The Martel brothers in Saint-Jean-de-Luz

On 17 September 2019, by Philippe Dufour

Called on by Robert Mallet-Stevens for the interior design of the Basque port's casino, the sculptor twins created a frieze celebrating the Atlantic province. Far from being in a folky vein, this brilliantly asserted its creators' modernism.

Jean and Joël Martel (1896-1966), Le Pêcheur basque et ses filets (Basque fisherman with his nets), bas-relief in staff created for the Casino La Pergola in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, 121 x 148 cm.
Estimate: €40,000/50,000

In his beret, the solid figure of a fisherman with massive shoulders attracts the eye, making play with the contrast between the receding lines of the nets. The plaster sculpture seems to be built in broad geometric volumes, vibrant with light and shade. You will have recognised the inimitable style of the Martel brothers, champions of a synthetic Art Deco they sometimes simplified to an extreme degree. They chose the subject of their work to harmonise with the building it was to grace for a long time: the Casino de La Pergola in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. After the First World War, the picturesque fishing port became a fashionable bathing resort, where the architect William Marcel built a hotel in 1923, together with its requisite gaming establishment. Four years later, his colleague Robert Mallet-Stevens took over the project and completed the interior design, using Louis Barillet and Jacques Le Chevallier for the stained glass, and Jean and Joël Martel for the sculpted decoration. To enliven the upper part of the walls in the reception hall, the two artists designed a group of eighteen bas-reliefs in staff. The subjects were scenes of daily life, Basque festivals and views of towns in the coastal region. Somewhat surprisingly, they also included scenes from the New Testament, including a remarkable Saint John the Baptist, now in the Musée des Années 30 in Boulogne-Billancourt, a commune in the western suburbs of Paris.

Symbiotic decoration and architecture
This huge work, now lost due to the various transformations carried out after 1950, was uncontestably one of the most successful of the Martels' decorative series – and there were not a few. Their main qualities lay in their sense of rhythm, which alternated compositions in close-up (the figures) and from a distance (the landscapes), and in powerfully stylised characters. After studying at the Paris École Nationale des Arts Décoratifs, which they entered in 1912, the twins Joël and Jean Martel decided to devote themselves to sculpture as a duo, creating both official monuments and smaller-scale projects, often edited in stoneware or pressed glass. But other more avant-gardist projects resulted from their collaboration with architects, particularly the most radical of them all: Robert Mallet-Stevens. Striking examples were the reinforced concrete Cubist trees they presented at the 1925 Universal Exhibition of Decorative and Industrial Arts, and the bas-relief for the entrance hall of the Villa Noailles in Hyères (1923-1928), as well as an incredible polyhedral mirror for its sitting room. And when the star of functional architecture took on the interior design of the Villa Cavrois in Croix (completed in 1932), he commissioned several reliefs from the Martels, including a panel illustrating games for the children's playroom.

A Thomas Hache cabinet makes its first appearance

On 18 September 2019, by Caroline Legrand

This Provençal two-part cabinet with a receding section was made by Thomas Hache in Chambéry in ca. 1685. A first in the famous cabinetmaker's output on several accounts.

Thomas Hache (1664-1747), two-part cabinet with receding section, Chambéry, ca. 1685, with four doors and two drawers, marquetry in linear grain walnut, olive wood, apple or pear wood, tinted or burnt, hot-sand-shaded wood, holly, fir, moulding in darkened wood, 220 x 173.5 x 65.5 cm.
Estimate: €40,000/45,000

This exquisite discovery now swelling the fabulous body of work by the Haches is the first cabinet of this kind produced by Thomas Hache, and perhaps one of the very first pieces he ever made. The specialist Françoise Rouge has dated it at around 1685 – i.e. the same period as the celebrated armoire with the Marquis de Mirabeau's arms, and a little earlier than the two-part cabinet now in the Bemberg Foundation in Toulouse. At that time, Thomas was living in Chambéry in the Savoy region. The son of Noël (1630-1675), a Calais-born woodworker who moved to Toulouse, Thomas started out in the family business, later taken over by his father-in-law, before making his tour of France as a journeyman. This long period of apprenticeship took him to Paris, where he undoubtedly got to know the workshop of Pierre Gole, one of the foremost cabinetmakers of the time, whose influence rapidly showed in his creations. The next stage was Chambéry, a town with an interesting geographical situation, especially as the territory was then attached to the House of Savoy. Here Thomas discovered Italian-style marquetry using inlaid coloured paste or ivory, also known as the "scagliola technique". The great originality of Hache furniture dates from this period in Thomas's training, when he was exposed to the influence of both Pierre Gole and his floral marquetry work and the craftsmen of Italy with their inlaid materials and use of varied indigenous tree species (at a time when ebony was the most commonly-used wood). Their virtuosity can be seen in the colours –the yellow, red and green shades of olive tree, sycamore and ash – in this two-section cabinet. Also remarkable is the innovative marquetry work, like the Renaissance-inspired lion's muzzles, the narrow checkerboard friezes around the lower sections and the background in linear grain walnut – not burnt wood. Likewise, the marquetery in medallions, "frequently found in 17th century Southern German sideboards", according to Françoise Rouge. Further proof of Thomas Hache's multiple sources of inspiration.

timbres-poste, art d'Asie, décorations, insignes, tableaux anciens et modernes, mobilier et objets d'art, instruments scientifiques et de marine, bijoux
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