Soon in Paris: This Transat Lounge Chair by Eileen Gray (1879-1976)
Estimate â‚¬600,000 – â‚¬800,000 ($850,699 – $1,134,266)
A black-lacquered wood ‘Transat’ lounge chair, with nickelled steel fittings, the hinged padded back and seat with blue-green fabric upholstery, by Eileen Gray, for Jean Badovici, circa 1926-1930
This chair – among the most emblematic of Miss Gray’s designs – was evolved in the mid-twenties as she was exploring new furniture ideas in the context of the building of E-1027, the thoughtful and exquisite realization of her personal vision of Modernism. The name ‘Fauteuil Transat’ that appears in the portfolio dedicated to the project, ‘E-1027 Maison en Bord de Mer’ (Table des MatiÃ¨res, p. 27) underlines the maritime inspiration — for this is a sophisticated re-interpretation of that most functionalist of designs, the classic deck-chair.
At least a dozen ‘Transat’ chairs were made. Most were in plain sycamore, a small number were lacquered, including one for the Maharaja of Indore. Period photographs and documents confirm various options for upholstery, including brown and blue leather, pony-skin and canvas.
The present chair is exceptional in having its original upholstery, which, with regard to its colour, matches the description of a ‘Transat’ recorded in the closing-down sales, post February 1st 1930, of Miss Gray’s Galerie Jean DÃ©sert stock, listed as ‘Fauteuil allongÃ© sycomore matelas cuir bleu renard’. Interestingly, the list is annotated to the effect that this item, destined for ‘Melle [Kate] Weatherby’, is ‘Ã recevoir’. A quotation of February 10th 1930 from A. Meffa, specialist in Duco lacquer, confirms a price of Francs100 each for lacquering armchairs. The relatively modest cost, suggesting a small surface to be lacquered, and the fact that no armchair models of this date other than the ‘Transat’ involved lacquer finishes, would suggest that, despite the closure of her gallery, Miss Gray was still engaged with the finishing of furniture for her close circle of clients, friends and associates.
These archive documents, referencing blue upholstery and lacquer finish, suggest a context for the completion and acquisition by Jean Badovici of the present ‘Transat’. The chair was bought in the early 70s by Mr and Mrs Robert Walker together with a black lacquer ‘Brick’ screen, both from the estate of Jean Badovici, at the time when Mr and Mrs Walker were assiduously tracking Miss Gray’s work and played a crucial role in drawing attention, after years of neglect, to her singular and most impressive achievements.