La Gazette Drouot
Enchères - La Collection Carasso
Synthesis of the arts
Barely a hundred objects and paintings, but each one chosen with unfailing taste. Welcome to the refined – and somewhat unusual – world of Nina and Daniel Carasso!

Born in Salonica, and having spent his adolescence between Barcelona and France, Daniel Carasso learnt early on to observe and understand the customs and cultures of various countries. Nina Covo was the daughter of a well-informed financier passionate about art and opera. They married on 16 October 1939. Shortly afterwards, the couple were forced to leave Europe for the United States. A born entrepreneur, Daniel set out to conquer the North American continent on behalf of the family firm. At the end of the War, the young husband and wife returned, and settled down in Paris and Barcelona. They put as much passion into decorating the interior of their Paris home as they did into developing the Danone brand. Both loved discovering a civilisation, and hunting down an object representative of it, always with the same standard: impeccable quality.  Gradually, they swelled their collection of antiquities with Chinese porcelains, 18th century furniture and modern sculptures and paintings.  But the couple were also interested in more contemporary art, represented by a number of pieces. The decoration of their Paris apartment reflected their taste for a refined eclecticism, where every object vibrated in sympathy with its neighbours.

Expelled from Spain in 1492, the Carasso family took refuge in Salonica and remained there for a little over four centuries. Greek antiquities thus have a natural place in this collection, including two vases: a large olpe in bronze and a terracotta black figure amphora. Similar to the oinochoe, the olpe differs from it in that the body is wider towards the foot, and the belly and neck are in a single piece, the handle joining the lip from the mouth to the shoulder. This recipient was used to remove water or wine from the krater before pouring it into cups. This example, with its considerable height of 38.7, was made between the 5th and 4th century BC. The sober form of this object, estimated at around €4,000, is highlighted by particularly detailed work on the handle, decorated with palmettes. The amphora, meanwhile, takes its name from the two handles used to carry it, and was designed to hold wine, olives, oil or condiments. Its decoration developed towards the model with a continuous band that became popular from the 6th century AD. Our model is attributed to one of the last workshops of painters practising black figure decoration known as the Leagros group – thus named in reference to several vases bearing a dedication to "kalos Leagros", an Athenian model or hero. Under the frieze of palmettes on the neck, a scene represents Athene on one side, beside a quadriga driven by a charioteer and preceded by a nude boy. On the other side, three armed hoplites can be seen fighting, with one on the ground. This probably represents a scene from the Iliad (Athene and the warriors), a subject found with several vases attributed to these artists. Ornamentation more in keeping with the use intended for this object shows Bacchic scenes and various gods of Olympus, as with another amphora, highly restored, on offer with this one. The two of them should fetch around €8,000. The Carasso couple's liking for ceramics can also be seen in a collection of eighteen Chinese terracottas and porcelains.

Claude Monet (1840-1926), Étude de joncs, Argenteuil, 1876, oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm.

A "taibo zun" by Kangxi
One of the Chinese stars of the collection is a brush-washer, known as a "taibo zun" or "jizhao zun" (see photo above). This "peachbloom" glazed porcelain with a refined decoration of dragon medallions engraved under the glaze, bears on the back, under glaze, the blue seal mark "Da Qing Kangxi nianzhi". The Imperial provenance raises the estimate considerably to around €15,000. It is worth noting that the brush-washer was one of the essential items in the scholar's world, especially for an emperor keen on calligraphy. According to the monk, calligrapher and painter Shitao (1641-c.1720), "The single line of the paintbrush is the origin of all things, the root of all phenomena." This art, placed at the very highest level, forms part not only of Buddhist practice and that of mystic Taoism, but also of the aristocratic culture typical of the Southern courts. The name of "taibo zun" is inspired by the representation of the Tang dynasty poet Li Taibo, reclining next to his cup of wine, of the same form. "Jizhao zun" takes up the name given to a traditional hen cage of the Middle Empire. The "peachbloom" glaze evoked the fruit omnipresent in Chinese art, which symbolises longevity. And of course, the whole ensemble bears witness to the technical mastery of potters during the reign of Kangxi (1662-1722), perpetuated throughout the Qing dynasty. The craftsmen made play with the chance results of firing to obtain from copper oxides shades ranging from pale pink to cardinal red, sometimes flecked with green. The subtlety of this shade seems to have been reserved for the eight or nine specific vase and brush washer shapes composing what is known today as a "ba da ma". As regards competition in the bidding, it is enough to say that enthusiasts are still captivated by this type of glaze, a marvel of alchemy and elegance… The other star of this section, estimated at some €10,000, is a pair of coral-red glazed porcelain sitting greyhounds from the Qianlong period (1736-1795), each wearing a blue collar decorated with a bell and pompoms. In terms of Chinese zodiac signs, the dog is the symbol of fidelity. The Qing emperors, of Manchu origin, all adored their hunting animals. The Qianlong stables and kennels were particularly famous for their luxuriousness. Initially a subject reserved for the European market, the representation of the greyhound subsequently inspired works designed for the court. We know of another pair of dogs similar to ours, but in silver, from the Yuanmingyuan (Summer Palace). These porcelain figurines feature alongside a series of vases, cups and dishes, two in the so-called "Pompadour" oval shape, by the Compagnie des Indes (€2,500). French porcelain is also in the spotlight, at the start of the section on 18th century furniture and objets d’art.

Weisweiler, Roentgen
Nearly fifty numbers are devoted to chairs and furniture, forming a panorama of taste through the century of Enlightenment. The imaginativeness of French Regency furniture is represented by a gilt wood table de milieu with a top supported by winged dragon's heads, whose tails curl around curved legs, expected to fetch €12,000. The refinement of a Louis XV interior is evoked in unrivalled form by a weaving or embroidery frame (see photo on right-hand page), where garlands of flowers, carnations and leaves, lacquered in monochromes of blue and grey, stand out on the gilt wood. A truly remarkable piece of furniture. The embroidery frame of the Marquise de Pompadour, seen in her portrait by François-Hubert Drouais, now in the National Gallery, London, features only a plain decoration. We know that in 1751, the marchand mercier Lazare Duvaux delivered to the Dauphine a model in "polished green varnish with relief in gold, trimmed with ormolu fittings". A second example formed part of the sale of the Farmer General and former King's Secretary Jean-François Leroy de Senneville, on 5 April 1780. It is described thus in the catalogue: "An embroidery frame, also in vernis Martin, fitted with hooks, screws and nuts covered with gold leaf". Nina and Daniel Carasso's predilection was for Louis XVI furniture, of which several items bear the stamp of the most famous cabinetmakers. One of them is a writing table with veined mahogany veneering, bearing the stamp of Adam Weisweiler. This was delivered by Riesener to the Château des Tuileries on 9 February 1782, with a second identical table, for Louis XVI's first valet de chambre, Marc-Antoine Thierry, Baron de Ville d’Avray. At least €30,000 will be needed for this masterpiece of simplicity, and €60,000 for an oval table de salon with partially friezed or tinted indigenous wood veneering. Its top has a grafting knife decoration framed by rose bouquets and ribbons. A secret mechanism releases two side compartments, containing two drawers and compartments and a push button, while a drawer in the façade forming a writing tablet conceals four small drawers. This table was executed by David Roentgen towards the end of the 1770s. Another oval table in mahogany and mahogany veneering consists of Russian or Austrian work dating from the late 18th or early 19th century. The overall design is inspired by the creations of the celebrated inlayer de Neuwied: the curved quiver-shaped legs with wide fluting, the bowed quiver-shaped uprights with deep double copper fluting joined by a tablet with concentric circles, and the apron decorated with a frieze of interlaced rosettes on a black background supporting a top (transformed) of green Egyptian marble all bear witness to the aesthetic trends in vogue in Russia and Austria. The sobriety of these pieces of furniture provided an elegant counterpoint to a collection of modern paintings and sculptures.

Friday 19 March 2010, room 5-6 - Drouot-Richelieu, at 3 p.m.
Piasa auction house. M. Portier, M PIcard, M. Dillée.
La Gazette Drouot N°10 - 12 mars 2010 - Anne Foster
China, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662-1722). Brush washer in "peachbloom" glazed porcelain, with the"Da Qing Kangxi nianzhi" sealmark in blue, under glaze, on the underside of the base, diam. 12.5 cm.
€48,328 €
Auguste Rodin (1840-1917). Mouvement de danse, pas de deux "G", proof in patinated bronze, Georges Rudier, founder, by Musée Rodin 1967 h. 38 cm (with base).
Weaving or embroidery frame, c.1760, gilt wood, lacquered decoration in monochromes of blue and grey, the frame holder with a bronze mechanism, 97 x 135 x 21 cm.