Important Design

Important Design

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Property from an Important New York Collection

Armand-Albert Rateau

Reading Stand

Auction Closed

June 9, 06:24 PM GMT


220,000 - 280,000 USD

Lot Details


Armand-Albert Rateau

Reading Stand

circa 1915

patinated bronze, ebonized wood, brass


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

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.