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  • Provenance

    Ferrobrandt, Inc., New York
    Acquired from the above by John Woodman Higgins for the Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, 1935
    Sotheby's, New York, “Important 20th Century Decorative Arts,” November 22, 1991, lot 508
    Claude and Simone Dray, Paris
    Christie’s, Paris, “Collection Claude et Simone Dray,” June 8, 2006, lot 18
    Acquired from the above

  • Exhibited

    Salon d'Automne, Paris, 1923
    International Exhibition of Architecture and Allied Arts, Grand Central Palace, New York, April, 1925
    Higgins Armory Museum, Worcester, Massachusetts, circa 1928-1986

  • Literature

    The Studio, vol. 88, December 1924, illustrated p. 349
    Guillaume Janneau, Le Fer: Ouvrages de Ferronnerie et de Serrurerie à des Artisans Contemporains, Paris, 1924, illustrated pls. 11, 12
    “The Architect’s Exhibition,” The International Studio, vol. 81, July 1925, illustrated p. 264
    Emile Bayard, L’Art appliqué francais d’aujourd’hui, Paris, 1925, illustrated p. 64
    Ferrobrandt Inc., (catalogue), New York, 1926, illustrated pl. 3
    Joan Kahr, Edgar Brandt: Art Deco Ironwork, Paris, 2010, illustrated front and back covers, pp. 93-94

  • Catalogue Essay

    Alchemy in Iron

    The year was 1923; the event was the Salon d’Automne, where French decorative artists displayed their latest designs for carpets, textiles, furniture, silver, and ironwork. At the entrance to the decorative arts section, the enormous grille, L’Àge d’Or appeared, stopping viewers instantly. Wrought smithing was an ancient art, but under the hammer of the artist-blacksmith Edgar Brandt (1880-1960), it was revived. Brandt’s own words tell us a great deal about the Moderne concept of the decorative arts during the early years of the twentieth century. Brandt said: “We are indeed living in the true Iron Age, and the powerful means of modern metallurgy, deployed for the execution of a work of art, conceived of and elaborated on the scale of those means, will provide an artistic spectacle of imposing grandeur.” His dictum was that new techniques gave the artist greater latitude of expression. Brandt said: “Logic and reason point to the artist making use of all that science places at his disposal.” It did not make sense to him to limit oneself to old methods.

    L’Âge d’Or, a colossal five-panel grille, is an artistic masterpiece that affirms the benefit of utilizing modern methods of ironsmithing. Brandt felt that purist or closed-minded blacksmiths (ferronniers), who used only hammer and anvil, were turning out work that looked back to historicist styles. Therefore, when Brandt built his workshop on the Boulevard Murat in 1920, he employed the latest tools, such as power hammers, stamping machines, milling machines, twisting bars and mechanical presses. He was prescient in adopting the oxy-acetylene welding torch, whereby the iron became its own joining material. The torch fused metallic parts without the older methods of hot and cold forging. Brandt was a consummate smith who mastered the ancient art of the forgeron while still in his teens, but later on, he aligned his personal artistic repertoire with modern industrial methods. By embracing new methods and tools, he augmented the possibilities of wrought iron. With this evolution, Brandt became a major figure in the history of French decorative art.

    In the 1910s and 1920s Edgar Brandt fulfilled such prestigious commissions as the Mollien stairway in the Louvre (1914), the Grand Théâtre in Nancy (1909-1919), the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the Arc de Triumph (1920-1923), as well as the famous screen, Les Cicognes d’Alsace (1922). Additionally, his small objects such as firescreens, wall lights, andirons, torchères, jardinières, and chandeliers, all became coveted decorations for many fashionable homes on several continents. Brandt collaborated with the sculptor Max Blondat (1872-1926) on the grille L’Âge d’Or, which became his chef d’oeuvre.

    During its installation at the Salon d’Automne, L’Âge d’Or was set in front of a fluted wall, a reference to the golden age of ancient Greece and to the long grooved columns of the Parthenon. The grille comprises nine rectangles forged from Swedish wrought iron. The middle section features three octagonal medallions containing five gilt-bronze neo-classical figures sculpted by Blondat. An athletic male figure and a graceful female, both holding garlands, flank the octagon of the Three Graces, encircled by drapery and a floral decoration. As the male figure appears to run and the female figure swings on the garland, they create a focal point for the stillness of the self-contained trio in the middle. These figures juxtaposed with Brandt’s swirling constellation of circular gears and stylized flowers- spinning, whirling and bubbling-give the viewer a joyous sensation. The effervescence is as palpable as the bubbles in a glass of champagne. Looking carefully at the circles inside the rectangles, one sees that no two are alike as they entwine and overlap. Two narrow side panels offer more depictions of stylized flowers and leaves. All the large circular elements in the piece were made from a long bar of iron that was curled into a circle; other small florals were stamp cut and hand hammered on a bigorne. The opposite side of L’Âge d’Or is as beautiful as the front, and the entire work has that rich brown-gold patina, Brandt’s special trademark.

    The five sculpted figures refer to the artistry of ancient Greece, Brandt’s favorite period. The sculptures also allude to the “The Golden Age” of the Renaissance, specifically to Sandro Boticelli’s 15th-century painting Primavera. Octagonal frames, used frequently in ceiling frescoes of that period, became very popular again in the 1920s.

    The six remaining rectangles merge around the middle register, thus emphasizing the duality of the grille. These two artists, Brandt and Blondat, provided equilibrium between the old and the new. The representational figures of Blondat and the overlapping gear-like forms forged by Brandt paid homage to the past while embracing the aesthetic of modernism. The syncopation visible in the circular elements speaks to the faster pace of life in post-war France. As Brandt remarked, “On vie plus vite.” L’Âge d’Or, Brandt’s outstanding achievement represents an artistic rebirth for wrought iron. The grille validates Brandt’s precept of fusing industrial methods with time-honored skills and with the contemporary spirit. L’Âge d’Or captivates viewers because it represents a pinnacle of both technical achievement and aesthetic expression.

    -Joan Kahr, Author of Edgar Brandt: Master of Art Deco Ironwork, Harry N. Abrams, 1999 and Edgar Brandt: Art Deco Ironwork, Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2010

PROPERTY OF A NEW YORK COLLECTOR

46

"L'Âge d'Or”

1923
Patinated iron, gilt bronze.
106 1/2 x 159 1/4 x 8 in. (270.5 x 404.5 x 20.3 cm)
The three medallions executed by Max Blondat (1872-1926). Retailed by Ferrobrandt Inc., New York. The garland of the single female figure signed MAX-BLONDAT.

Estimate
$700,000 - 900,000 

Sold for $785,000

Contact Specialist
Meaghan Roddy
Head of Sale, New York
[email protected]
+ 1 212 940 1266

Design

New York Auction 11 June 2014 11am