Freddie Mercury: A World of His Own | The Evening Sale

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View full screen - View 1 of Lot 7. Sideboard, circa 1895.

Léon Bénouville

Sideboard, circa 1895

Auction Closed

September 6, 08:20 PM GMT


6,000 - 10,000 GBP

Lot Details


Léon Bénouville

1860 - 1903

Sideboard, circa 1895

walnut and marquetry, brass and glass

the cabinet and buffet both marked LB and numbered 5 406 to the reverse

149.5 by 58 by 242.9cm.; 58⅞ by 22⅞ by 95⅝in.

A French architect and designer, Léon Bénouville, was associated with the international decorative arts and architectural style, known as Art Nouveau, which emerged in the late 19th century and flourished until the early 20th century throughout Europe and the USA. It was a reaction to the prevailing academic art, eclecticism and historicism which dominated much of the 19th century art and design. The Art Nouveau was characterised by its emphasis on organic and natural forms, intricate and flowing lines, and a desire to merge art with everyday life. It sought to create a total work of art, where architecture, interior design, furniture, jewellery, ceramics, and graphic arts were all integrated into a unified aesthetic. Asymmetry and whiplash lines provided a sense of dynamism, movement and fluidity, combined with the introduction of modern materials such as iron, glass and ceramic.

The movement drew inspiration from various sources, including the curving lines of plants and flowers in nature, the Japanese and Gothic arts. Victor Horta's Hôtel Tassel, completed in 1893, is considered one of the earliest examples of Art Nouveau architecture. The style quickly spread to Paris, where it was embraced by Hector Guimard, who incorporated it into the entrances of the newly built Paris underground. The 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle played a crucial role in the style’s recognition and influence. Art Nouveau expanded beyond Belgium and France, and gained popularity throughout Europe. However, it acquired different names and distinctive characteristics in each country, for instance known as Jugendstil in Germany, Modernisme in Spain and Liberty in Italy.

The Art Nouveau style's principles of organic forms, elaborate craftsmanship, and integration of art into everyday objects translated well into the realm of furniture design. Art Nouveau placed a strong emphasis on craftsmanship and attention to detail. Cabinet makers aimed to create pieces that were not only functional but also works of art, showcasing their skill and expertise in woodworking and decorative arts, as exemplified by this refined and exuberant Bénouville’s cabinet.

Art Nouveau furniture often featured flowing, sinuous lines as well as curved and asymmetrical shapes inspired by nature. Intricate details and embellishments were prevalent: elaborate carvings, inlays, and marquetry with floral motifs, vines, and whiplash curves were commonly incorporated. Makers favoured the use of natural materials, such as wood, to emphasize the connection with nature. Richly grained woods like oak, walnut, and mahogany were frequently utilised. Art Nouveau embraced the integration of other art forms into furniture design, thus incorporating stained glass panels into cabinet doors or as decorative elements, and using metalwork, such as brass, copper, or iron, for handles, hinges, and decorative elements. Experimentation of new techniques and joinery methods was required to achieve the desired curvilinear forms, such as steam-bending and lamination to shape wood into flowing curves. Notable cabinet makers and furniture designers associated with Art Nouveau include Émile Gallé, Louis Majorelle, Hector Guimard, and Henry van de Velde. Their creations exemplify the fusion of artistic expression and furniture design that characterized the Art Nouveau style.

Born in Rome in 1860 into an artistic family, Bénouville completed his studies at the Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris and began working as an architectural associate. He studied the monuments of the Middle Ages and Gothic art. Bénouville, formed his own company, Arts et Manufactures Bénouville, to produce his own designs in about 1895. He won recognition for his work, including a silver medal at the international exhibition of 1889 and gold and silver medals at the Paris 1900 Exposition Universelle. Bénouville died at the age of 43, in 1903.

With the onset of World War I in 1914, Art Nouveau gradually declined in popularity. It was replaced by new artistic styles such as Art Deco and later Modernism, which dominated the architectural and decorative arts of the 1920s and beyond. However, in the late 1960s, Art Nouveau began to receive renewed attention and appreciation from critics and has been recognized as a significant and influential style in the history of art and design. Its distinctive organic forms and designs are present in the permanent collections of important international museums such as the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, the Victorian and Albert Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as well as important private collections around the world.

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