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Property from a Distinguished Private Collector, New York

Pierre Chareau

Rare Sofa and Side Table

Auction Closed

June 9, 06:24 PM GMT


300,000 - 500,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from a Distinguished Private Collector, New York

Pierre Chareau

Rare Sofa and Side Table

circa 1930

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

Please note that the wood type for this lot is mahogany and not walnut as previously indicated in the digital catalogue.
Henri Meyer
Galerie Doria, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Marc Vellay and Kenneth Frampton, Pierre Chareau, Paris, 1984, pp. 84  (for a period photograph of a related model) and 311 (for a related model)
Anne Bony, Les Années 30, Paris, 1987, p. 762 (for a related model)
Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, exh. cat., Jewish Museum, New York, 2016, p. 111

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.