The private collection of Félix Marcilhac

Sotheby’s Paris auction of sensuous art-deco and nouveau collectables

Fans of French art deco know that cubism was a huge influence. Less well known, however, is the fact that it was also greatly inspired by eastern European art, as exemplified by cubist art patron Jacques Doucet’s 1927 home, Studio House, which was partly decorated by Paris-based Hungarian artists Gustave Miklos and Joseph Csaky.

Now, an upcoming sale of the private collection of prominent art-deco historian, dealer and collector Félix Marcilhac, held at Sotheby’s in Paris on March 11 and 12 (in association with French auction house Artcurial), will spotlight this. Preceded by an accompanying public exhibition (currently open), it comprises opulent furniture and art, as well as glassware from the turn-of-the-20th-century art-nouveau era.

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“Typified by vivid colours and sensuous materials, this collection graced Marcilhac’s Paris home,” says Cécile Verdier, head of 20th-century decorative arts and design at Sotheby’s. “Now over 70, he no longer wants the responsibility of conserving it.” Marcilhac’s collecting passion dates back to the 1960s. In 1969, he opened a gallery in Paris. He then became an advisor to such deco collectors as Andy Warhol and Yves Saint Laurent, and has written many authoritative monographs on designers and artists.

Items for sale include Emile Gallé’s milky, iridescent art-nouveau glass vase called La Source (estimated at €60,000-€80,000, fourth picture), Belarusian-born Ossip Zadkine’s gold-leaf-coated female torso reminiscent of a Picasso sculpture (€150,000-€200,000, first picture) and a Gustave Miklos sculpture redolent of an African mask (€200,000-€250,000, second picture). Marcilhac’s taste for punchy colour is reflected in a commode fronted by an abstract landscape by Jean Dunand and Jean Goulden (€300,000-€400,000, third picture).

These pieces’ sensual aesthetic, says Verdier, makes them “widely accessible”. But they appeal on a more intellectual level, too, since they also shed light on an unexpected influence on art deco.

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