Elisabeth Joulia - Design London Thursday, May 12, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Elisabeth Joulia: A Mystical Approach to Ceramics


    By Jean-Louis Gaillemin, Art Historian, Lecturer and Art Magazine Editor


    With a truly exceptional provenance, scale and structure, this enigmatic piece by French artist Elisabeth Joulia reveals her sensual and mystical approach to ceramics. Made in 1955 and acquired from her La Borne studio in 1978 by Alan Grizot, known as the first ‘archaeologist of the 20th century’, it was later acquired by another great connoisseur of 1950s ceramics, Pierre Staudenmeyer, from the groundbreaking ‘Le Regard d’Alan’ auction at Binoche et Godeau Paris in 1991.


    Following the creation of a few utilitarian pieces in her local artisanal tradition, Joulia also ventured into abstract sculpture. According to her biographer Joseph Rossetto (author of Elisabeth Joulia: Faites Entrer l'Infini, 2019), these works can evoke forms by Alicia Penalba or Barbara Hepworth. Her creations are biomorphic silhouettes that occasionally duplicate, playfully interact with one another, are in dialogue, and even confront each other. Some take on the appearance of a binnacle, others have a tripartite composition and act as primitive idols. A pair of eyes and two raised arms suffice to animate the deliberately crude bases.


    The present work, at once rough in materiality and soft in form, is undoubtedly the most accomplished expression of this period in the artist’s oeuvre. But the little ‘gaze’ within this interior volume, this torso which ends in a chimney shape, also outlines an oven as a sanctuary for the mysterious alchemy of earth and fire.


    This protective totem is a tribute to a secular practice and ritual upkept and renewed by the potters of La Borne.


    Elizabeth Joulia at work in her La Borne Atelier, circa 1955 Photo: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    Elisabeth Joulia at work in her La Borne Atelier, circa 1955
    Photo: © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2022
    • Provenance

      Alan Grizot, Paris, acquired directly from the artist, 1978
      Binoche et Godeau, Paris, 'Le Regard d’Alan', 6 October 1991, lot 37
      Pierre Staudenmeyer, Paris, acquired from the above
      Patrick Mignot, by descent
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      'Pierre Staudenmeyer, la passion céramique', Sotheby's, Paris, 5-15 February 2014

    • Literature

      Chloé Braunstein-Kreigel, Les Années Staudenmeyer: 25 Ans de Design en France, Paris, 2009, illustrated p. 147


Monumental sculpture

circa 1955
Stoneware with black pyrite and coloured slip.
78 x 46 x 33 cm (30 3/4 x 18 1/8 x 12 7/8 in.)
Base incised Joulia.

Full Cataloguing

£20,000 - 30,000 ‡♠

Sold for £42,840

Contact Specialist

Antonia King

Head of Sale, Design
+44 20 7901 7944



London Auction 12 May 2022