At Sotheby’s | From the Collection of Jacques Garcia

Posted in Art Market, on site by Editor on February 4, 2023

Salon-Tapisseries in the Château du Champ de Bataille
(Photo from Sotheby’s)

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Auction puffery is always interesting. The press release (via Art Daily) for the sale explains that Garcia’s “perfect knowledge of history is treasured by some of the greatest museums and institutions . . . [including] Versailles” and declares that the sale will “present the most important group of Sèvres ever to appear on the market.” We’re likely to hear a lot about it between now and May. –CH

At Auction: Jacques Garcia, Intemporel, Sale PF2361
Sotheby’s, Paris, 16 May 2023 (works on view in Paris, 11–15 May 2023)

Enfilade at Château du Champ-de-Bataille (Photo from Sotheby’s).

“The power of exceptional residences lies in the unforgettable feeling that stays with those who have visited them. As with all of Jacques Garcia’s creations, Champ de Bataille is one such memorable place. This setting leaves an indelible mark from the first visit, from the initial shock of its beauty to the awe when you realise the mammoth effort that has gone into its construction and renovation. Nowhere is Garcia’s mastery of atmosphere more evident.”  –Mario Tavella, Président of Sotheby’s France, Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe

On 16 May, 75 prestigious works of art—handpicked by French interior designer and collector Jacques Garcia from the project of a lifetime—will be offered at Sotheby’s in Paris. The proceeds will benefit Champ de Bataille, preserving its legacy for future generations. Garcia is the creative force behind many of the most lavish and opulent settings in the world—from the La Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech and Hotel Costes in Paris, to painstakingly decorated rooms in the Louvre and Versailles. Most recently in the limelight has been his Villa Elena in Noto, a magnificent Sicilian villa featured in the US series The White Lotus, a labour of love for Garcia who painstakingly restored the baroque interiors, which were destroyed by an earthquake in 1693.

In 1992, Garcia acquired the Château du Champ de Bataille, one of the most charming and inventive buildings of its kind, designed by Louis le Vau (the architect behind Versailles) and boasting the grandest private garden in Europe. By the late twentieth century, only two of the rooms were in usable condition; and so, began a titanic project of renovating the site spanning the next three decades and then opening its doors to the public.

The collection assembled by Jacques Garcia for the Champ de Bataille is a tribute to the finest decorative arts of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, bringing together exceptional furniture, porcelain, and sculpture. Among the many masterworks are items that belonged to royalty and nobility—including Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, Queens Marie Leszczynska and Marie-Antoinette, King William III and Queen Mary II, the Count of Provence, and the Dukes of Penthièvre and Lorraine. The selection continues into the 19th century with provenances including the Emperor Napoleon and dynastic collectors such as the Rothschilds.

The sale’s 75 lots will mark Garcia’s 75th birthday. Many pieces within the collection have a royal provenance, with Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI and Queens Marie Leszczynska and Marie-Antoinette among the previous owners (Photo from Sotheby’s).

The sale will offer several pieces of Neoclassical furniture crafted by prominent Parisian maker Georges Jacob and delivered for Queen Marie-Antoinette. These include two pairs of armchairs and a canapé thought to have been ordered for Marie-Antoinette’s Turkish Boudoir at Fontainebleau (each estimated at €400,000–600,000).

Among the most remarkable pieces is a console table by Parisian marchand-mercier and ébéniste Adam Weisweiler (estimated €1–2 million). The magnificent piece of furniture bears the hallmarks of the innovations towards the end of Louis XVI’s reign, bringing together precious materials such as Japanese lacquer and porcelain plates. The use of painted sheet metal, juxtaposed with the marble top, is unique in Weisweiler’s corpus, whilst paying homage to the work of his predecessor Martin Carlin.

A floral marquetry commode from the Louis XV period, attributed to Antoine-Robert Gaudreau (the principal supplier of furniture for the royal châteaux early in the reign of Louis XV), bears the mark of Louis XIV’s grandson, the Duke of Penthièvre (estimated at €400,000–700,000). Penthièvre was one of the wealthiest men of his day, living in the Château de Bizy in Normandy, which he partly decorated with furniture from the Marquise de Pompadour.

The sale also offers a daybed likely made for the wedding of Napoleon Bonaparte to Empress Marie-Louise in 1810 (estimated €100,000–200,000). Attributed to Jacob Desmalter, it follows the design from a drawing by French architects Percier and Fontaine and decorated with a medallion by Bertrand Andrieu (created to commemorate the marriage and associated Napoleon with a centuries-old dynasty).

A pair of cabinets, decorated with remarkable finesse with Japanese laquer and silver mounts from the Edo period (ca. 1640–80), hail from the collection of King William III and Queen Mary II of England (estimated €800,000–1,200,000). The decor reflects the strong Flemish and Dutch influences during their reign, as well as a penchant for East Asian elements.

The table service featured in the sale is decorated with images of 400 different birds after drawings by Buffon (Photo from Sotheby’s).

The sale will present the most important group of Sèvres ever to appear on the market. Among them is a pair of vases with Turkish-inspired decor from 1773, the compositions inspired by painter Jean-Baptiste Le Prince (estimated €200,000–300,000)—reflecting the contemporary craze of transposing fashionable artworks onto vases intended for the royal court. The collection also includes part of a table service with the Suddell family coat of arms, decorated with more than 400 different birds after the natural history drawings by Georges-Louis Le Clerc de Buffon, keeper of the Royal Garden in Paris (estimated €600,000– 1,000,000). Among the most spectacular of all is a pair of large ‘Lagrenée’ vases, with a vibrant purple background, dated 1797 (estimated €800,000– 1,200,000). Over its long history, this pair has belonged to a number of the most prestigious European collections: purchased at the Sèvres factory in December 1799 before being presented to King Charles IV of Spain in about 1800, acquired by Alexander Hamilton (the 10th Duke of Hamilton) in 1807–08, and passed on by descent to the 12th Duke of Hamilton, William Alexander Louis Stephen Douglas-Hamilton.

Recognised the world-over, Jacques Garcia has long been one of the most sought-after interior designers, reinventing himself with each project and dedicated to innovation through the bringing together of the classic and the modern. His influence is multi-faceted, spanning interior design, patronage of the arts, and technical and artistic advisor. Garcia was awarded the Legion of Honour in 1997, before being made a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters in 2002, as well as the Knight of the Order of Agricultural Merit.

From the 1990s, Garcia has worked for major international hoteliers, from Barrière-Desseigne to Costes; his standout achievements include La Réserve in Paris (a 5-star palace voted as the best hotel in the world in 2017) and the mythic La Mamounia in Marrakech. His innate talent for matching styles and his perfect knowledge of history is treasured by some of the greatest museums and institutions, many of which have entrusted him with their spaces. These include the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Paris, the grand apartments of Versailles, and the rooms of François I at the Château de Chambord. He has also played the rôle of scenographer for several exhibitions, the most spectacular of which was a recreation of the throne room in Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors in 2007.

Château du Champ-de-Bataille, built 1653-65 (Photo from Sotheby’s).

An art lover from his childhood, Garcia is also an eminent collector, buying his first works at the age of 25. His erudition, curiosity, and encyclopedic knowledge of inventories, as well as an overriding quest for excellence, has enabled him to assemble the finest examples of art and antiques. In 1992, Garcia acquired the Château de Champ de Bataille and set about on the project of a lifetime, renovating the residence in the image of the Grand Siècle. Inspired by the Universal Exhibitions, he also populated the garden with multiple follies, bringing together influences from China and India.

Built in the 17th century, the Château du Champ de Bataille is one of the most beautiful estates in France. Its first proprietor, Count Alexandre de Créqui, was exiled from court and placed under house arrest by Cardinal Mazarin during the Fronde (a series of civil wars in France between 1648 and 1653). De Créqui set upon building this home on his land in Normandy to remind himself of the splendour of the French court.

The castle then passed through the hands of a number of different families, including several cousins of the noble Harcourt family, each of whom made profound changes. In the 19th century, the almost derelict castle even became a hospital and then a prison.

At the time that Jacques Garcia acquired the property, only two of the rooms had retained their original decor. Remaining true to the grand spirit of the 17th and 18th centuries, Garcia redesigned and restored all of the other rooms, acquiring a wealth of furniture, paintings, and works of art from great collections to furnish and bring the space to life.

Alongside the interiors, Garcia also completely recreated the gardens, with the assistance of master landscaper Patrick Pottier. The result is a marriage of a historic garden and a contemporary vision, drawing inspiration from ancient and philosophical themes. The garden presents several architectural follies, including the ‘Temple of Leda’ and the ancient theatre or ‘Pavillion of Dreams’ (inspired by Mughal India and furnished with original pieces from Indian palaces). Today, the Champ de Bataille estate—covering an area of 45 hectares—is the largest private park in Europe, its gardens recognised for their wonder by the French government.

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For more information on the house, see Jacques Garcia and Alain Stella, with photographs by Eric Sander, Jacques Garcia: Twenty Years of Passion: Chateau du Champ de Bataille (Paris: Flammarion, 2014), 400 pages, ISBN: 978-2080201690.

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