Important Design

Important Design

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 74. Guépard, Tête à Gauche.

Property of an Important American Collector

François-Xavier Lalanne

Guépard, Tête à Gauche

Auction Closed

June 7, 06:14 PM GMT


1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD

Lot Details


Property of an Important American Collector

François-Xavier Lalanne

Guépard, Tête à Gauche

designed circa 1994, executed 2001

number 6 from an edition of 8 plus 4 artist’s proofs

executed by Landowski Fondeur, France

patinated bronze

monogrammed fxl, impressed LALANNE, numbered 6/8, dated 2001 and with the foundry's mark

28⅞ x 63¼ x 12¾ in. (73.1 x 160.6 x 32.3 cm)

Ben Brown Fine Arts, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Daniel Marchesseau, Les Lalannes, Paris, 1998, p. 42
François-Xavier & Claude Lalanne, Dreams for the Light of Day, exh. cat., Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, Saint Louis, Missouri, 2000, p. 39
Paul Kasmin, Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne, New York, 2012, n.p.

François-Xavier Lalanne’s Extraordinary Guépards

The magical kingdom of François-Xavier and Claude Lalanne is a mysterious yet seductive dream territory of fantastical beasts and luscious plants, an engaging world of warmth, surprise and humor. Everything that stems from the imaginations of this inspired couple is characterized by a poetry that is at once surreal and tender. 

The Guépards occupy a distinct place within this legendary universe. Together with the leopard, these two models represent the only big cat in his bestiary and very few examples are known to have been made. When viewed firsthand, the two present Guépards intrigue and amaze with their sleek, elongated figures and highly textured golden skins punctuated by black rosettes. Measuring 63 and 70 inches long respectively, the sculptures constitute some of the more proportionally ambitious and visually impressive pieces made by the artist. While there is undeniable realism and the influence of naturalism, as seen in so many of François-Xavier’s designs, the intrusion of uncanny and surrealist elements, from the proportions of the animals to their anthropomorphic quality, makes them a truly imaginative and artistic work of pure creation from the artist.  

In his visual approach, much like Maillol and Pompon, François-Xavier Lalanne explicitly sought the beauty of volume rather than the overt depiction of movement. He worked first and foremost on the overall structure and on the balance of the proportions to achieve curved, sinuous, and refined shapes. If his formal universe borrows an archaic vocabulary from Antiquity, his rejection of geometric abstraction and industrial design are part of a personal inclination for the tactile quality of sculpture above all else. It is indeed through the traditional and more intimate practice of drawing, at the core of his practice, that Lalanne freed himself from a naturalistic and overly scientific methodology, favoring instead lyricism and the poetry of shapes and forms.

For the execution of large sculptures like the Guépards, his method did not vary. He first drew a sketch of the proposed piece that was then squared and enlarged on graph paper. He then built a three-dimensional structure made with iron wire and cut out paper patterns that he used to shape the skin of the piece. The maquette was then fitted with plates of metal which are cut out and hammered, beaten and forged until the form is complete. Beyond the preliminary analysis of the various constraints and difficulties that a given form may pose, these miniatures allowed him to refine and rethink the sculptural possibilities of a motif and to play with concepts of scale, color and texture. 

Through their grand scale and elegant stature, the present Guépards represent a more mature phase in François-Xavier Lalanne’s career. From the beginning of the 1980s, Lalanne's attention shifted towards the representation of animals in the state of proper sculpture. Hence the Wapiti, the Ours, various Chiens, Chats and Hiboux, which are more reminiscent to the taste of the portrait painter and animalier sculptor than to that of the creator of furniture sets with playful function—though he did continue to produce pieces of this nature simultaneously. His bestiary thus became during that time part encyclopedic research, part artistic exploration of the limits and capabilities of sculpture as a medium.

"The proof that wild animals live in direct contact with God,” he once said, “is their capacity for stillness." The work produced in the second half of his life shows a predilection for statuesque animals seized at a standstill, between two fractions of time. He is more interested in the suppleness of the cheetah than the dramatic roar of the lion. This is most visible here in the carefully executed silhouette and poised position of the cheetahs, seemingly caught observing and assessing their surroundings in a quiet, undisturbed manner.

“Animals are the center of our vocabulary because they are so very varied. There is a whole variety to animal forms, between the fish, the bird, the monkey, and then there are metaphors connected to each animal. Because it has been such a long time that animals have cohabitated on this earth with mankind, we have invented an entire dictionary of metaphors for them, to make a donkey or a snake mean completely different things.” François-Xavier was captivated by animals, and wild breeds in particular. While we can only speculate as to what metaphors or symbolisms he saw in his Guépards, the design and execution of these two masterful sculptures reveal the artist’s constant curiosity for the natural world and enduring love for his subjects.

One recent noteworthy auction offering of two Guépards originated from the personal collection of Francois-Xavier and Claude Lalanne, sold at Sotheby’s Paris in 2019. Photographed on several occasions throughout their house and studio in Ury, the two sculptures occupied a central place in the lives of their creators, attesting to their special significance and reinforcing their stature as iconic Lalanne sculptures.