Carpe Diem
Monumental Lalanne Sculpture at Bonhams Modern Decorative Art + Design Sale in New York

Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne – known simply as Les Lalanne – were one of the most creative and experimental duos of the 20th century. With their own instantly recognisable surrealist style, which combines playful whimsy with simplified elegance, they embraced the ground-breaking concept of valuing the functionality of sculpture just as highly as its decorative qualities. Their names are forever linked artistically and personally – they were together from 1952 until François-Xavier's death in 2008 – but, although they constantly shared ideas, they worked on their own pieces individually. François-Xavier was particularly famous for his exploration of animal themes and a superb and monumental example of his work, Carpe (Très Grande) comes to Bonhams' Modern Decorative Art + Design Sale in New York on December 17. Conceived and cast in 2000, it is 52 inches (132 cms) high and 98 inches (250cms) long, making it one of the largest pieces ever cast by Les Lalanne. It is estimated at $650,000-850,000.

Les Lalanne met in Paris in the 1950s and initially lived and worked in the Montparnasse artistic colony of Impasse Ronsin where they mixed with, among others, Konstantin Brâncuși – a great influence – Max Ernst, Yves Klein and Larry Rivers. They spent most of their married and working life, however, in Ury near Fontainebleau, becoming a magnet for the Parisian beau monde of the 1970 and 80s – they counted Karl Lagerfeld, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent among their friends. Throughout, the couple remained dedicated to their art. In the winter edition of Bonhams Magazine, art critic and author of the definitive work on Les Lalanne, Adrian Dannatt wrote, "They had begun very much as artisans and, like their master Brâncuși, were happy to consider themselves working craftsmen as much as artists, with practical, physical skills and a healthy regard for the laborious making of objects regardless of function. Among their earliest works were set designs."

Bonhams Head of Modern Decorative Art and Design in New York, Benjamin Walker said: "Carpe (Très Grande) is a wonderful piece which encapsulates all the many things there are to admire, like, and value about Les Lalanne. It's witty, beautiful to look at, and practical at the same time – exactly what François-Xavier and Claude, with their feet very much grounded in the centrality of art to life, most aspired to."

Other highlights include:

Trois Serpents by Michel Zadounaïsky (1903-1983). Dating from 1934 this monumental work – it 250cm high – in wrought iron with fine martelé finish, is formed of three snakes; an anaconda, boa and royal python wrapped around a poppy, cactus and foliage. It was once in the collection of Collection of Vicomte de la Croix-Laval, Château de Noailles, Corréze, France. Estimate: $80,000-120,000.

Set of Six Dining chairs designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959). Made in 1903 for the Bauerle Brothers Furniture Company. The Bauerle Brothers Furniture Company were based in Oak Park, Illinois, at the turn of the 20th century and worked extensively in Oak Park, Sugar Grove and Wisconsin. Throughout this period the brothers carried out construction work for Frank Lloyd Wright and, according to family legend, the present lot was designed by the architect and constructed by the brothers for their family home. Estimate: $50,000-70,000.

La forêt by Jean Dunand (1877-1942) & François-Louis Schmied (1873-1941), made in around 1929 after a design by François-Louis Schmied. A painter, and interior designer, Dunand was particularly known for his lacquered screens, often using floral or animal designs. He was in great demand from private and commercial clients alike and designed the famous lacquer smoking room for the French luxury liner SS Normandie. His work is represented in museums and galleries throughout the world. Estimate: $50,000-70,000.

Pitcher and Pair of Beakers by Edward c. Moore (1827-1891) for Tiffany & co (1873-1891). The pitcher is in the Japanese style and was made for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1878 at which Moore – the silversmith at the artistic and creative heart of Tiffany – and Tiffany & Co. were given a gold award and the grand prize for silverware. This recognition was perhaps the pinnacle of Tiffany's achievements on the world's stage: an American firm striving to emulate the decorative achievements of Europe and Japan but, under Moore's direction, ultimately surpassing them. Estimate: $20,000-30,000.


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