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Rare Ruhlmann Pieces on the Auction Block

Jill Newman

On December 16, Sotheby’s New York will offer nine unusual furniture pieces made in 1929 and 1930 by the legendary French art-deco atelier Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann. This sale marks the first time in more than 10 years that such a complete collection of works by Ruhlmann will be offered at auction. The original owners commissioned the nine works for their dining room and master bedroom, and the works have been in storage for nearly 25 years. As a result, the works remain in mostly original condition and finish, a prized trait among collectors. Additionally, the original documents commissioning the pieces have been preserved by the family, including correspondence with the atelier, bills of sale, and original certificates signed by Ruhlmann.

“Seeing these works in person for the first time is a breathtaking experience,” said James Zemaitis, senior vice president of Sotheby’s 20th-century design department in New York. “It is beyond rare to have the opportunity to examine works of this caliber in their original finish and with such perfect provenance.”

Among the pieces is the “Egyptien” secrétaire à abattant, which is estimated to fetch $300,000 to $500,000. The modernist work was the second example of the model produced by Ruhlmann, and is distinguished by the decorated surface of the drop front, which on first glance appears to be tortoiseshell but is actually celluloid, heightened with red pigment. The pieces will be on exhibition at Sotheby’s New York starting December 11 prior to the auction on December 16. (www.sothebys.com)

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