In two weeks you will have the opportunity to bid for a bronze ashtray by the exclusive Art Deco French designer Armand Albert Rateau (1882-1938) at Horta.
Rateau’s items are hard to find. Two years ago seven pieces of furniture from the bathroom of the Duchess of Alba (the first landowner of Spain and the most titled aristocrat in the world) were put up for auction and sold, all except one, for a total 6.129.500 euros:
Two large dark green patinated floor lamps ‘aux oiseaux’, 1921 (each sold for 1.665.500 euros);
a dark green patinated bronze low table ‘aux oiseaux’, 1921 (also sold for 1.665.500 euros);
a dark green patinated bronze and marble dressing table, 1921 (for 661.500 euros);
a carved and gilt wood and bronze adjustable day bed, 1921 (421.500 euros);
a white marble bath tub, 1921 (61.500 euros);
and a carved and partly gilt wood canapé ‘aux cols de cygne’, 1921, which was left unsold.
The Duchess’ items were especially valuable for several reasons. They had been commissioned by her father, Jacobo Fitz-James Stuart y Falcó (1878-1953), 17th Duke of Alba, in 1920, probably for his wedding, and had always remained in the Palace of Liria, residence of the House of Alba and the biggest palace in Madrid after the Royal Palace. They are all that remains of a bigger ensemble which has disappeared. Rateau was so proud of them that he exhibited the ensemble in the International Exhibition in Paris in 1925, where Art Deco was crowned as the style of an era.
Rateau’s style is as evident in the Duchess’ former collection as in the ashtray. He excels in the work of patinated bronze, which he embellishes with stylized animal motifs and a very characteristic oriental touch. Horta’s estimate is surprisingly low. Rateau’s astray will probably reach a much higher final price.