A rare private collection of 39 creations by famed French designer, René Lalique, will be offered by Sotheby’s Paris on December 17.
The jewels and objets d’art that will be sold were collected over a lifetime by Claude Henri Roger Sorbac, who died at the age of 100 in March. Sorbac, a native of France, lived in Argentina for several years before returning to Paris. His parents were skilled collectors, which is how he developed his keen eye for works of art and design. He collected the works of a number of artists before focusing on René Lalique.
The pieces in the sale have estimates ranging from €400 to €1.5 million ($452 – $1.6 million). Several have been presented in exhibitions throughout the world. Among the highlights is a horn and diamond backcomb titled, “Loving Swallows” with an estimate of €400,000 – €600,000 ($451,740 – $677,610), and a necklace titled, “Frogs,” made of glass, enamel and diamonds with an estimate of €300,000 – €600,000 ($338,805 – $677,610). The top lot in the sale is a hair comb made of ivory, horn, enamel and diamond adorned with an orchid with an estimate of €700,000 – €1.5 million ($790,545 – $1,6 million).
Another item of note is a glass, enamel and diamond headband titled, “Pansies,” with an estimate of €150,000 – €300,000 ($169,403 – $338,805). Sotheby’s relates a note from Sorbac that speculates on what makes the piece special: “‘La pensée’ is not a random choice; in French, the term means both ‘pansy’ and ‘thought.’ In the language of flowers, when a man gives pansies to a woman, he is thinking about her. A husband or lover who gave this headband to his sweetheart was therefore expressing a message of tenderness, affection and faithfulness. The woman who proudly wore it was laying claim to the same feelings and associations.”
There are several other examples of elegant pendants and other jewels that are easily identifiable as Lalique masterworks. However, these works are complemented with several unexpected objects which reveal René Lalique’s creativity and his artistic connections to various cultural circles of the time. They include a table lamp, bronze dishes, a gold and suede evening bag, a patinated bronze plaque of Ophelia, and a set of silver plated and bronze medals.
Lalique (1860 – 1945) was known throughout the world for his glass creations, particularly his ornate Art Nouveau jewels. However, he also worked with horn, ivory, semi-precious stones, enamel, tortoiseshell, bronze, copper and other materials. These materials were seldom used in jewelry prior to Lalique. In several instances, these materials were mixed with more “noble” materials such as diamonds and gold. His pendants, brooches and necklaces were to become the most representative examples of Art Nouveau jewelry, according to antique and jewelry specialists. Emile Gallé – the famous French glassmaker, ceramist and cabinetmaker – called Lalique “the inventor of modern jewelry.”
His works continued to have broad appeal and receive critical acclaim during the Art Deco period, where he began fashioning items ranging from perfume bottles to large scale interior design projects. For the 1925 International Exposition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Arts, which presented the Art Deco style to the world, he built a 40-foot high, illuminated pressed-glass fountain called Les Sources de France (The Springs of France). The fountain featured large glass statuettes depicting 13 different women from ancient Greek mythology.
Prior to the auction, the items in the sale will be available for public viewing December 11 – 14 and by private appointment December 15 and 16 at Sotheby’s Paris location at 76, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.