Paul Sormani commode an Australian auction drawcard

Author: Richard Brewster | Posted: 23rd July, 2018

Christian McCann Auctions is proudly offering a 19th century kingwood commode made by master cabinet maker Paul Sormani (with a catalogue estimate of $80,000-$100,000) at its forthcoming auction from noon Sunday July 29 at 426 Burnley Street, Richmond.

One of Europe’s leading cabinet makers at the time, Sormani was recognised for his expertise in fruitwood marquetry, producing furniture in both the Louis XV and Louis XVI styles.

Born in 1817 in Venice, at age 30 he opened his first shop in Paris where he specialised in making necessaries and fantasy furniture.

In 1854, Sormani moved to Rue du Temple where he began making Louis-style furniture. Thirteen years later, the company moved again to Rue Charlot where it produced high quality reproductions for the National Guard and Sormani’s style was acclaimed among the Parisian bourgeoisie.

At the same time, he became cabinet maker to Empress Eugenie who commissioned him to decorate her palace.

This commode can be related to two notable other versions – one made for the Versailles bed chamber of the Comtesse de Provence (now at Waddesdon Manor) and the other in the 1780s for Marie Antoinette and now in the Frick Collection.

To perpetuate the sumptuous and classic craftsmanship of the 18th century, Sormani participated in several exhibitions, including the Universal displays of 1855 and 1867 and London in 1862, where he was awarded various medals for his creations.

Sormani’s works are labelled according to their place of production and after his death in 1877 his wife and son continued to produce furniture items.

Production ended in 1934, after the death of his son.

Another major auction attraction is a painting by Chinese-born artist Adam Chang. Born in 1960 in Shanghai, he grew up during a period marked by the excesses of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Chang was a teenager when Chairman Mao Zedong died in 1976. The iconographic status accorded the Great Helmsman’s image following his death made a strong impression on the young artist – whose talent was recognised from an early age after he entered the Art College of Shanghai University.

Chang graduated in 1992, having mastered the conventional realistic style of painting, and began exploring a more fluid approach.

Five years later, the artist moved to Australia and after 10 years of research discussion and experimentation created a new artistic language using a synthesis between Chinese ink painting and the expressive strength of Western art.

By often using vast canvases, a monochromatic palette and large brushes that deliver sharp-edged and delineated strokes, Chang’s heightened and dramatic visual impact meshes perfectly with the painting’s didactic and emotional subject matter.

With a catalogue estimate of $100,000, his gallery size auction painting depicts a terracotta warrior.  

Chang has recently been commissioned by Chinese President Xi Jinping to paint his portrait.

A rare 19th century Italian Florentine child’s cot with fine gilt cherub decoration and carved supports is another auction highlight.

The auction contains collections from throughout Australia including an important Brisbane assembly of European antiques and Asian porcelain and works of art acquired since the early 1960s.

Other Australian artists to feature include Criss Canning, Walter Withers, Pro Hart, David Boyd, Ernest Buckmaster and Robert Johnson.

There is a superb collection of French and English 18th and 19th century furniture including ormolu mounted salon furniture – many signed by 19th century cabinet makers.

Antique French and English clocks and clock sets are another strong feature along with antique porcelain, including Sevres, Royal Worcester, Meissen and Dresden, and chandeliers and salon mirrors.

Other attractions include Chinese porcelain, gilt bronze Buddhas and finely carved jade works.  

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