"La Mort du Cygne" by Louis Majorelle

Louis Majorelle (1859-1926)

After a vocational training in painting and sculpture, Louis Majorelle pursued the cabinetmaking business of his father. With the multi-talented artist Victor Prouvé, they quickly became the leading figures of the “Ecole de Nancy” after the death of Emile Gallé in 1904.Famous for the quality of his woodcraft and the splendour of his Art Nouveau furniture, Louis Majorelle is compared to the greatest cabinetmakers in History. He revealed a great sobriety from in his wood sculptures, highlightening its curves by using somptuous gilded bronzes. Nature is an inexhaustible source of patterns in the Art Nouveau movement for wood or melted bronzes such as water lilies, orchids, ombels…

« La Mort du Cygne » pianos.

In Majorelle works, the subtle play of rare woods in his marquetry shows a purely ornamental role, reinforcing the virtuosity of the artist. Renown after the Universal Exhibition of 1900, Majorelle presents a remarkable and remarked piece at the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts of 1904: “La Mort du Cygne” a wooden half-tail piano carved, with an Erard mechanism, including the marquetry is the work of Victor Prouvé.

Four versions of this piano decorated with “La Mort du Cygne” marquetry are known, all created by Louis Majorelle in collaboration with Victor Prouvé. Prouvé washimself known for his compositions of simple yet fluid line, rendered in pale colours, characteristics which are found in the marquetry work on the present piano. Two “La Mort du Cygne” pianos can be found in public collections: One in the collection of the Musée de l’Ecole de Nancy dated 1905 commissionned by the local businessman Eugène Corbin and one in the Virginia Fine Arts Museum. The third present example, also dated 1903, was commissionned by Charles-Auguste Masson, the associate of Eugène Corbin in Nancy and will be offered into auction on the 16th of May 2019. The fourth one is currently non-located.

At the end of the XIXth century, the swan theme as widespread in the arts, especially in literature at Baudelaire in the poem “The Swan” (in. The Flowers of Evil, 1857) and in some musical works such as Swan Lake (1875 -76) of Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky or The Carnival of Animals (1886) by Camille de Saint-Saens. The swan is also found in other works by the artists of the Ecole de Nancy thanks to its sinuous curves. The scene on the piano could also be inspired by Richard Wagner's opera Parsifal (1882) in which the knight Parsifal shoots a swan, a bird considered as sacred by knights.

« water lilies » furniture.

On the same day, we will also present at auction a water lilies desk, typical of the work of Majorelle in the early 20th century. The artist ends with floral marquetry to showcase the line. Indeed, it seems to spring from the ground in a set of ascending dynamic lines and curves accentuated by golden bronzes with water lilies.

Louis Majorelle was also an excellent blacksmith and designed all the bronzes of his furniture. The artists of the Ecole de Nancy thought the Art Nouveau as a unity : A total work of art slipping from ironwork to woodwork, tapestries to furniture bronzes and also by the luminaries. From this global vision, the Daum-Majorelle collaboration was born in the field of lighting by showing the technique innovations with the particular aesthetics of the Ecole de Nancy. In our model, XVIIIth century references are obvious by using gilded bronzes and twisted movements but they are assimilated in the search for modernity. The inspiration of nature is also fully expressed. The curved lines and the curvilinear movement of the chandelier naturally evoke the stem of a plant, its capacity to grow and to decrease. The glass, molded and chiseled, revealed the magnificence of execution and rendering.

Event at Espace Tajan.

To celebrate this exceptional auction, the piano "La Mort du Cygne" will be presented at the piano concert, on Monday, May 13 by duo Mouseîon : Mariia Esaulova et Narek Galoyan, and Andréa Constantin, soprano.