Robert Mallet-Stevens - Design Evening Sale New York Tuesday, December 13, 2016 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Apartment building, 7, rue Méchain, Paris
    Galerie Doria, Paris
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2005

  • Literature

    Dominique Deshoulières, et al., Rob Mallet-Stevens: Architecte, Brussels, 1980, illustrated p. 299

  • Catalogue Essay

    Phillips would like to thank Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne, historian and curator, Centre d'art villa Noailles, Hyères, for his assistance cataloguing the present lot.

    On the heels of constructing his series of private villas on rue Mallet-Stevens, in 1929 Robert Mallet-Stevens designed a different sort of housing complex – a nine story apartment building on the rue Méchain in Paris. For this masterpiece, which still stands, the architect incorporated the work of exceptional artisans, including an entrance door by Jean Prouvé and modernist stained glass by Barillet et associés. Upon entering the building, visitors encounter an impressive white spiral staircase, the curve of the balustrade highlighted by black mosaic tiles from Emaux de Briares.

    Among the residents of the fourteen apartments lived the Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, whose studio was well documented in a Mobilier et Décoration article from January 1931. The article’s author, G. Rémon, described the space as a “climat d’idées,” and indeed interior views show that Madame de Lempicka lived in an environment unified by Mallet-Stevens’s vision, yet filled with the voices of other cutting-edge modernist talents such as René Herbst, Djo-Bourgeois, and her sister Adrienne Gorska.

    One from the pair of present armchairs is documented in a period photograph of another apartment in this building. As in Tamara de Lempicka’s residence, the armchair is shown surrounded by other furniture designed by Mallet-Stevens, mostly built-in units, but also designs by others, such as the Eileen Gray table to the chair’s left. It was typical for Mallet-Stevens to mix his own designs with those of others; in his own home he lived with Marcel Breuer chairs, a Pierre Chareau desk, and carpets designed by Fernand Léger. However he orchestrated his interiors rigorously; in the tradition of the Wiener Werkstatte gesamtkunstwerk, every item served the unified scheme of the room.

    While the present armchair design resembles similar, documented pieces by Djo-Bourgeois, as well as Boivenet’s armchairs for Primavera, there are a number of key elements that distinguish this piece as the work of Mallet-Stevens. First, this armchair has only ever appeared in the rue Méchain period photograph, in keeping with the fact that Mallet-Stevens primarily designed custom, site-specific furniture of very limited production, never repeating himself. Second, as demonstrated by Stéphane Boudin-Lestienne in the exhibition catalogue Rob Mallet-Stevens (Brussels, 2016), Mallet-Stevens would often borrow ideas from other designers, yet build on them, sometimes taking construction risks in the form of cantilevers and thin structures. To this end, the present armchairs appear to have a floating seat and back, lacking rear vertical supports and instead resting on their armrests, which wrap around the back, not unlike the armchairs he designed for the master bedroom of the Villa Cavrois (1932) and the Marcel Breuer side chairs from his own home. While Mallet-Stevens may have been inspired by the Primavera chair, he took the design a leap further, lending a sense of frisson and movement with his dynamic positioning of the seat and backrest within the frame.

Property from an Important Collection


Pair of armchairs from the apartment building at 7, rue Méchain, Paris

circa 1929
Chromium-plated steel, painted wood, fabric.
Each: 28 x 27 x 33 1/2 in. (71.1 x 68.6 x 85.1 cm)

$80,000 - 120,000 

Sold for $121,250

Contact Specialist
Cordelia Lembo
Specialist, Head of Sale
+1 212 940 1265

Design Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 December 2016