Jean Dunand, Like a Fish in Water

On 26 April 2021, by Anne Doridou-Heim

The versatile artist and designer Jean Dunand (1877-1942) was accompanied in the auction waltz by Vu Cao Dam and Lucien Rollin.

Jean Dunand (1877-1942), double-leaf black lacquer folding screen decorated with silver and gold carp and aquatic plants, 1928, one leaf inscribed with his signature, 192 x 80 cm each/75.6 x 31.5 in.
Result: €125,000

A folding screen by Jean Dunand, whose skillful, inventive copper vases won awards at the 1906 Milan International Exhibition, soared past its high estimate of €30,000 to fetch €125,000. Here, he used gold and silver just as effectively. In the rays of light penetrating the lacquer’s black water, his varied motifs breathe life into the fish, whose heads feature geometric patterns similar to those on his vases. The mouth of one fish, surrounded by a frieze of triangles and a forehead adorned with small circles between large round eyes, releases cylindrical bubbles spangled with precious metal. Dunand’s delicate craftsmanship is a marvelous match for the refinement of Japonisme, in vogue in the French decorative arts since Japan’s participation in the 1900 Paris Exposition. Japan opened up to the West in the early 20th century, sweeping away centuries of isolation.

Asia was also celebrated in the art of the Vietnamese artist Vu Cao Dam (1908-2000), whose terracotta Head of a Young Woman fetched €65,000. His modeling technique—letting the material show traces of his creative process—was the same as Rodin and Giacometti’s, whose works he admired after moving to Paris in 1931 (21 x 12 x 12 cm/8.27 x4.73 x 4.73 in). Art Deco furniture was represented by a pair of pedestal tables designed by Lucien Rollin (1906-1993) in the 1930s. They feature double oval rosewood tops and four fluted legs ending in steel and sold for €55,000.

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