron, fabric upholstery
sofa: 28¼ x 64⅜ x 29¾ in. (71.8 x 163.5 x 75.6 cm)
side table: 31¼ in. (79.4 cm) diameter
Overall in very good condition. This incredibly rare design by Pierre Chareau embodies the essence of the architect’s highly functional and elevated style. The side table includes a ball-shaped element in working condition, allowing for the table’s positioning to be adjusted. The wooden surfaces appear to have been reconditioned at some point in their history and present with light scratches and minor abrasions throughout, concentrated to the edges and not visually distracting. One rear edge of the armrest presents with three slightly more pronounced indentations, each measuring approximately 1/4 in. and not visually distracting. The metal elements with light surface scratches and abrasions as well as areas of very faint discoloration to the paints and corresponding oxidation throughout, consistent with age and gentle use. The tabletop has faint scratches, fine hairline cracks and indentations, two of which are slightly more pronounced near the edge of the top each measuring 1/4 in. and not visually distracting. The fabric upholstery is in excellent condition.
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.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
The present sofa and side table are a prime example of Pierre Chareau’s pioneering design language. Rich walnut is used to create three rectilinear slabs that appear to effortlessly hold together luxuriously upholstered cushions. To one side of the sofa an industrial wrought iron mechanism reaches out to hold a round wooden table. This apparatus houses a large steel ball that rests on the ground and rolls when the table is pivoted. Representative of a period of transition where the use of chic art deco elements was an ode to the rich decorative arts history of France, and the modern elements a foreshadowing of a burgeoning industrial era, the sofa is an early and exemplary model from Chareau’s radically modern oeuvre. The provenance of this sofa is also noteworthy, originating from the collection of Henri Meyer, an architect and collaborator of Pierre Chareau.
Chareau delicately balanced characteristics of the luxurious Art Deco and the functional Modernist idioms of interwar design while creating furniture and spaces that were radically innovative. Today, Chareau is most famous for the avant-garde building Maison de Verre (or "Glass House") in Paris, a collaboration with architect Bernard Bijvoet and metalworker Louis Dalbet. This hybrid residential and commercial building, commissioned by Dr. Jean Dalsace and built between 1928 and 1932, was a pioneer of the early international style for its use of a metal structure and glass facade. For the interior, Chareau masterfully incorporated innovative design elements such as rotating privacy screens, a mechanical food trolly, retractable staircases and window louvers adjustable by hand crank.
Chareau’s clever and sophisticatedly engineered interior design elements proved to be inspiration for his own work in the decade following the completion of Maison de Verre. As Chareau’s popularity grew and as he found clientele in the progressive bourgeoisie, he continued to marry materials of the popular French Art Deco style with the clean lines and forms of modernism in his furniture designs. Chareau used exotic wood species to create thin plinths for table tops. He used rectilinear alabaster pieces to create dynamic and abstract lamps. While collaborating with metal worker Dalbet at Maison de Verre, Chereau was introduced to blackened flat steel which he subsequently integrated into his design palette, allowing for new possibilities in form and function. Often bending the modern material into cubist shapes, he created hanging benches, swiveling plant stands, folding chairs and extendable tables. This sofa and side table (model no. MB960), is a testament to Chareau’s intriguing combination of Art Deco and modernism.