Claude Lalanne’s gilt-bronze Banquette Crocodile is one of the designer’s most sought-after pieces, the realism of its reptiles coming as a result of a trip to the Paris zoo in 1972. It seems the French designer—part of the noted duo Les Lalanne with her late husband, François-Xavier—had envisioned the creation of such a piece for quite some time but was in need of an actual crocodile upon which to base it. As the story goes, Lalanne decided to put in a request to the city’s zookeepers for the remains of a crocodile, should one happen to expire of old age when nature took its course. And so a croc died one moonlit night; shortly thereafter, Lalanne went to collect her specimen in the company of fellow artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
Since then, the highly textured crocodile motif has taken shape in a number of her works, ranging from chandeliers to tables and chairs as well as the bench, which was cast in 2007 in an edition of eight with four artist’s proofs. Number two of that edition headlines the April 4 sale at Tajan in Paris, carrying an estimate of €600,000 to €900,000 ($736,000 to $1.1 million). Two others from the same series have commanded $482,500 and $509,000 at Christie’s and Sotheby’s, respectively. This past December, two of Lalanne’s similarly designed Crocodile Armchairs (1997) achieved $975,000 and $1.2 million at Sotheby’s in New York. Both lots had been estimated at $300,000 to $500,000.
Other notable lots in the Tajan sale with an animal theme include a pair of gilt-bronze chairs adorned with wild foxes by artist Bronislaw Krzysztof. Cast in an edition of four in 2003, they are tagged at €15,000 to €20,000 ($18,400 to $24,500). A rare pair of 19th-century chairs from Northern Europe adorned with moose antler sheds carries an estimate of €5,000 to €7,000 ($6,100 to $8,600).