A Lost Grand Piano to be Sold by Sotheby's

Daniella Ohad
Feb 25, 2013 7:49PM

The SS Normandie was an extraordinary French ocean liner, which was launched in 1935, capturing the imagination of millions living throughout the 30s. It was not only the largest, heaviest, and fastest of all liners of the Jazz Age, but also the most celebrated, elegant, and highly-designed of all liners, a floating magnificent palace with interiors designed by the best minds of French Art Deco. In fact, the SS Normandie has since become a quintessential icon of its period, and with its high-style and design, an ambassador of the best of French design. Its tragic demise in New York Harbor resulted in a series of auctions held in 1942 to disperse the contents of the ship.

In its upcoming design sale (March 6, 2013), Sotheby’s will be offering a rare, long-lost grand piano by Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann from the Normandie’s Ladies’ Drawing Room and Music Room (est. $400/600,000). While the master died in 1933, prior to any of the furniture being designed and produced for the interiors of the prestigious liner, his employees organized a tribute to him by creating a room on board decorated with his furniture, which became the Ladies’ Drawing Room and Music Room.

During Normandie’s brief life, among the many American passengers were Mr. and Mrs. Edward Butler of Buffalo who made several crossings of the Atlantic. After the liner’s tragic demise, they attended one of the auctions and acquired this grand piano, and installed it in their Mansion in Buffalo. Now the intact and rare piano has appeared on the market for the first time.

Here is a video I have done on an exhibition at the South Sea Seaport Museum on the SS Normandie.

Daniella Ohad