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327

Armand-Albert Rateau

Reading Stand

Property from an Important New York Collection

Armand-Albert Rateau

Armand-Albert Rateau

Reading Stand

Reading Stand

Authenticity guarantee

What is guaranteed?

Armand-Albert Rateau

Reading Stand


circa 1915

patinated bronze, ebonized wood, brass

stamped A. A. RATEAU/INV/PARIS

30 x 23½ x 11⅞ in. (76.2 x 59.6 x 29.9 cm)

Overall in very good condition. An incredibly charming piece, the present reading stand is an illustration of Rateau’s masterful ability to combine wood and bronze to create a stunning work of functional sculpture. The adjustable reading stand mechanism is functional, allowing for fifteen different configurations. The horizontal table surface swivels seamlessly. The patinated bronze surfaces present with beautiful dark gray hues with hints of dark green. The bronze with very minor irregularities inherent to the making and to the artist’s practice. The patina with some occasional faint discolorations concentrated to the base, not visually distracting and consistent with age. The ebonized wood surfaces with scratches throughout and edge abrasions concentrated to the top right corner of the reading panel. The wood exhibits very fine hairline cracks and crackling to the ebonized finish concentrated to the tabletop surface.. Two edges of the table surface with evidence of old restorations, not visually distracting. The brass presents with faint oxidation and faint discolorations throughout consistent with age. A rare and well-preserved piece by Rateau in functional 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.

Galerie Vallois, Paris
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1989
Frank Oliviér-Vial and François Rateau, Armand-Albert Rateau, Paris 1992, pp. 202-204
Armand-Albert Rateau, Jeanne Lanvin, exh. cat., Galerie Vallois, Paris, 2004, pp. 11-13

Somewhere between sculpture and functionalism, the present reading stand showcases Rateau’s unparalleled ability to combine distinctly neo-classical elements into a modern structure. Rateau’s training as a sculptor, his fondness for antiquity and his specific affection for animal motifs are all brilliantly proclaimed here in the flawless execution of a stylized bird standing next to an equally sculptural stand.


For millennia, artists have taken inspiration from the animal world, from the portrayal of domestic animals in ancient Egypt to the expressive œuvre of turn-of-the-century sculptors like Rembrandt Bugatti and François Pompon. Such legacy was surely not lost on Rateau and provided him with a source of endless artistic inspiration. His journey to Naples and Pompeii in 1914, where he visited archeological and excavation sites, introduced him to ancient bronze furniture and to the fantastical worlds inhabiting frescoes.


A direct response to the minimalist revolution and simplification of forms imposed by Modernism in the mid-1920s, Rateau instead paid homage to the excessive ornamentation and figurative grandeur that defined notions of style for centuries. Rateau’s modern reinterpretation of classical and Baroque themes instills in the present reading stand a timeless and universal artistic appeal, making it a masterpiece of animalier sculpture in and of itself. Over the course of his career, Rateau gave life to a myriad of animals in bronze and created a mythical “bestiary,” whose scope and variety prefigure Francois-Xavier Lalanne’s functional animalier designs several decades later. One recalls Rateau’s legendary “Doe” Daybed, the delicate “Fennecs” table lamps with alabaster shades and the monumental “Swan” floor lamps from the same period, executed with as much technical mastery as artistic imagination.


The present lot consequently holds a special place within Rateau’s larger body of work as a contemporary animalier, making it an incomparable masterpiece which is beautifully contextualized in this collection with other outstanding works by the French designer.