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The Lalannes’ Fable of the Sheep and the Rabbit

On 14 January 2022, by Anne Doridou-Heim

While Claude’s rabbit pricked up its ears to hear the bidding better, François-Xavier’s sheep remained calm.

The Lalannes’ Fable of the Sheep and the Rabbit

Claude Lalanne (1925–2019), Lapin de Victoire (Victory Rabbit), bronze with a golden patina from a series of eight copies, h. 37 cm/14.56 in.
Result: €308,220

François-Xavier Lalanne’s "Mouton de pierre" ("Stone Sheep") serenely moved through pastures to €434,020. The placid ruminant designed c. 1985 was acquired by its previous owners directly from Lalanne (1927–2008). Since the first sheep was born in 1965, they have become his most emblematic works. Either alone or in flocks, they have broken records but their mythological origin is often forgotten. After Ulysses is blinded by the Cyclops in Homer’s Odyssey, he and his companions escape from the one-eyed giant’s cave and hide in the stomachs of his sheep. Indeed, Lalanne entitled the first ones Pour Polyphème—For Polypheme.

The sheep echoes the fantastic world to which the Lalannes devoted a life of creativity. So does Claude’s Lapin de Victoire (Victory Rabbit, see photo). Rabbits were to her what sheep were to François-Xavier: a favorite theme. Whether wearing a cabbage collar, holding a flower by the stem or pricking up its big ears, there was nothing naturalistic about them. They seem to have hopped straight out of a children’s fairytale and make you want to run after them. Someone caught up with this one for €308,220.

The couple found an endless source of inspiration in the animal kingdom, a repertory they molded "to the constraints of decorative art with plenty of humor" (Galerie Mitterrand) and, it might be said, lightness. They brought sculpture down off its pedestal by giving it a more familiar, useful purpose.

Two paintings by American artist Beauford Delaney (1901–1979) also obtained high results. His oil-on-cardboard Self-Portrait (75 x 56 cm/29.52 x 22.04 in) sold for €308,220 and 1961 Composition (116 x 73 cm/45.66 x 28.74 in), €371,120. Both are from the former collection of Jacques and Solange du Closel, a couple committed to contemporary art: for many years, Solange was the administrator of the Société des Amis du Centre Georges Pompidou. In May 2016, their works were dispersed by the same auction house at Drouot.

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