Philadelphia, PA (February 1991)… Robert Aibel, owner of Moderne, the Art Deco gallery in Philadelphia, announces the sale of a famous and very beautiful suite of living room furniture designed by French master designer, Gabriel Englinger. The suite was made under the supervision of Studio Abran in Paris in 1928 and was a seminal work of the Art Deco period.
Aibel is pleased that the 12 piece suite, which is Englinger’s masterpiece, went to a single collector instead of being sold as separate pieces. He has had numerous offers for individual items, but insisted on maintaining the integrity of the suite.
“It was a unique commission and the pieces are all related to one another,” Aibel said. “It was made for a single family and was meant to be seen ‘en suite.’ If it had been broken up, a valuable historical resource would have been lost forever.”
The Englinger suite was purchased by Mr. Seymour Stein, president of SIRE Records (“the man who discovered Madonna”), for his Central Park West apartment in New York City. “The suite is exactly the kind of unique piece I like to find,” commented Stein. “I especially liked the fact that it was a complete set, and in beautiful condition.”
The piece de resistance of the furniture suite is a secretary desk flanked by semi-circular cabinets topped by glass vitrines. The desk opens to reveal an elegant arrangement of serpentine dividers and black lacquer drawers with ivory pulls. Other pieces that are part of the suite include a bench, 3 armchairs, an ottoman, a smoking table, a sofa, a 2-part cabinet console and a pair of bookcases.
The furniture is made of a rare, glowing, gold-colored ash. It has a unique ribbon figurine called rolling ash or frene roulant, with dark walnut and black lacquer accents and custom-made drawer pulls. The designs are based on semi-circular curves which play off against each other and the room for which it was designed.
The suite was custom designed for a round turret room in the Washington, DC, home of Herbert Wadsworth. It was exhibited to great acclaim at the 1928 Salon des Artistes Decorateurs in Paris before being shipped to the United States. It has been illustrated in many books and catalogues documenting the period.
After Wadsworth’s death in 1933, his house was sold to the Sulgrave Club in Washington, DC. The Englinger suite was sold at Sloan’s Auction, where it was purchased by Mr. And Mrs. Elliott Moyer. Because the complete suite was not displayed, the Moyers thought they had purchased only the secretary. They had, in fact bought the entire contents of Wadsworth’s turret room at the auction, Aibel explained.
Mrs. Moyer had no idea of the suite’s history but she knew it was a work of art. Through long, diligent research she discovered its provenance. Dealers offered to purchase it, but she refused to sell until 1990, when she moved into a nursing home at the age of 88.
Aibel, alerted by a client, purchased the suite, restored it, and displayed it at the prestigious Modernism show in New York City in November 1990, where it was seen by Mr. Stein, who came to Philadelphia to buy it. Moderne expects to upholster the furniture with fabric from its own collection.
Moderne specializes in French Art Deco furnishings from the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. Moderne also carries a large selection of 20th —century fabrics suitable for the furnishings. To stimulate an appreciation of the period, owner Aibel also stocks new, rare and hard-to-find books on 20th — century decorative arts.
Moderne recently moved to a new, expanded 11,500-square foot showroom located at 111 North Third Street in Philadelphia’s “Old City.” Moderne features one of the largest and finest collections of Art Deco furniture and decorative items in the United States.
Hours are Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment. Telephone (215) 923-8536.
Color and black & white photographs are available.
Interviews with Robert Aibel by appointment.
Contact Resnick Communications at (215) 977-7383.