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PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)\nA 'RELIGIEUSE' FLOOR LAMP, MODEL SN31, CIRCA 1923\n\npatinated metal, alabaster\n\n70 7/8 in. (180 cm.) high



There is no precise record of the number of ‘Religieuses’ executed in metal. Two are listed in the Louis

Dalbet archives for the years 1923-1924.

One of these was made in 1923 for the apartment of Jean and Annie Dalsace in Boulevard Saint-Germain.

This is likely the lamp shown in a photograph held in the Maison de Verre archives that illustrates it

in isolation beside a skirted bergère. Pierre Chareau presented a metal ‘Religieuse’ at the 1924 Salon

d’Automne. The design also appears in the sets of Marcel L’Herbier’s film, L’Inhumaine, of that same year.

The cinema became a showcase for furniture and the decorative arts, L’Inhumaine specially anticipating

the 1925 International Exhibition. . Film sets at that time played an important role in the drama, all the more

crucially before the advent of sound. A study of these photographs suggests they show the one floor lamp,

belonging to the Dr and Mme Dalsace. Loans of work were then commonplace between artists, friends

and commissioning clients depending on the circumstances and needs.

A 1927 list references 5 ‘Religieuses’ with 2 alabaster sheets and 5 ‘Religieuses’ with 4 alabaster sheets,

probably, in view of the date, a commission for the Hôtel de Tours. But there are no details of the number

and sizes of wood or metal examples. The decor of the Hôtel de Tours included floor lamps and table

lamps of the model in wood. We are again reminded of the extreme rarity of the metal versions of

Chareau’s masterful ‘Religieues’.

An art lover, collector as well as art dealer, Pierre Chareau lived surrounded by artists and their

works, regularly combining them with his own creations and exhibitions.

A famous photo by André Kertesz shows him at home in his apartment at 54 rue Nollet, in about 1927,

posing in front of a piano, surrounded by various artists’ drawings and a still life by Lipchitz, pinned to

the wall in the background.

Initially sensitive to Impressionist art, Pierre Chareau and his wife Dollie – too often left in the shadows,

although she played an important role with her husband, sharing his taste for modern art – started to

purchase Cubist pictures from 1913-1914. They continued to add to their collection after the war on

Chareau’s return to civilian life in 1919. Alongside the works of Picasso they acquired paintings and

drawings by Gris, Braque, La Fresnaye, Miro, Masson, Pascin, Ernst, Max Jacob, Arp, Chagall, Veira

da Silva, Torres-Garcia and Mondrian, embracing Cubism, International Constructivist Art, and postwar

Abstract Art, with the acquisition of works by Nicolas de Staël and Robert Motherwell, for whom

Chareau would build the combined home and studio in the Hamptons after moving to live in the United

States from 1940. Equally fond of sculpture, the couple owned works by Lipchitz to whom they were

close. Indeed, it was Lipchitz who advised them in 1919 to buy a caryatid by Modigliani – a work now

in the MoMA, New York.

Meeting Jeanne Bucher in 1925, who would later become one of Paris’s most influential modern art

dealers, was certainly not without impact on their choice of works and in building up their collection.

It was in an annex of ‘La Boutique’, an exhibition and sales space in the Rue du Cherche Midi opened

by Chareau in 1924, that she would open her first gallery.

The floor lamp ‘Religieuse’, put into this context, where the artistic avant-garde holds an essential

place, is clearly as much a sculpture as a floor lamp. Chareau here offers one of the orthogonal figures

characteristic of his very architectural stylistic vocabulary, the cone. It remains a unique work even

today, the only one of its kind in both his body of work and in the history of furniture. It was also

subsequently produced in wood. The metal version seems to be rarer because it is technically more

complex and its production was limited to the years 1923-1924.

Its execution was a real technical achievement, for which Chareau’s collaboration with the blacksmith

Louis Dalbet would once again be vital. There are variations in the drawing of the unfolded

metal sheet, resulting not only from initial formal intentions but also from technical constraints.

André Dalbet, Louis’s son, explains: “Some pieces that Pierre Chareau asked for required cunning

and inventive tricks for it to be possible to make them. This was the case for the ‘Religieuse’ floor

lamp (in metal), whose conical base is made from a curved rolled steel sheet. In order to find the

cutting line to ensure the vertical stability of the cone, (Louis Dalbet) thought of suspending the

base in a tank of water, in such a way that the water level would be at the desired height for the

lamp. So the cutting line for the base was provided by the water line on the cone” (Centre Georges

Pompidou exhibition catalogue, Pierre Chareau architecte – un art intérieur, Nov.1993-Jan. 1994).

Made in three different sizes, a night-light, a table lamp and a floor lamp, the ‘Religieuse’ in metal

exists only in this last size. Here Chareau uses the contrasting materials he

liked so much. The base is topped by 4 triangular sheets of white alabaster that give of a very soft

light, contrasting with the black patinated metal base. He varied these alabaster sheets cut into

rectangles, triangles or quarter circles in a number of his lights, very mindful of the quality of the light

given of.

Chareau was not a theoretician, of either architecture or furniture design. He left few

written explanations of his work, and nothing in writing to tell the story of this design. The

‘Religieuse’ in metal gives us a dynamic sculptural form to admire, in movement, fluid, associated

with a given function, efectively combining the architect, the furniture designer and the artist,

who is Chareau. The wooden ‘Religieuses’ are sometimes crowned by a fabric or parchment

shade likewise evoking a nun’s wimple. The name ‘Religieuse’ arises naturally from the overall form,

but we will never know whether the shape of nuns’ habits and headdresses, and the way they move,

were the original source of inspiration.

It remains no less true that the strong visual impact of this very structured monochromatic clothing

is still a source of inspiration today in the fields of both design and fashion. In 1988, the Paris-based

designers’ collective Raison Pure created a lamp called Sainte Thérèse-d ’Avila’ – a direct quotation

from Pierre Chareau – which offers us a new interpretation of it: the conical form, the contrast

of black and white, together with the movement here translated through the use of draped fabric

enveloping a cone-shaped metal support. The recently opened exhibition, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion

and the Catholic Imagination, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, (10 May-8 October 2018),

highlights the formal structure of the garment – made to follow the movements of the body – but

whose structure also has a defined symbolic value. This exhibition reminds us of one of Chareau’s

fundamental design principles – that he should respond as much to man’s material needs as to his

spiritual needs.

On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is a lot where Christie’s holds a direct financial guarantee interest.





PIERRE CHAREAU (1883-1950)


For other examples of this model in metal:

K. Frampton, M. Vellay, Pierre Chareau Architecte-meublier 1883-1950, Paris, 1984, pp. 70, 93, 194-195;

B. B. Taylor, Pierre Chareau Designer and Architect, Köln, 1992, p. 62;

Exhibition catalogue, Pierre Chareau Architecte: Un Art Interieur, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1993, pp. 15,17;

Exhibition catalogue, Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, The Jewish Museum, New York, 2016, pp. 29, 63, 70, 138.

For other example of this model:

L. Deshairs, 'Le XVème Salon des Artistes Décorateurs', Art et Décoration, 1924, p. 179;

H. Clouzot, "En marge de l'art appliqué moderne", L'Amour de l'Art, April 1924, p. 116;

Y. Rambosson, "Le Salon des décorateurs", L'Amour de l'Art, April 1924, p. 193;

E. Fleg, "Nos Décorateurs, Pierre Chareau", Les Arts de la Maison,1924, ill pl. II;

M. Dufrène, Ensemble Mobilier Exposition Internationale, 1925, Paris, ill. pl. 32;

B. B. Taylor, Pierre Chareau Designer and Architect, Berlin, 1992, p. 63;

Exhibition catalogue, Pierre Chareau: Modern Architecture and Design, The Jewish Museum, New York, 2016, p. 139.




Maria de Beyrie, Paris;

Jean-Claude Brugnot, Paris;

Barry Friedman Ltd, New York;

Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1982.

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*Vänligen notera att att priset inte är omräknat till dagens värde, utan avser slutpriset vid tidpunkten när föremålet såldes.