Sculpture by Design: Rateau | Giacometti | Les Lalanne

Sculpture by Design: Rateau | Giacometti | Les Lalanne

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 302. Pair of "Structure Végétale" Candle Sconces.

Property from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Sold to Benefit Acquisition Funds

Claude Lalanne

Pair of "Structure Végétale" Candle Sconces

Auction Closed

December 8, 04:49 PM GMT


150,000 - 200,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Sold to Benefit Acquisition Funds

Claude Lalanne

Pair of "Structure Végétale" Candle Sconces


gilt bronze, galvanized copper

each monogrammed CL, impressed LALANNE, numbered 1/1 and dated 98

i: 23½ x 18 x 7 in. (59.6 x 45.7 x 17.7 cm)

ii: 20¾ x 18 x 6¾ in. (52.7 x 45.7 x 17.1 cm)

Acquired directly from the artist by Anne d’Harnoncourt, 1998
Given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by the Estate of Joseph J. Rishel, 2022
Daniel Marchesseau, Les Lalannes, Paris, 1998, p. 126 (for a related model)
Daniel Abadie, Lalanne(s), Paris, 2008, p. 34 (for a related model)
Adrian Danatt, François-Xavier et Claude Lalanne: In the Domain of Dreams, New York 2018, p. 202 (for a related model)

Claude Lalanne’s Pair of “Structure Végétale” Candle Sconces embodies the poetic reverie that aptly characterizes the artist’s oeuvre. Emblematic of her singular whimsy, these sconces composed of gilt bronze and copper leafy sprigs are configured to each hold three candles. When illuminated, the light dapples the different metal tones and invigorates the very “vegetal structure” of the works. Though she often turned chandeliers, mirrors and candelabras into beautiful floral compositions, the present model remains quite rare. Hailing from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the present pair of sconces is further distinguished by its prestigious provenance. 

The use of both vegetal forms and the electrotyping technique known as galvanoplasty were foundational to Claude Lalanne’s artistic practice. American artist Jimmy Metcalf helped teach Claude the method early in her career, while she and her husband Francois-Xavier lived in an artist complex at the Impasse Ronsin in Montparnasse. Through countless experiments with the chemical baths, she learned to transform delicate bits of botany into metal and immortalize the ephemeral in its current state in time. Ginkgo leaves and cabbage heads began to evade the shriveling and withering that is inherent to the natural world. The consequent straddling between the plant and its new metallic identity elicits a visually enchanting effect. The time-stopping nature of this process also lends itself to aesthetics, as the elegance of the pair of sconces resonates years after their creation.

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne championed the plant and animal worlds with their poetic works of furniture, transcending the role of either artist or artisan. Having grown up in a household of musicians, Claude Lalanne infused her pieces with a natural lyricism that is tangible in this pair of sconces. How many assemblages of branches might she have toyed with before reaching this balanced composition? There is a visual ease to the present bouquet that makes her careful arrangement seem like it was simply found as such in nature. Claude welcomed the role that improvisation could play in her designs and embraced a spirit of spontaneity. About his wife, Francois-Xavier waxed, “Claude works the way birds sing, without really thinking about it”. As with Claude’s entire body of work, these “Structure Végétale” lights are more than merely functional candle holders—they present as a unique mélange only she could imagine. Like a bird’s song, they are intrinsically euphonious.