A Parisian Pied-à-terre Curated by Hubert de Givenchy
Another insanely chic auction coming up this fall is A Parisian pied-à-terre curated by Hubert de Givenchy at Christie’s in Paris on 14 September 2021. The “collection of a major international collector” is rumored to be from Philippe Venet, who died at the age of 91 earlier this year and was the longtime partner of Hubert de Givenchy.
“Representing the epitome of French craftsmanship and savoir-faire, the apartment, located on the Esplanade des Invalides, provided an extraordinary backdrop to the antique furniture and curated objets d’art in this collection. Notable highlights include seminal works by Claude Lalanne, featuring a unique chandelier with a botanical structure, and works by her husband François-Xavier such as Singe attentif, Singe allumé and an example from his iconic Nouveaux moutons series.”
I actually had a feeling I knew where the pied-à-terre was located in the 7eme arrondissement and the catalog confirmed that it was located in a “prestigious building looking out above the trees over the Esplanade des Invalides to the Eiffel Tower with its brilliant hourly light show brightening the night skyline.” It also has a view of the Grand Palais.
“‘Toujours les projets‘ as Hubert always said, so with his great friend he embarked on this project with his usual energy and enthusiasm, bringing his impeccable eye for detail and his innate sense of harmony. What they created together in this beautiful series of rooms with their timeless balance between modern and old is the perfect expression of his legendary taste, exercised with rigour and discipline.”
“Alain Raynaud, with whom Hubert had worked on all his own houses, carried out the architectural changes. These included incorporating the adjoining apartment into guest accommodations, creating the splendid main dressing room and bathroom and tour de force of the apartment, the superb full height kitchen entirely lined with blue and white tiles which were individually hand-fired and painted in Paris after the originals in the Menshikov Palace which the collector had seen on a visit to St. Petersburg.”
“Meanwhile, a galaxy of the finest French craftsmen was assembled to fit out the interiors: Les Ateliers de la Chapelle for the boiseries and woodwork. Decour for the upholstery, as well as Maison Toulouse, the celebrated bronzier patronized by the great collectors of the glamorous post war years, such as Charles de Bestegui. M. Toulouse was still working although, he was shortly to retire, closing an extraordinary chapter of Parisian skill, knowledge and creativity which continued the traditions of the 18th-century into the late 20th-century. Another distinguished bronzier, Maison Meillleur provided Hubert’s favorite floor lamps, while the talented Mme Klotz orchestrated the lighting of the chandeliers in the Entrée.”
“Inspired by Napoléon’s biblioteque at Compiègne, supplied by Jacob-Desmalther in 1808, working with Alain Raynaud, Hubert realized his friend’s vision for the Entrée of a sumptuous library with apses at each end which was executed by Les Ateliers de la Chapelle, the mahogany bookcases enriched with the gilded carved ornament of the Compiègne biblioteque, the ceiling painted en grisaille by Venetian craftsmen echoing those in Museo Correr.”
“Always conscious of the rhythm and balance, in contrast to the richness of the Entrée, the Salon with the two Louis XVI grey marble chimneypieces at each end had plain boiseries, curtains of cream silk hand-loomed in China for the owner and on the parquet floor ‘lirette’ in raffia and cotton by the Tapis de Cogolin which Hubert favored as the perfect. foil for all the Louis XVI ebony and mahogany furniture he had chosen for the room. As always, it was a master play between the simple and the grand.”
“The focal point of the two seating areas, which were so skillfully articulated that they worked equally well for two people as for twenty, were the two splendid identical sofas with their dramastic La Manach ‘velours tigre’ upholstery bordered with suede edged with elaborate passementerie, taking as a model the ‘canape Castellane’ created by Decour to the designs of Georges Geffroy for Elizinha and Walter Moreira Salles.”
“Georges Geffroy had always been a strong influence on Hubert’s taste as in the 1950s and 1960s as he had worked for so many of those whose interiors Hubert most. admired: Arturo Lopez-Willshaw, Alexis de Redé, Daisy Fellowes, Gloria and Loel Guinnness, Dale and Guillaume de Bonchamps, and Nicole de Montesquiou.”
“The café au lait silk table cover with its frogged corner clasps and the large stool covered in perfectly quilted suede are both Decour creations inspired by Geffroy, who had worked extensively with Antoine de Gransaignes of Decour.”
“Expeditions to the leading Parisian antiquaires yielded exciting finds, the choice always being sober and restained: the two Montigny/Dubois bureaux plats from Aveline, ormolu appliques from Galerie Gismondi, clocks and chenet from Pascal Izarn and Segoura, a rare Empire wall clock inserted into the bibliothèque and appliques from Kugel for the Entrée, but always enlivened by an unexpected touch, a baroque mirror from Steinitz or a Boulle table. To this rich mix the sculptures by Fernando Botero and Bernar Venet added by the collector brought a contemporary feel. Then a striking set of six late Louis XV fauteuils by Louis Delanois in most advanced goût grec taste of the 1760s were acquired by the collector at the Christie’s Monaco sale of Karl Lagerfeld’s collection in April 2000. They had belonged to Arturo Lopez and recovered in brown silk velvet, they gave the finishing touch to this beautiful room with its rigorous balance between restraint and luxury.”
The view across Esplanade des Invalides to the Eiffel Tower.
“For the next movement in the symphony conducted by Hubert there was another note in the Salle à Manger, its walls covered with cream silk again loomed in China, then hand-painted in Paris following an 18th-century Chinese silk document, providing a floral bower for the remarkable ‘lustre structure végétable aux papillons’ by Claude Lalanne, a masterpiece of counterpoise and equilibrium and one of here most successful creations. It was a special commission by the collector from the artist who created an initial maquette in miniature. Lit at night by sixteen candles and hung from two linked ‘suspensions en végétable’ with butterflies gently rising up them over an always elegantly set table with Francois-Xaviar Lalanne’s amusing Teeny Bell place card holders, each with a perched bird incorporating a bell inside it.”
This Claude Lalanne chandelier is predicted to garner €800,000 – €1,200,000 during the sale at Christie’s Paris.
“In the corners of the room stood the four neoclassical bronze and ormolu tripod stands that had once graced Daisy Fellowes’ dining room in rue de Lille.”
The kitchen entirely lined with blue and white tiles which were individually hand-fired and painted in Paris after the originals in the Menshikov Palace which the collector had seen on a visit to St. Petersburg. “The illuminated glazed cupboards filled with serried ranks of all the many porcelain services, Chantilly, Tournai and Apt, all ingeniously displayed in specifically devised optical plastic racks, and glasses from Venice found together on other shared visits, always together with Philippe Venet.”
“It was a place of great warmth and friendship, and of course being Paris, wonderful wine and food presided over by Roland in his chef’s toque, enigmatic and brilliant in the classic tradition of French cuisine.”
“L’art de vivre à la française – un rêve réalisé.”
JAR, Pendule Oursin, 1990.
“Each of the immensely comfortable bedrooms had a different and individual character, full of charm and fantasy: from the main bedroom with its suite of Louis XVI seat furniture by. Michel Gourdin covered in delicate floral embroidery and an early 18th-century Italian lacquer mirror, to the nearly bureau with Francois-Xaviar Lalanne’s ‘Singe’ sitting on a simple table the artist gave the collector, and on to the two chambres d’amis, one entirely hung with blue and red Colefax and Fowler chinoiserie toile de Jouy, and the other with a green floral trellis printed on silk from Jim Thompson.”
Green floral trellis printed on silk from Jim Thompson.
François-Xavier Lalanne’s Singe Allumé (Lit Monkey). “I love everything about it,” says Lionel Gosset, head of the private and iconic collections department at Christie’s Paris, “from the combination of gilded bronze and crystal to the composition, and perhaps even more so its expression, both mischievous and endearing.”