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10/24/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/24/2023 15:23

From Old Master Paintings to Royal French Furniture—the ‘Eccentric’ Collection of an Hermès Heir Heads to Sotheby’s


From Old Master Paintings to Royal French Furniture-the 'Eccentric' Collection of an Hermès Heir Heads to Sotheby's

Roughly a thousand works of art collected by the late Hubert Guerrand-Hermès will be offered in four auctions in December.

Lee Carter, October 24, 2023

Gold and enamel bracelet by J. L. Crouzet with a miniature of the Duchess of Berry, ca. 1830 (est. €6,000-€8,000). Courtesy of Sotheby's Paris.

The late Hubert Guerrand-Hermès lived the glamorous life of a bon vivant, a connoisseur of art in all its forms. He was, after all, the great-great-grandson of the founder of Hermès and a top executive of the luxury empire, largely responsible for transforming it from a provincial leather-goods maker into an international style powerhouse.

An aesthete of the highest order, Hermès surrounded himself with the spoils of his art de vivre-Old Master paintings, royal French furniture, contemporary art-in his grand Parisian residence, the Hôtel de Lannion on the Left Bank. The mansion faces the Musée d'Orsay, where he served on the board of directors.

Seven years since his death, Sotheby's Paris has announced it will auction his sprawling, sparkling estate. Roughly a thousand works of art, rare books, and precious objects will be offered in four auctions from December 13 to 15. And, while the Lannion is no longer decked out with Hermès's collection, Sotheby's will recreate the opulent home for the duration of the sale.

Pablo Picasso, Bather (1938), est. €150,000-€250,000. Courtesy of Sotheby's Paris.

"It is rare to find a collector with an equal passion and appreciation for classical arts, Old Masters, royal French furniture, cutting-edge design and the contemporary output of the likes of Lucio Fontana, Anselm Kiefer, Pierre Soulages," said Mario Tavella, president of Sotheby's France and chairman of Sotheby's Europe. "You could definitely say he was an eccentric collector."

The library in Hubert Guerrand-Hermès's Hôtel de Lannion. Courtesy of Sotheby's Paris.

"I recall many years ago we did a trip together in Scotland," Tavella continued, "traveling around all of the historic houses and castles, and I recall being struck by his infinite curiosity." Although one passion stood out from the rest. He harbored a most unusual fascination with Marie-Caroline, the Duchess of Berry. By marrying into the French royal family, the Italian princess became the daughter-in-law of King Charles X and the mother of the heir to the throne.

Hermès's obeisance to her is visible in every room of the Lannion, from the staircase hung with paintings of her castle (château de Rosny) to the library containing 200 volumes that bear her crest. In fact, "he attempted to reassemble her library [in] his home," Tavella explained.

The Duchess of Berry-who was, coincidentally, related to Hermès's wife-had been "a champion of the arts herself, subsidizing theater productions, commissioning notable works from the Sèvres porcelain factory and collecting paintings by the Dutch painter Jan van der Heyden, among others," said Tavella. "He would come to the room [at Sotheby's] and fiercely bid-particularly, as you can imagine, when we had a Duchesse de Berry sale. I wouldn't hesitate to say that he was obsessed with her."

A pair of topiary wild boars in patinated bronze by François-Xavier Lalanne. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The items with the highest estimates include bronzes from François-Xavier Lalanne's bestiaire: a pair of monkeys (est: €1 million-€2 million) and a pair of topiary boars (est. €100,000-€150,000). Period furniture, too, is featured prominently, in particular a chair that belonged to Marie-Antoinette, part of her boudoir, the Cabinet de la Meridienne, at the Palace of Versailles. The royal chair in regilded sculpted walnut from the Louis XVI period bears the stamp of Georges Jacob, ca. 1784-85.

Louis XVI-period gilded wood chair, stamped by G. Jacob, from Marie Antoinette's boudoir in Versailles, est. €300,000-€500,000. Courtesy of Sotheby's Paris.

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