Claude Lalanne Unique low table, 1998 (detail). Estimate: £250,000-350,000.
Design at Phillips London. 

The nineteenth-century French painter Jean-François Millet wrote that it is in "the treating of the commonplace with the feeling of the sublime that gives…art its true power." Working over a century later, Claude Lalanne’s œuvre proved this maxim true: she transforms the everyday into a magical and dreamlike world and her designs inspire awe through their beauty, opulence and craftsmanship.

Claude Lalanne Unique low table, 1998. 

The daughter of a musician and an alchemist, it is no wonder that Claude Lalanne’s fantastical world combines the lyrical with the technical, art with science, and the imaginary with the natural world. Though she trained as an architect and painter, Lalanne and her partner François-Xavier Lalanne turned to decorative arts in the early 1950s. The pair, collectively known as Les Lalannes, worked separately but both often drew on the natural world in a whimsical and Surrealist fashion. Whereas her husband preferred to begin with sketches, Claude Lalanne operated intuitively, taking inspiration from the gardens in Ury, France that surrounded her home and studio, where she made the present lot.

The Lalannes…like to work for a particular person, or for a particular place. Within those seeming limitations, their imagination operates quite freely, raiding departments of life where imagination has long slumbered.
— John Russell, art critic

Claude Lalanne Unique low table, 1998. 

Over her seven-decade career, Claude Lalanne created pieces, from furniture to decorative objects and jewelry, that incorporate depictions of flora and fauna in surprising and beautiful ways. For example, the present table appears light and whimsical despite being made in bronze—a testament to her technical mastery—and the artist incorporated silhouettes of two tropical birds into the tabletop’s design. The birds’ flaunting tails morph into a whiplash motif that meanders like a scandent vine growing across the tabletop, while the feathers on its head double as a group of leaves. Her inclusion of these birds is not merely a zoological interest but a reference to the table’s original setting. Lalanne designed this unique table for a patron’s home in the Caribbean, and it exemplifies how Lalanne preferred to create unique pieces for individual clients around the world, most famously for Yves Saint Laurent and Salvador Dalí. In the catalogue for a 1975 exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, art critic John Russell wrote, "The Lalannes…like to work for a particular person, or for a particular place. Within those seeming limitations, their imagination operates quite freely, raiding departments of life where imagination has long slumbered." This unique table certainly reveals Claude Lalanne’s imagination in full force, as it magnifies and extends the beauty of the tropics into a luxurious interior and, as Millet suggested, showcases a powerful ability to translate the commonplace into the sublime.

Claude Lalanne Unique low table, 1998 (detail).