Joseph Bernard, ‘"Jeune Fille à sa Toilette"’, Sotheby's: Important Design

Executed by Valsuani, Paris

Designed 1912, cast 1936.

Sotheby's would like to thank the Fondation de Coubertin for their assistance with the cataloguing of this lot.

From the Catalogue:

Joseph Bernard’s Femme à la Toilette has become an iconic sculpture for the quintessential, sophisticated French Art Deco interior. The model was presented in Ruhlmann’s Salon du Collectionneur in Paris in 1925, along with the spectacular bas relief La Danse, which ornamented the building’s façade, and other works by Bernard. The Salon du Collectionneur was intended to demonstrate the highest quality of French refinements and taste in French art and decorative art. Its success gave its name to French Art Deco. Jeune Fille à sa Toilette was then exhibited in 1926 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The Pavillon du Collectionneur was the culmination of the close friendship between Ruhlmann and Bernard: in 1920, Bernard asked Ruhlmann to design the interior of his house in Boulogne Billancourt, and in 1921, he gave him a bronze version of his Jeune Fille à sa Toilette. Ruhlmann even designed a custom pedestal for the sculpture.

The present lot demonstrates Bernard’s unique talent to combine expressiveness and grace. In his sculpture, Bernard manages to unite values of sensibility and decoration. The young girl’s posture conveys both a quiet serenity and sense of movement, evidenced by the dynamic curvature of the drapery and position of her arm. The exquisite modelling of the form is reminiscent of Rodin. Joseph Bernard’s art developed during a particularly rich and active artistic period, but the sculptor’s singularity lies in the combination of simplicity and elegance. Like Ruhlmann in decorative art, Bernard believed in the fundamental importance of lines and volumes conceived as a harmonious ensemble: “It is essential in sculpture to create abstraction from detail—not to ignore detail, but to test it enough to be able to subject it to absolutely directive lines, just as a symphony success as an ensemble in feeling the entire range of sensibilities.”

—Courtesy of Sotheby's

Signature: signed and numbered J. Bernard N° 18 © and with foundry mark BRONZE/CIRE/VALSUANI/PERDUE

Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco/Art Deco Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, June 8-September 5, 2004, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, September 30-December 12, 2004

Gabriel Mourey, "Exposition des oeuvres de Joseph Bernard à l'Hôtel de la Revue," Les Arts, no. 52, August 1914, p. 20 (for the plaster)
André Fontainas and Louis Vauxcelles, Histoire Générale de l'Art Français de la Révolution à nos jours, T. II, Paris, 1922, p. 293 (for the model executed in stone)
René Jullian, Jean Bernard, Lucien Stoenesco and Pascale Grémont Gervaise, Joseph Bernard, Fondation de Coubertin, Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, 1989, p. 310
Emmanuel Bréon and Rosalind Pepall, Ruhlmann: Genius of Art Deco, Paris, 2004, p. 16, 132 (for the larger model executed in stone), 50, 138 (for the present model), p. 296, cat. 69 (for the present lot illustrated)
Alain Lesieutre, The Spirit and Splendor of Art Deco, New York, 1974, pl. 97 (for the present model)
Florence Camard, Ruhlmann: Master of Art Deco, New York, 1983, p. 91 (for the present model)
Ruhlmann: un génie de l'Art déco, exh. cat., Musée des Années 30, Paris, 2001, p. 126
Charles Janoray and Jean-Loup Champion, Classical Modernity From Bourdelle to Despiau 1907-1937, New York, 2002, pp. 26-29 (for the present lot illustrated)
Pierre Kjellberg, Les Bronzes du XIXe siècle, Dictionnaire des Sculpteurs, Paris, 2005, p. 93 (for the present model)

Madame Léonie Bernard, widow of the artist
Alexandre Berger, Paris, acquired from above, 1936
Charles Janoray, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 2002