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Lalanne sculpture auction to pay for Paris museum extension | Sculpture

A private collection of rarely seen sculptures by French artists Claude and François-Xavier Lalanne is to be sold to pay for an extension of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

Daniel Marchesseau, a close friend of the sculptors for 50 years, agreed to part with the works as part of a gift of 5 million.

Among the Lalanne works is a large bronze turtle planted with succulents, and one of François-Xavier’s Lalanne’s trademark sheep is also in bronze, bird candlesticks, a mouse and butterfly chandelier and a pigeon lamp.

Marchesseau, 74, art historian and curator of several museums in Paris, said he donated the proceeds from the Sotheby’s auction next month to renovate the Hôtel de Mailly-Nesle, a 17th-century house on the other side of the Seine opposite the Louvre. which becomes the Musée d’Orsay’s research and archive center specializing in art from the 19th century. When completed in 2025, it will be the Musée d’Orsay’s most significant cultural heritage project.

An apple sculpture in bronze.
An apple sculpture in bronze. Photo: Marchesseau Collection

“The works left my apartment three to four days ago and I sob every morning, but you have to know what you want and my goal is far more important than keeping these works to myself so it’s over,” he said. Marchesseau to the Guardian.

“Lalannes was my friends for 50 years. I ordered some of the works myself, but these were not official orders, they were kind requests. Ours was a wonderful relationship, so happy, kind, trusting. I feel privileged to have known them and shared this pure friendship with them. ”

Marchesseau, former curator of the Paris Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Decorative Arts, and now director of the Museum of the Romantic Life in the French capital, sells 18 Lalanne works. All are unique pieces or prototypes for later Lalanne sculptures. Asked about his donation, he said art curators had a responsibility to “set an example”.

“I wanted to make a major heritage-focused contribution to the Musée d’Orsay. The idea that the work of this artist couple would help renovate an architectural complex for the purpose of art history seemed essential to me … we have to leave something that will last, “he said.

François-Xavier Lalanne died in 2008, aged 81, and was at the same time with René Magritte and Salvador Dali in post-war Paris. His wife, Claude, died in 2019 at the age of 93. Although collectively known as Les Lalanne, she worked mostly independently of her husband on her own works and collaborated with Yves Saint Laurent.

Marchesseau said: “All their lives they were completely independent [artistically] and they paid a high price for it because they did not live very well until the end of their lives. They were just happy to have a small, loyal network of friends.

A large bronze turtle planted with succulents.
A large bronze turtle planted with succulents. Photo: Marchesseau Collection

Hôtel de Mailly-Nesle was once home to the De Mailly family; four of whose five daughters were successively official mistresses of Louis XV. The building was later owned by the French Marshal during the Revolution, when it was seized and used to store confiscated works of art, then as a home for artists expelled from the Louvre. Only the east wing of the original building remains, but contains extraordinary decorations from the 17th century. The Musée d’Orsay acquired the building in 2016. Three of the De Mailly sisters were believed to be the models for Carle van Loo’s painting from 1765 The Three Graces.

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In addition to the Lalanne Sheep, one of dozens made by the artist, the Sotheby’s sale on May 24 will also include another of his other animal favorites in Grand Rhinoceros II, a desk in patinated bronze and leather, as well as works by René Lalique and Alberto Giacometti.

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